My Stroke of Luck - Metamorphosis

This one woman performance  features Diane Barnes, an African-American from California who was practising as a doctor when, at 38, she suffered a stroke while riding her precious horse.

Barnes is a single mother with two adopted boys. This story takes us through her stroke in 2005 and her journey of recovery and discovery since – as a professional and as mother. She recounts in a personal, emotional and sensitive way how she gets to know and accept her changes. This story is from Barnes' point of view -  taking the audience member through a painful and confusing trip on the way to a new and rich life.

As luck would have it, I sat in the front row centre and had the benefit of Barnes' eye contact a good part of the time. This gave me the feeling that I was a close and trusted friend, as if having a coffee with her at her kitchen table.

Barnes wrote the story as well as performed it. She was recounting and perhaps re-experiencing the past ten years as she told it. She worked as part of a theatre collective and received help in structuring the story. I careened like a midway ride as she was buffeted by the events and participants and challenges in her life.

There was a certain irony, or at least drama, in Barnes being a doctor who required care herself. As she quoted: “A physician who treats himself has a fool for a patient”.

She had the full range of wisdom as an-idiot savant in understanding her body, relationships, life and her affliction. Why couldn't she get a grip on things? Why couldn't she carry out her knowledge and live her life effectively? Why did her boys and her employer treat her differently and with frustration?

The play has a lovely arc. As Barnes re-acquires and re-develops some of her instrumental and communication skills, life and her relationships get better. She made some important decisions about her personal and professional lives. As it turned out, her younger son was in the audience and he rushed up to hug her as the story ended.

Diane saw the butterfly as a symbol of metamorphosis – transcending challenge and darkness, and flying with beauty and freedom. She gave out some butterfly pins to interested audience members.

By Randall MacKinnon