Caro Meets Theatre Interview

Amanda Broomell: Mandy Picks A Husband

By | Published on Friday 29 November 2019

If you were up at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe in the summer you might have made it along to American creative Amanda Broomell’s well regarded autobiographical one woman show ‘Mandy Picks A Husband’. If you didn’t, well, you’re in luck, because the talented writer and performer is headed for a short run at London’s Canal Cafe Theatre.

I spoke to Amanda to find out more about the show, her career and her plans for the future.

CM: Can you start by telling us a bit about the content of the show? Do you tell a story?
AB: It’s an autobiographical account of my quest to find The One, which has been both unbelievably heart-breaking and overwhelmingly humbling… and completely hilarious. I can’t tell you how many ridiculous stories I have about dating that I had to cut from the show simply for time’s sake. I could write a book – and I am doing!

As it turns out, while I’ve been adamantly hunting for the perfect life partner, I’ve been simultaneously searching to find myself. I have considerable trust issues with men that I’ve spent decades attempting to heal, so issues around self-worth and self-trust have added an element of complexity to the process: how do you create intimacy with a partner if you can’t love yourself?

‘Mandy Picks A Husband’ tracks my many-layered relationship with enough-ness, so I designed the performance with no light cues, no sound cues, no props, no set, no costumes – marking yet another step in my healing process; that I, alone, am enough.

CM: What themes do you explore through the show?
AB: I’ve been calling it a “traumedy” because aside from love and relationships, it explores very serious themes of addiction, abuse and body shame, but it’s presented through the lens of comedy, as laughter is indeed the best medicine.

CM: Is your performance entirely autobiographical or have you just used your own experiences as a jumping off point?
AB: It’s entirely autobiographical, however, certain moments and characters have been conflated for simplicity and clarity of the storyline. Unfortunately, I only have 60 minutes, so there’s only so much I can include. But everything I share in the play did actually happen.

CM: Has doing the show been cathartic for you? And how easy is it to share truths about yourself?
AB: If you asked me a year ago what I expected to come of the show, I never thought I would’ve had the courage to share my story so openly with people that I know and love.

It’s primarily a comedy but there are intense themes and details around my life experiences that are incredibly vulnerable to speak out loud. As I committed to the process and followed my intuition, the courage to share developed as the show developed. It was a natural growth process, and I took it at a pace that felt organic.

In fact, when I first wrote the show, the characters were speaking in the past—it was almost as if I wasn’t ready to fully live my past. But in the last hours before my first reading, I rewrote the show to be in the present tense, and that’s when the true catharsis began. I was able to finally own and speak my truth.

CM: What inspired you to create a show about this subject?
AB: Finding a life partner has been my primary focus for years. I was an early adopter of online dating and had my first online date back in 2004 when was still a dating site. I’ve tried virtually every dating site out there – OKCupid, Hinge, Match, eHarmony, J-Date, Tinder, Bumble, MeetMindful, The Inner Circle, Coffee Meets Bagel … Facebook, and more -and I have no shame about it. Why not increase your chances of meeting someone who might surprise you? So, naturally, when I started creating the show, I could not escape writing about my experiences in love and dating. And as I was exploring the conflict that ignites the play, it was inevitable that some darker parts of my past would bubble up to the surface.

CM: How did you go about creating it? Did you just sit down and write it, or was the process more complicated than that?
AB: I participated in a personal development programme in the summer of 2018 – which I discuss in the play – and during the leadership portion of the programme, we were asked to set goals in different areas of our lives.

In the career section, I committed to writing and performing a solo show, which was a dream of mine since I was nineteen years old. But I never had the confidence to actually do it. However, that programme set it all in motion, and I immediately signed up for Terrie Silverman’s Solo Show Masterclass.

We began in September 2018 with the intention of performing a staged reading roughly six months later. We met every week, completed various writing exercises and creative exercises, workshopped our material in class, and miraculously, after about six months, I had a fully drafted, personally crafted play.

CM: What’s next for it, after the run at Canal Cafe Theatre?
AB: At this point, I don’t have a clear sense of what’s next. I’ve been driving a getaway train for the past year, beginning with the reading then jumping into the Hollywood Fringe with a month to prepare, and then the Edinburgh Fringe with a few weeks to prepare… then the Binge Fringe Festival in Santa Monica and the 10th Anniversary United Solo Theater Festival in NYC … and now the Canal Café Theatre.

I may need a wee bit of a break … but I would love to see continued life for Mandy and the show. I feel there is a powerful message of healing and hope that has resonated with audiences and could help empower both men and women in their quest to create romantic partnership. Cause, ultimately, true love starts with self-love.

CM: Can we go back a bit now…? Did you always want to perform? How did your career begin?
AB: When your parents jokingly nickname you “Sarah Bernhardt” as a toddler and you nickname yourself “Dramanda” as an adult, a life of performing is inevitable. I sang in choirs throughout grade school, played Lucy in ‘You’re A Good Man Charlie Brown’, but then my voice started changing, and a teacher told me I wasn’t a singer, and I lost all hope. It’s incredible how one person’s words can have such an immense impact on us.

A few years later, a dear friend of mine dragged me to an audition for the school musical, ‘Bye Bye, Birdie’, and I went kicking and screaming. But I got cast, and it was pretty much a done deal after that. Plus, I didn’t want to have to do any real schoolwork in college, so I thought acting would be a smart profession to pursue. Little did I know that drama school would be THE most challenging and gut-wrenching experience of my life – up until then, I had never worked harder or longer or more vulnerably.

CM: What have been the highlights of your career thus far?
AB: I’ve absolutely loved performing in the off-Broadway theatre scene in New York City. There’s so much exciting and cutting-edge work happening, and I’ve had the privilege to perform in extremely original and moving works. My favourite roles have included Juliet in a modern adaptation of ‘Romeo and Juliet’ directed by Tony Speciale at Classic Stage Company, ‘Cherie’ in an experimental version of ‘Bus Stop’ by William Inge directed by Henning Hegland, and Freia/Sieglinde in an 80s WWF wrestling-themed version of ‘The Ring Cycle’ directed by Dave Dalton. Also at the top of the list was performing in ‘MONODRAMAS’ directed by Michael Counts at the New York City Opera.’

CM: What aims and ambitions do you have for the future?
AB: Performing in the festival circuit has given me a healthy taste of producer life, and I feel that it quite suits me. I’ve got a raging case of OCD, so producing gives me the opportunity to exercise my obsessive organisation and over-achieving muscles so that I can keep myself open and creative in the performance part of the process. So, I’d love to start my own theatre company as well as a film production company, and have the flexibility to make work whenever I please rather than simply waiting for someone to cast me in something.

CM: What’s coming up next for you after this?
AB: I recently started performing stand-up, so I hope to explore that world in more depth. I mean, talk about courage. Holy smokes, standing in front of a room of people with the sole intention to make them laugh from your clever and witty jokes … scarier than turning 40 as a single woman living alone with her thirteen-year-old cat.

‘Mandy Picks A Husband’ is on at Canal Cafe Theatre from 5-8 Dec. See the venue website here for details and to book.

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Photo: Jody Christopherson