January 14, 2013
‘Mama Juggs,' ‘The Men in Me' explore living with breast cancer, surviving in bleak circumstances
For four years, Anita Woodley has performed "Mama Juggs" - a play about her family's experience with breast cancer - for audiences nationwide and in Africa. Now Woodley is set to bring that play to Indiana State University along with the collegiate debut of her new creation, "The Men in Me," about the struggles of the men in her life.
"The Men in Me" will play at the university's New Theatre on Feb. 8 at 7 p.m. "Mama Juggs" will play in the same theatre on Feb. 9 at 5 p.m..
"Mama Juggs" channels the voices of three generations of women in Woodley's family as they deal with bra stuffing, breastfeeding and last stage breast cancer. Written as a promise to her mother, who died of breast cancer before age 50, it seeks to challenge cultural taboos and stereotypes surrounding breast health and body image. Woodley wrestles with these issues through a diversity of theatrical styles, including a cappella Negro spirituals, comedy, straight talk, improvisation and audience interaction.
"When she's at her peak, it feels like she's channeling these characters, not performing them," said theatre critic Byron Woods of The Independent Weekly.
College hosts have also praised Woodley's shows, highlighting their value for students and community members.
"Indeed, the audience is transfixed by ‘Mama Juggs,' as she relays to you the rather vivid and emotional consequences of womanhood; the phenomenology of motherhood; the complex meaning of having breasts," said Jessica Knouse, student life coordinator at Harrisburg Area Community College-Gettysburg.
In "The Men in Me" Woodley tells the stories of the men in her life as they fight to survive in the Oakland projects amid the temptation of drugs, the threat of violence and the specter of prison. Yet in this bleak environment, the narrator connects with her future husband, discovering the regenerative power of a healthy relationship after having endured domestic violence. And in her son, she sees the promise of a new generation raised outside the projects. Woodley shows how these men shaped her life, including by helping her narrowly avoid being sold into prostitution.
The Durham Arts Council named Woodley, based in Chapel Hill, N.C., its 2012 Emerging Artist in Drama. She is a national award-winning journalist and former producer for North Carolina Public Radio's "The Story with Dick Gordon." She recently stepped away from her journalism career to focus on performing full-time. Following her shows at Indiana State, Woodley will continue touring, with performances scheduled in Pennsylvania, Nebraska and Hawaii.
Admission is free, but seating is limited and tickets must be obtained in advance by contacting the Indiana State University Office of Diversity, Rankin Hall, room 426, at 812-237-8513
For more information about Woodley's productions, including video clips, press, biographical information, show dates and more, visit: www.mamajuggs.com
Contact: Elonda Ervin, director, diversity officer, Indiana State University, 812-237-8513 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Award-winning journalist turned performer Anita Woodley will present "Mama Juggs" and "The Men in Me" Feb. 8-9 in ISU's New Theatre.