Maddie Corman talks to HL about bringing her personal hell to the stage in ‘Accidentally Brave.’
Maddie Corman faced the greatest, darkest twist of her life in 2015, and as she continues her journey to heal from the trauma, she is sharing her truth with audiences eight times a week in her one-woman-show, Accidentally Brave. Through raw emotion, a stunning script and extreme vulnerability, Maddie walks the crowd in the DR2 Theater through learning her husband, Jason ‘Jace’ Alexander, was arrested for the downloading and file sharing of child pornography, and the lonely, heartbreaking mess she was left to deal with. The Seven Minutes In Heaven actress is open with her healing process, and the fact she’s still going through it, but she also is taking pleasure in helping other men and women, night after night, who need to learn “go where it’s warm” when dealing with grief.
Maddie spoke to HollywoodLife.com about her Off-Broadway show, which closes on June 30, revealing that she hopes to travel with it around the US. “I felt some mission to tell this story because I thought it might help one or two people. I really did. I knew that there were people hurting because I knew them. I knew that I wasn’t the only one,” she explained. “But I believe, and my husband believes, that the only way to get better and hopefully to help people, all kinds of people, is to tell the truth and to talk about things. I didn’t realize how much attention it would get.”
Maddie Corman: Yes and no. Yes, because anything I do as an actor I to relive the moment, but I also would like to think that I have enough technique that I’m not actually reliving it. I think if I were actually reliving it, I wouldn’t be able to flip the switch and play the other people in the show that I do. I flip back and forth between now and then. When it really was then, I couldn’t flip that switch. I would have loved to have flipped the switch, and be but now I’m going to be funny, or now I’m going to be hopeful. Those were not available to me four years ago, but now they are. Now I can feel it, and feel it deeply, but move past it, which is true both on stage and in life, currently.
HL: Does the story feel your own when you’re acting it?
MC: Yes, but I also think almost anything I act feels like my own story because I personalize whatever story I’m telling. It becomes my own story. There is an element of catharsis, where I’ll come out, and I have some friends there who I haven’t seen in a long time, and some strangers there who I’ve never seen, but the basic mood in the lobby was, there was a lot of weeping and hugging, and I was just like, “Hey guys,” because I just finished and I can put it away. It really is unlike anything I’ve ever done or experienced, because the moments where I meet people after the show, I say there’s weeping, but there’s also this joy, really every night or afternoon when I go out. People tell me their stories and say thank you and we cry together and laugh together in these weird five minute meet-ups. So, it feels like my story; it feels very, very specific.
It’s so exciting because I go out after and people who’ve had nothing like this happen to them say I felt those same things. The story is different, but the feelings feel the same. I didn’t realize my story would be so universal, at all. It felt like I was feeling things that only I had ever felt, and certainly experiencing things that only I had ever experienced. It turns out that’s not true. Even on a micro level, there have been a lot of people who have said, “I have experienced almost the same thing,” which I had no idea it was so prevalent. But more, there’s just been people who say, “I have felt alone. I have felt shame. I have felt fear. I felt that moment when I thought I knew what my life is going to be, and then boom. It’s nothing like what I thought.”
HL: When you wrote the Accidentally Brave script, were you expecting people to be able to relate? Did you think they were going to see it?
MC: When I started writing, I didn’t know what it would be, and I certainly didn’t know how people would react. I’m a person who’s historically very, very aware and afraid of how people are going to react, and very, very, very much wanting people to like and approve of me and whatever I do. I had to let that go. It’s not that I just knew I needed to write it… I had started because my story was in the paper and was a little more public; a lot more public than most people’s and people had started to reach out to me already, and that was so helpful to me. The thing that helped me get off the metaphoric and literal bathroom floor was other people saying, “I have felt something like this.” I’m a big proponent of therapy. I have amazing friends. I’m all for medication, if that helps. But the thing, in my experience, that really saved me was other people telling their stories.
I knew there were people who had been affected by addiction. People who had been affected by a partner and who didn’t have a voice. I hadn’t heard the story of what happens in between — when you fall down and then you get back up. I heard a lot of people come out and say, “I fell down, and here I am now, and here’s what I did to get back up.” I was really interested in sharing the messy part, the in between part. I thought that as a theater actor, I might have a chance to do that because it wouldn’t be me just standing there like I am with you with my nice lashes. I may have cried in the bathroom this morning, but I’m not hopefully going to do it with you right now. But I wanted to show that part because that’s the lonely part, and that’s the part that I felt like people weren’t talking about. So, I didn’t have a lot of time to think. I wrote it, and my friend and director Kristin Hanggi was incredibly helpful and it was a very safe, cozy space. She was with me holding my hand as I wrote a lot of this, but it was very private. Then really quickly, it became very public.
HL: Did you husband have a reaction to you putting this story out there? You are very cognizant of making sure the audience knows it is your story, not his.
MC: That, I think, has been one of the biggest challenges. I wanted to tell this story, but I didn’t feel like I had the right or the knowledge to tell his story or my kids’ stories. And yet, clearly they’re a part of my story because that’s my family and that’s just part of who I am. But I think that’s part of what I’ve learned, is that I am not just somebody’s wife. I am not just somebody’s mother. This is a story that is mine to tell. Som of course I want my kids to be okay with it. Of course, I actually want my husband to be okay with it. But at the end of the day I had to say, “I feel like I want to share this.”
My husband has been incredibly supportive of this. I mean, what else is he going to say? But he also, not only as a fellow artist, but as someone in recovery, he believes that secrets keep us sick. Though it can be really, really scary, shining a light on something is always the right thing to do in my opinion, and he shares that belief. It would be really easy to just push certain things under the rug. It’s an uncomfortable topic. It’s not pretty. There are victims involved. It’s very triggering to a lot of people. But I believe, and my husband believes, that the only way to get better and hopefully to help people is to tell the truth and to talk about things.
HL: How did you go about the script in a way that you showed compassion for these people who are addicts and victims, but without excusing what they did?
MC: I shared what I learned. It’s my experience. I’ve read headlines and made judgments. I did not want to go to f**cking family week. One of the incredible benefits of going there was meeting other addicts and their spouses, and seeing the humanity, and the family, and the nuance. I thought I was not a judgmental person, but I have learned so much in these last few years, and I’ve learned that addiction can make some really good people do some really bad things. That does not, in my opinion, make the people bad. That doesn’t mean that there’s not a lot of remorse and amends to be made and prices to be paid for actions that people have taken. But what I have come to is that we don’t just throw people away. I needed to meet other people. My husband’s story was so close to me, and it felt like such a betrayal of the person that I knew him to be that I couldn’t even see, but seeing other people with some loving detachment, I was able to learn so much more.
HL: A woman that you introduce as only your ‘angel,’ who is also in the public eye, told you that your husband’s arrest was going to be the best thing that has ever happened to your family. Has that been true?
MC: I’m not there, yet. I don’t wish what happened to me on anyone ever, and certainly not on anyone’s children, but there are definitely some gifts. The work that I have had to do on myself in order to survive has been incredibly helpful to me as a person. Forget about, ‘I stayed in a marriage.’ I didn’t stay in a marriage. Early on my therapist said, “Whether you stay or you go, you’re going to have to do this work because the pain is going with you.” So, I think that there are some piecemeal gifts that I have gotten, and I even think there’s some gifts that my children have gotten. I’m not sure I would say it’s the best thing that’s ever happened to me. That’s my angel, who is on a different level that maybe I can get to someday. I have moments where what I try to do in my life is focused on what I’m grateful for, because it’s really easy to focus on what I’ve lost. Because there’s a lot of loss; but I have gained so much.
HL: Why did you decide to keep your angel anonymous?
MC: I feel like she reached out to me, and because of the nature of my trauma, and her trauma, it involves another person. So, not only did I want to protect her, but her person. I think also, because she’s famous, it would be distracting to the story. It was helpful for me to know that someone who was not just famous, of course, but really incredible, and a really, in my opinion, a good, successful, person with integrity, was offering me this hope for my family, felt really important. I really thought we might have to live under a rock, and I didn’t want to do that, and she never suggested that.
The show really suggests that, there I am alone on stage, I felt so alone, but in truth, I have incredible friends who showed up. I have incredible family who stuck by me and my husband, who were like, “We’re here, what do you need?” I even have incredible acquaintances who were willing to show up. But it felt so lonely. They did not know what to say, because no one knew what to say. Then, to have someone who said, “I’ve been through something like this.” It was so helpful. That keeps me going, too, eight shows a week. To go, “Maybe tonight I’ll speak to someone in the audience who might need to hear this.” I had one person who saw the show, and had something happen to her since she saw the show. She loved the show, and she felt all the feelings, but she said, “I didn’t know I was going to need the show.”
HL: Are you still healing?
MC: Yes. I think that’s a lifelong process. I would love to take a pill and be done, or get a graduation cap and gown and say, “No, I’m good, I’m good.” That’s not to say that I am crawling on the floor when I leave here. I’m not. I have really great days, and then I have some really dark nights. For me personally, that is upkeep. That is going to meetings and doing self care and being of service. That’s part of my own healing, is that I have to share what I have with someone else in order to keep it. In addition to doing the show, I’m definitely in touch with a lot of people who are in various phases of trauma in their own life, and that can be exhausting. but it’s incredibly rewarding too, to try to be there for people as people have been there for me.