“My story was already in the paper. Two clicks on the Internet and you can read at least part of it,” says Maddie Corman. “It didn’t feel like it was that huge a brave act to talk about.”
But there’s talking and then there’s talking, and what Corman is doing eight times a week in Accidentally Brave at Off-Broadway’s DR2 Theatre (running through July 13) is more than just sharing the most traumatic experience of her life. Corman is virtually reliving that time for audiences, baring her pain and rage in ways that get people called courageous when it’s fictional. Skillfully directed by Kristin Hanggi and covering the period immediately after her husband of two decades was arrested on charges of child pornography possession, Corman shares her story—not her husband’s or those of her children—as she talks about starting from scratch. And yes, she is still with her husband after many years of therapy.
“I’m usually, after the show, in a better place than most of the audience,” she says wryly. “I’m done, they’re just processing it.”
And so far, the audience has been supportive. Some nights there are sobs; some nights the laughter gets raucous—Corman is nothing if not self-aware and very, very funny, the girlfriend you beg to meet for wine at the end of a long, bad day because she’ll make you laugh and put things in perspective. And Corman had plenty of those people in her own life when laughter was the furthest thing from her mind.
“My intention in telling this story is to be of service,” she says. “Because people reached out to me and told the truth about some really ugly situations. And that was so, so helpful to me. It was a really lonely time and the people who were willing to say, ‘I feel sorry with you and here’s why…’ that really helped.”
Throughout the show, Corman shares messages she received from sympathetic voices and those well-wishers who managed to get an unintentionally cutting remark out around the foot in their mouths. For years, she dreaded new members joining her group therapy, worried about their reaction when she shared her story (or what she would project onto their reaction). “I have come to see that my therapist has a method to the madness of adding new people to the group,” she says, “because every time I would tell the story the shame would get reduced by a teeny bit. So now maybe by July I’ll be shame free.” She pauses and adds dryly, “Probably not.”