Mandy Picks a Husband, an autobiographical show written by and starring Amanda Broomell, opens at London’s Canal Cafe Theatre next month. I caught up with Amanda to find out more.
Can you tell me a bit about Mandy Picks a Husband?
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). 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.
What prompted you to write the show?
Since I was 18, I’ve wanted to write a solo show. I pitched an idea called “Feminem” (I was obsessed with Eminem at the time—wait … I still am) to the New York Fringe Festival in 2000 and was rejected. This desire to create was pushed into the corners of my subconscious by the belief that “my ideas aren’t good enough. I don’t have anything meaningful to say.”
Ironically, I’ve got the same beliefs in my love life. I’m 39 and unmarried—hiding behind the mask that, “oh, that’s ok. I’m an independent businesswoman. That’s all I need.” But underneath that façade, I’ve craved partnership with every fibre of my being. However, I’ve struggled to cultivate intimate relationships. As many men as I’ve dated – HUNDREDS OF MEN – thank you, Nerve.com and Friendster and OKCupid and Tinder and Bumble and eHarmony and MeetMindful and every frigging app you can think of – I’ve never had a reciprocal relationship where I loved the man and he loved me back. I’ve spent thousands of dollars and countless hours in therapy attempting to rewrite the beliefs that I’m not good enough. I’ve gone to great lengths to “work on myself,” “love myself,” “forgive myself,” “put myself out there.”
In 2018, after being on a two-year dating hiatus to spend time sorting myself out, I launched an Instagram dating experiment called Mandy Picks a Husband @mandypicksahusband. It was my way of creating more vulnerability around my search for The One, as well as staying accountable to the dating process – which can be hellish, to say the least. Around the same time, I dove into a six-month solo-show writing process in Terrie Silverman’s Solo-Show Masterclass. About a month before the reading, on April 6, 2019, I had to come up with a name for the show, and Terrie suggested we draw from whatever our most prominent focus was in our lives at that moment. And, that was it! Mandy Picks a Husband, the solo show, was born.
How has it developed since you performed it at the Hollywood and Edinburgh Fringe festivals?
In full transparency, I’ve been putting one foot in front of the other during this process. When I performed the reading in April, I had no intention of producing the show at this year’s Hollywood Fringe Festival in June OR the Edinburgh Festival Fringe in August. I assumed it would take me another six months to finalize the script. But something urged me that the time was NOW. And the audience agreed that it was ready to be produced. So, I started walking through the open doors, trusting my intuition about what was next, and took each and every leap that presented itself. And that led to my submission into the Hollywood Fringe Festival.
Completely unexpectedly, my run there included sold-out shows, as well as a win for the Encore Producers’ Award and a nomination for the Soaring Solo Artist Award. Audiences shared that they connected with my message and urged me to share it with the world. While seeking validation is not the endgame, it was encouraging to know my story was resonating with others. So then came Edinburgh Fringe with four weeks to spare before the Festival opened. Incredibly, I had packed audiences at each of my performances, and was able to check that experience off my performance bucket list.
The story itself has not changed much between each festival, but I have refined the script between almost every performance. Each new audience responds differently to certain messages, stories, and jokes, and I find new inspirations every time. I feel that my perspective has crystalized, and my personality has become more authentically infused throughout the piece.
How did you first get into performing?
When your parents jokingly nickname you “Sarah Bernhardt” as a toddler, 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.
What can audiences expect from the show?
Think stand-up comedy meets cabaret meets theatre. I’ve been calling it a “traumedy” because it explores very serious themes of addiction, abuse and body image, but it’s presented through the lens of comedy, as laughter is indeed the best medicine.
What would you like Mandy Picks a Husband to achieve?
My hope is this show reminds people they are not alone, that healing may be a lifelong process, but there is hope along the way. That we can heal collectively, through sharing our stories, bringing our shame into the light so that it may no longer hold us back in shadows. Several audience members have requested that I turn the show into an Amazon or HBO or Netflix special so it can reach a broader audience, so who knows. Phoebe Waller-Bridges did it. Perhaps it’s possible for me, too.
Mandy Picks a Husband plays at the Canal Cafe Theatre from Thursday 5 – Sunday 8 December 2019.
Photo credit: Jody Christopherson