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Performing the Self

A visit with M. Heather Carver , Associate Professor, Theatre Department

By LuAnne Roth
Published: - Topics: play reader audience writing performative writing

Booby Prize, an ever-evolving comedy about breast cancer

Topics: humor performance

Since October of 2006, Carver has been developing Booby Prize, a comedy about the unfunny subject of breast cancer. “It’s a one-woman show featuring me [laughs],” and how she was “lucky” to be the one of every seven women to get the disease. Through Booby Prize, which is ever evolving, Carver is able to combine her interest in social activism, women’s health, and autobiography: “I decided that I could have breast cancer and still have a sense of humor, and still do my work. And so that’s when Booby Prize, you know, became born, the idea that—unfortunately—I won the prize. I won the Booby Prize, which you don’t want to win, you don’t want to be the 1 out of 7 who wins, but I won, and so that’s how I start off the performance.” Much of the performance features Carver performing actual stories that happened to her, infusing humor into the reality of her situation. At the conclusion of Booby Prize, Carver warns the audience against expecting closure and a happy ending. Despite the clean bill of health at her last medical checkup, the possibility of cancer returning lingers on, and so Carver reminds the audience, “I don’t have a pretty ending; my ending is still up in the air.” Among audience members, Carver has observed not only laughter and tears, as might be expected, but “people doing both at the same time, and not quite knowing what to do about it.” The thread that runs through Booby Prize—like Carver’s other scholarly and creative projects—is storytelling. Some of the stories are painful, and some are funny. Either way, Carver always tries “to keep it raw.”