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BWW Feature: THE ADVENTURE OF LIFE Celebrates Artist's Journey Through Unlikely Pregnancy

Veronika Duerr performs a workshop of her original one-woman show on The Kax Stage at Herberger Center.

BWW Feature: THE ADVENTURE OF LIFE Celebrates Artist's Journey Through Unlikely Pregnancy

Veronika Duerr yearned to have a baby after she married her husband Sean in 2015. Recognizing the proverbial ticking of her clock, she became progressively anxious with each news of a negative pregnancy test.

After considerable evaluation, the couple decided to try in vitro fertilization. Today, wife and husband are blessed with a vibrant, 3 ½-year-old daughter.

It sounds simple enough, but not according to Veronika Duerr, whose journey to a viable pregnancy became a life lesson unto itself. In fact, she was so changed by the "miraculous" experience that it spawned yet another gift: an original, one-woman theatrical performance documenting the challenges and joys of in vitro fertilization.

It's refreshing to hear Duerr's unreserved willingness to lay bare some profoundly personal moments. "Sean and I had been trying to get pregnant. Cut to 2017, and I still can't get pregnant. And through the process of that (in vitro) I learned so much about my own body and the process of natural fertilization, and creating a life, that I didn't know at all before, having grown up in the 80's in the deep south where my sex education was, Don't Have Sex."

We don't expect an elite creative artist to have a life-altering experience without seeing a concomitant production of it. At 8 PM on January 29, on The Kax Stage of the Herberger Center, the artist gets to share her story. It's also a chance for us to observe what promises to be an immersive, multimedia experience. (The show can be seen in person or via Zoom.)

A conventional title is no reason to let you off the hook. THE ADVENTURE OF LIFE is a collaborative production that showcases the award-winning projection design of New York-based artist Jared Mezzocchi, who also directs the show. According to the author's press release, ADVENTURE is "part performance art, part eating contest, part laboratory exploration, part obstacle course, part video project...takes the audience on the journey of how they got made."

BWW Feature: THE ADVENTURE OF LIFE Celebrates Artist's Journey Through Unlikely Pregnancy

Duerr is effusive in her praise of Mezzocchi's work. "He's kind of like a genius. When the pandemic hit, he went straight into, 'Okay, we can't do live theater, so what are we gonna do?' He took the burden of Covid and turned it directly into his opportunity. The New York Times has done a writeup on him every few months because the stuff he's putting out is so groundbreaking and phenomenal."

When cutting-edge science meets performance art, it's fair to expect insightful entertainment; though you'd have to agree, infertility may not be the most arresting topic for the stage.

Veronika Duerr wants to change that. After all, infertility is a common problem facing one-third of the American population, but for whatever reason there's a lack of meaningful conversation around it. It's a crucial situation that deserves a spotlight and the instructive voice of an informed artist.

Having seen Duerr's impressive performances on the big stage (Henrietta Leavitt in SILENT SKY, Lady Anne in MISS BENNET: CHRISTMAS AT PEMBERLEY), I'm intrigued by her effort to render an intimate show about a novel topic with a potential to generate a discussion of national import.

"It's not just a stand-up-and-deliver-you-information type of show. That to me is boring. It's not a TED TALK. There's so much drama there. I want us to discover it together. I want to set you up in a series of events that causes you to make the discoveries that I made. So instead of me standing there telling you what I discovered, I'm setting up a series of games, if you will: Here's the part where we transform the theater into a vagina, and we are going in as sperm. And I'm gonna explain to you every step of the way how you have now not made it because of this obstacle or that obstacle."

As it stands, that's probably giving enough away, and Duerr would like to reserve much more of it as a surprise. What's clear is that we have an upcoming work of art that presses the right buttons: it's edgy, relevant, and highly theatrical. The workshop will be enlightening, a sensory experience of sorts. Here's more from Duerr on the genesis of THE ADVENTURE OF LIFE:

"Because I'm an artist, I process my own experience by experiencing other people's art, and I couldn't find anything. I couldn't find movies or television shows or plays that had this as a subject. So at that point I was like, we have got to start talking about this, because a third of the country is going through it. If you understood the process of what people go through, maybe you'd realize that the route of IVF is just as valid as natural fertilization. The only difference is the person who is choosing IVF is going through a lot more than the person who is able to fertilize naturally...It's more of a choice, more of a decision, more of a process - it's money. You have got to be 100 percent-devoted to be a parent."

More on the workshop's press release:

This evening is an invitation into the early part of creating a piece of theatre that aims to not only change the narrative around infertility but to create it; to involve all of us in creating a better blueprint to understanding the highs and lows of how all of us got here. Yes, you included!

THE ADVENTURE OF LIFE stars award-winning actress Veronika Duerr

Directed by Jared Mezzocchi, winner of an Obie, Drama Desk, and Princess Grace for Video Design.

8 PM on The Kax Stage, Herberger Center 222 East Monroe Street, Phoenix, Arizona 85004

To attend the workshop in person or via Zoom, follow this link to fill out a form: https://arizonatheatre.org/the-adventure-of-life-workshop-sign-up/



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