Andrew Barry | Posted: Tuesday, March 12, 2013 12:00 am
Anita Woodley isn’t afraid to say “titties” — a lot.
It’s a word she emphasizes in an attempt to rid her audience of the taboo she said surrounds breast health.
Woodley is the solo actress and playwright for “Mama Juggs,” a play that comically demonstrates the struggles of a woman with breast cancer. A former NPR reporter, she now performs “Mama Juggs” and “The Men in Me,” another play she wrote, to audiences across the country. On Monday night she performed “Mama Juggs” in the Nebraska Union Ballroom for the University of Nebraska’s Women’s Week 2013.
Woodley grew up in Oakland, Calif. When she was in seventh grade, she found out her mother, Mable Marie Pierce-Glenn, had breast cancer and had to keep it a secret. At first, her mother chose not to receive the medical treatment she needed. Woodley attributes this to the lack of awareness surrounding breast cancer at the time. Pierce-Glenn died in 1998, partially because of this lack of early treatment.
“She had a really hard time dealing with the choice she made not going back to the doctor,” Woodley said. “(Performing ‘Mama Juggs’) makes me feel like she’s being forgiven in some way.”
Woodley wrote “Mama Juggs” to commemorate her mother’s struggle and to educate women, and men, about the need for early detection regarding breast cancer. The play is based on the true story of her family’s journey and thoughts throughout her mother’s battle. In the performance, Woodley embodies and transitions between three characters: her mother, her grandmother Suga Babe Johnson and herself as a teenager.
“I usually channel them,” Woodley said. “I become grandma, and I become my mama.”
Woodley interacts with her audience throughout the performance, using a small set of props to demonstrate her different characters’ challenges. When changing her voice and facial appearance, she said she tries to create a “lie,” for the audience, making them believe that her mother or grandmother might actually be on stage with her. She performs the whole play in a black spandex suit, using colorful jewelry to add flare to the costume.
“(Performing is) liberating,” Woodley said. “You cannot have any issues with your body.”
“Mama Juggs” has a purpose, according to Woodley. She said she wants people to be aware of their breast health.
Stephanie Meyer, a first-year graduate student in educational administration at UNL, said Woodley capitalized upon her performance and achieved her ultimate goal.
“Scary,” Meyer said was her initial reaction. “It’s very scary, especially as a woman to think that if I’m not careful, if I’m not paying attention, that could happen to me.”
Woodley said the most important piece of information her audience could leave her performance with, is how to carry out a breast self-examination.
“Do the hula hoop and the wave on your breast and on your chest,” she said.