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What Ever: A Living Novel by Heather Woodbury + Author Profile [in Bloomsbury Review]

What EverListening to the Voices on the Street: A Profile of Performance Artist & Novelist Heather Woodbury

What would eventually become What Ever: A Living Novel first began as a behemoth dare. In 1994, Heather Woodbury, a performance artist with an incredible gift for mimicry, was challenged by her “bestest friend and fairest cohort,” Dudley Saunders, to “write and perform all new material every week for a year.” Never one to pass up a test, Woodbury spent 37 consecutive Wednesdays from September 1994 to May 1995 at The Fort, a New York East Village club, where she brought to life an unforgettable cast of characters. Looking back, says Woodbury, “I didn’t necessarily expect to have a story with interconnected characters, but by the end, I found that I had tricked myself into writing a whole narrative.”

From the resulting 20-plus hours of performance, Saunders miraculously culled a 10-hour, eight-act, four-night “performance novel,” which morphed into Woodbury’s signature one-woman show, What Ever: An American Odyssey. In the decade since its birth, Woodbury has toured What Ever throughout the United States and Europe, most recently with stops in New York, Washington, DC, and Austin. Part soap opera, part social commentary, part dysfunctional family drama, What Ever is every story, every plot line rolled seamlessly into an epic quest for the answerable that moves from coast to coast, from boardroom to beach, with every stop in between—a true testament to the end of the 20th century. 

For those unable to witness the achievement live, there is the 331-page version set to paper and ink, titled What Ever: A Living Novel. The novel captures Woodbury’s varied monologues, with added descriptions of space, characters, and movement. To enhance the experience, Woodbury’s personal website,, allows anyone interested to download one of the eight acts at a time, rotating availability on a daily basis. That’s the theory, anyway, although Woodbury admits, “like the rest of us, those web people are always so busy,” so you might only get Act 3 for several days before someone decides to change the track. But keep going back, because any access to Woodbury’s voices is a major treat. Her astonishing range of over 100 distinct voices is more than inspiring. …[click here for more]

Author profile: The Bloomsbury Review, May/June 2004

Readers: Adult

Published: 2004


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