By Kia Standard
There are very few performances that shake you to your core, leaving you breathless. But “Accidentally Brave” is not only a performance; it’s Maddie Corman’s real life. In her one-woman show at the DR2 Theatre she tells the story of a dark secret that upended her seemingly perfect life, nearly destroying her marriage and her tight-knit family in one fatal swoop. Trust me when I tell you that Ms. Corman’s bravery in the face of her family’s greatest challenge proves to be a whole lot more than an accidental act.
The story begins early one morning, while Maddie Corman is driving to work. Ms. Corman, a television and stage actress known for her work on shows like “Madam Secretary” and “Divorce,” is on her way to the set of a “semi-terrible TV show” when she receives a hysterical call from her teenage daughter. “Mom, the police are here. They are arresting Dad,” her daughter sobs into the phone. “Wait, what? Put your father on the phone. Everything will be OK,” she tells her daughter.
But everything is not going to be OK. In fact, it is going to be quite the opposite. Ms. Corman’s husband of seventeen years, Jace Alexander, is arrested for the possession and distribution of child pornography. The fallout proves catastrophic for Ms. Corman because her family is judged not only by neighbors and peers, but also by newspapers and other media. At the time, Jace Alexander is a television director on “Law and Order,” a second vice president of the Directors Guild of America, and the beloved coach of his son’s soccer team. All these titles are promptly revoked as news of his arrest spreads throughout their community.
However, as Maddie Corman will tell you herself, this is not her husband’s story or her children’s, for that matter. This is the story of how Ms. Corman fights to keep her family together while confronting a personal tsunami. How does a person weather such a storm? At first there are questions from well-meaning friends and curious onlookers: “Did you know?” “Did he ever touch any young girls?” “What are your thoughts on porn?” Then people weigh in with a barrage of comments: “I would divorce him.” “Don’t divorce him.” “My husband died, but that’s much better than what you are going through.” There is public scrutiny, and professional and social repercussions. Finally, there is Ms. Corman’s fear that her best friend and life partner of almost twenty years will face jail time.
During her husband’s stay at an addiction rehab center in Arizona, Ms. Corman is not only left with the shame and consequences of his actions, she also becomes the main breadwinner and a single parent, making all of her family’s decisions while fielding questions from her husband’s lawyers, and dodging questions from the press. Ms. Corman’s biggest concern is for her children, though her friends assure her that children are resilient and adaptable. She transfers her twin boys to a private middle school, and finds therapists for each of her children. Her daughter has the opportunity to spend a semester abroad in Italy, which couldn’t be better timing. As Ms. Corman and her family attempt to heal and find a new normal, she discovers that her biggest supporters are an unnamed celebrity who checks in with her regularly, her close friends, and her therapist. After several months, her husband returns home and there are even more adjustments.
Maddie Corman strips her story to its bare bones without façade or pretense. Quite frankly I couldn’t look away; I was afraid to blink. She relives convulsing into tears on her bathroom floor, the awkward talks with her twin sons and her daughter about their father’s actions, the confrontations with her husband about the brokenness of their marriage. Throughout the show she expresses the ebb and flow of her fear, her sadness, and her rage, as she desperately fights to find compassion not only for her husband, but also for herself.
“Accidentally Brave” is not all darkness. Ms. Corman filters in glimpses of light and hope with comic moments. One such moment happens when her friends take her and her kids to Disney World for her birthday, and they ride all day in plastic ponchos under pouring rain. Another funny moment happens in a hotel hallway, when Ms. Corman, acting as an overzealous mother, tries to make friends with another family at her daughter’s orientation. Later, her daughter points out that the whole time her mother was speaking to the other family, she was holding a book about sexual addiction.
“Accidentally Brave” is more than a story of perseverance; it is also a tale of love and forgiveness. Today Maddie Corman is still with her husband. She believes the turmoil her family faced made them much stronger, even healthier. However, there are no direct paths to survival, and she admits that some days she is OK, and some days she is not OK. Still, I don’t believe Maddie Corman’s bravery is merely an accident; the fact that she shares her story over and over again so openly is a selfless and courageous act. In my opinion, this should qualify Maddie Corman as a new kind of superhero.
Written and performed by Maddie Corman
Directed by Kristin Hanggi
March 25 – July 14
Photo credit courtesy of the production
101 East 15th Street
New York City
KIA STANDARD is a writer and musical theater performer, who has appeared in regional and international productions of “West Side Story,” “The King and I”, “Little Shop of Horrors,” and “Bubbling Brown Sugar.” She received an MA in Creative Writing/Nonfiction from The Johns Hopkins University, and has published articles and profiles for various talent magazines. Ms. Standard is currently working as a musical playwright.