Diana Nyad Swim Becomes Theater Play

Marathon swimmer recreates epic journey onstage

Nyad wrote and stars in her own one-woman show about her 2013 swim from Cuba to Florida. (Rob O'Neal)

Marathon swimmer Diana Nyad’s one-woman show, Onward! The Diana Nyad Story, about her 2013 swim from Cuba to Florida, opened Thursday in Key West.

The play recreates her 111-mile, first-ever swim across the Florida Straits, where she faced exhaustion, sharks, and lethally venomous jellyfish. The feat took her 53 hours with the help of a support team on a boat.

“You don’t really get a better drama than that—a 35-year story, a 64-year-old chasing a dream that no one else ever accomplished,” Nyad told CBS Miami.

Nyad wrote and performs in Onward, and tells the story of her accomplishment with humor and vigor. It features audio and visual effects to recapture the swim: Jellyfish sting her, and she sings along to her playlist and reflects on childhood memories. She even fake-swims onstage.

Nyad failed three times to complete the swim—in 1978, 2011, and 2012—due to shoulder pain, an asthma attack, and severe jellyfish stings. The play is, in part, about her resilience. “Whether you’re someone up against cancer, or a disabled child you’re raising, really tough circumstances, if you want to get through it, you’ll find a way to get through it—and I think that is really the message of this play,” she said.

Josh Ravetch, co-creator of Star Wars actress Carrie Fisher’s hit play Wishful Drinking, directed and adapted the production. Performances will continue until Sunday, February 22.

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