Holly Sidell is one gutsy, beautiful lady.
She had a double mastectomy following a diagnosis of stage-2 breast cancer. Barely recovered, and questioning if she could have children, she learned she carried the BRCA 1 hereditary gene mutation, which meant the removal of her fallopian tubes, uterus and ovaries.
Many people might be bitter, but Sidell took a different route: she wrote about it and then created a one-woman show, “Deconstructing Holly.”
She performed this show at a benefit performance for Theatre Palisades on December 6, with a portion of the proceeds going to cancer research and patient support.
If one was expecting a “downer,” given Sidell’s story, then an audience goer would have been in for big surprise.
After the virtual show, people were invited to ask questions of Sidell and her director, Jonathon Fahn.
One person wrote, “Holly—first off—they don’t have keys on the keyboard that allow for me to appropriately describe what that was like to experience. The best I can do is heartbreaking, inspirational, funny, deeply sad, profound and uplifting—all at the same time, all of the time. Incredible.”
Circling the News couldn’t have summed it up any better.
In an July 2020 interview with VoyageLA (“Meet Holly Sidell of ‘Deconstructing Holly’”) she said, “Going through all of that, I was forced to face, and deconstruct, many of my programmed beliefs, especially around what it means to be a woman, and I knew that when I got out the other side of it, I would try to turn it into something positive; I wanted to share my experience and healing journey as a means to possibly bring solace or hope to anyone who might be suffering.
“And then, boom, all the pieces of my life came together: my passion for performing, my love of writing – not just about my cancer journey but about heartaches and relationships, my connection with spirituality and mindfulness, and my desire to use my story as a means to help others who are struggling… and the solo show ‘Deconstructing Holly’ was born!”
The Voyage interviewer wrote that Holly is unsure if she wants to return to a life in which she feels she has failed as a woman, and in the play explores her relationships past, present, and future.”
Sidell, a Los Angeles native, minored in theater at Indiana University and then studied Shakespeare at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts in London. She dropped out of theater and went into holistic health and became a certified Reiki Master energy healer/teacher.
In 2014, she returned to theater—including Palisades Theatre.
Sidell’s show examines her beliefs about her relationships and what she thought she wanted in life. She performs a “three-ring circus” that she calls “Holly’s circus of creeps,” and details how the men she selected in her life made her feel like “all I am is what I look like.”
Through examining her relationships, she begins to realize that “I shouldn’t put all my happiness in the hands of another person.”
When she’s diagnosed with cancer at 38, she has the double mastectomy and a “bye-bye boobie party.” She admits that it took “Five months to come to terms with her new appearance. I was so scared of so many things.”
She had just learned to accept the loss of her breasts when she was diagnosed with BRCA 1. She asks, “If all those organs come out of my body, will I still be a woman?”
Sidell’s journey via her performance could have been devastating and depressing to the audience, but instead is positively uplifting as she comes to terms with who she is.