It Started with an Allergy at the Edmonton Fringe Festival

It Started with an Allergy by Heather Morrow

Old Strathcona Public Library (8331 104 street) August 14, 15, 17, 18, 20 – 22
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It Started with an Allergy. Photo credit: Nicole Deibert

It Started with an Allergy. Photo credit: Nicole Deibert

An interview with Heather Morrow.

Describe your show in five words.

Kicking inertia and disease’s butt!

Okay, now that we’re intrigued… what’s the longer description?

When I was 27, I started noticing that my “time of month”, which had always been rough, got much more painful. It took 8 years of being told by one doctor after another “that’s what it feels like for everyone” before I learned I have a disease: endometriosis. You’ll see the absurd things I went through to get correctly diagnosed and treated for endo (that’s its nickname). There are some crazy things I’ve heard from people – some well-meaning, some clueless – before I was diagnosed, and since then.

It Started with an Allergy was previously produced at StageStruck! 2013 – how has the show evolved since that performance?

This is my first solo show, and with the first version at StageStruck, I was bouncing all over the place with different vignettes. However, the audience response was very good – people were particularly interested in the first part, which was a monologue about my endo. Our adjudicator that year was Ken Brown, whom I admire very much, and he said the show was worth working on. I re-wrote it from scratch, concentrating on the endo aspect, and over the last 2 months, my director Adam and I have been re-working the script to get what you’ll see this Fringe.

One of the things It Started with an Allergy is about is a “painful, incurable disease in your ‘lady parts'” – not one of the typical stories we see on stage. Why did you want to bring this story to the stage?

The estimate is that 1 out of every 10 women will have endo. That’s millions of women who often can’t walk because of the pain endo causes, but constantly hear “that’s normal”. It’s amazing to me that it’s still not well-known that the disease exists. I’m lucky because I found a treatment that works – after years of trying. It IS incurable. Not every treatment works for every person, and even if it’s cut out, it eventually grows back. The show is me giving an example of what it’s like to have this disease and still try to work, date, eat, and be a normal human being.

I have to ask, what’s the backstory behind your media photo of you in a bathtub at a hardware store? What does it signify about the play to you?

Like most of us, I’ve been told all my life there’s a lot of things I’m not allowed to do, and since being diagnosed with endo, there have been things I’m told I can’t do. We were lucky to find a great location in Home ReUseables to do the photoshoot, and when I saw the tubs, I simply thought “I’m gonna jump in this bathtub with my clothes on”. Our photographer laughed, and I knew I was right to pick that photo.

Anything else you want audiences to know about the show?

It’s part horror movie onstage, lots of characters, not just me but all played by me, and it’s FUNNY. Women will identify with it, and gentlemen will be saying “HOLY S###” a lot.

Bonus question: Any names you want to drop who have been involved in your show (Edmonton arts people or otherwise)?

The director of the first production was Maria Colonescu, who co-wrote, directed and is starring in Beaver and Loris Play Bingo, also at the Fringe – she’s amazing. My director / production manager / life saver Adam Blocka, who I first met at NextFest in 2000! I’m very proud of the show, but it wouldn’t be what it is without him. And Adam’s mom, Marie Nychka, who has seen the show and loved it. So you know it’s good. And Brandi CK la Perle, local stand up comedienne, fellow endo-warrior, and her show The Fourth Wall is also at the Fringe.

The 34th Edmonton International Fringe Theatre Festival is August 13 – 23. Get your tickets at

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