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JoAnn Bromley Interview : Page 2 of 2

'Ask Mama!' Performer
JoAnn Bromley

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JoAnn BromleyQ: How do you stay focused with all the different aspects of your career to attend to?

A: It can be a problem, because I just want to do so much. I am intrigued by life and all that it has to offer. The foundation for "Mama" is pretty much set, since I have been doing the show for eight years. The show and my classes develop as I do. Teaching comes rather naturally, and as I learn, I want to share. The more I share, the deeper my understanding. I seem to be drawn to the spiritual aspect of art and theater. I try to follow my instincts and then follow through. I dislike the business aspect — having to make phone calls and proposals, but unfortunately it's part of the work. It is something I am working on by trying to set a schedule for such tasks.

Each aspect of my life feeds the others. I am growing as an actress, an artist, and a teacher, and somehow it all balances itself out. I think the blessing and curse of being highly creative is the ability to be spontaneous — it creates a lot of disruption, but I wouldn't have it any other way!

Q: What is the most rewarding aspect of your career?

A: Meeting new people. I truly love life and I love learning, and there are no better lessons than other people's stories. My mission is not to just entertain but to invoke thought. My greatest gift was from my son Jared. It was one of my first performances of "Mama" and he was 18 at the time. Always supportive and proud, he comes up to me and says, "Man, Mom, I knew you would make me laugh but I didn't think you were going to make me think!" This, from an 18-year-old boy? I knew I was onto something good!

Q: Where did "Mama" come from — is she based on any particular person?

A: Mama began as a character I did for a murder mystery company I worked for many years ago. We did our version of "Tony & Tina's Wedding" and I played the Italian mother of the bride. The play itself was very short, maybe 45 minutes total, but we performed on a 4-hour cruise around Newport, Rhode Island, and we had to stay in character the entire time! This was quite the challenge — after bad-mouthing as many of the characters in the play as I could, I turned it around onto the audience, and started asking them questions about their lives. No matter what "Mama" said, no matter how politically incorrect she was — everybody loved her. I performed the show for a number a years and then decided to put that aspect of showbiz behind me.

A few years later, I was going through a divorce, and it turned my world upside down. All of a sudden "Mama" phrases and bits of wisdom started coming out of my mouth to help me through this very difficult time in my life. After a while (I can be slow sometimes!) I thought I should write some of these pearls of wisdom down. When I finally did, I had 30 minutes of monologue material — thus began "Ask Mama!" I didn't want to just perform, I wanted to engage the audience, so I gave them a chance to ask mama for advice on anything!

Mama is not based on any particular person, although I swear sometimes during the improv question portion, I am channeling someone. I describe Mama as a combination of Oprah meets Coffee Talk's Linda Richmond, with a dash of Mae West — quite the combo. People often get confused when I speak about Mama in the third person; I try to explain that although she comes from me, she is still a character. She might be a more loving, wiser, bolder and flamboyant me, but she is separate from me.

Q: What's the one question "Mama" gets asked most often?

A: I get a wide variety of questions. They can range from "Where do I find a good man?" to "How do I move on after losing a loved one?" For the most part, the questions revolve around relationships and sex. I love it, and Mama is as blunt as they come. One question was, "Fuzzy handcuffs?" which took Mama aback. Her answer was, "Of course — it cuts down on the chafing!"

One of my favorite questions was, "Will I still be sexy after 50?" Mama answered, "Were you sexy before 50?" Most questions inevitably lead to some pontification of how we see ourselves in the world, and the real truth about living. Mama is all about getting rid of the excess clogging our brains and focusing on the here and now. I often have to remind the audience that "Mama" is not a psychic. Whatever the situation — getting older, career troubles, finding love, keeping love, or having children, we all want that magic pill to set things right. But, the thing is, there's no magic pill — sorry! Everything is a process of trial and error, and learning and growing. If we live life from the purest intent, everything will be fine. We will be drawn to the people, places and actions that serve not only ourselves but the world. •

JoAnn Bromley

Connect with JoAnn Bromley

Visit JoAnn's inspiring website for more information about booking events, artwork, and upcoming events and classes. You can also find performance schedules for her fabulously funny one-woman show, "Ask Mama," and an online gallery of Ms. Bromley's work. JoAnn can be reached by phone at 401-523-3146.

© 2010 Molly J. Anderson-Childers. All rights reserved.

Molly Anderson-Childers is a a highly creative writer and artist from Durango, Colorado. More »