The following is an interview with Sonia Jackson regarding the upcoming online performance of her one-woman show, Mamaisms, on November 8, 2020, in association with Whitefire Theatre. In this interview, Fanbase Press Editor-in-Chief Barbra Dillon chats with Jackson about the premise for the show, how COVID-19 has shaped the production as a whole as well as the creative process of the cast and crew, and more!
Barbra Dillon, Fanbase Press Editor-in-Chief: You will soon be streaming an online performance of your one-woman show, Mamaisms. For those who may be unfamiliar, what can you tell us about the production’s premise?
Sonia Jackson: Mamaisms is about the familiar sayings that mothers have told us over the years to help us shape our lives. The things we liked as well as the things we didn’t. Gammy Mae is the main character, a grandmother who humorously tells us stories about children that make us think about parenting and guidance regardless of whether or not you are one. Gammy Mae, along with the other characters, children, teenagers and other mothers, demonstrate the Mamaisms and considers new twists on them to look at growing up and all it is to be a mama.
BD: While the production was previously staged as part of SOLOFEST 2019, your upcoming performance will be presented virtually to overcome the production limitations caused by the impact of COVID-19. What can you share with us about your creative process in working with director Jessica Lynn Johnson, especially as it relates to the virtual presentation?
SJ: One of the things I like about Jessica is that she does continually look at the creative process. We’re always growing, and the world continue to change. It may not be the case with every show but with this subject, the show also grows. Jessica made suggestions, new ideas have come to me, and a variety of social situations have been incorporated to update the show.
Theater audiences are used to enjoying a certain level of intimacy with a live performance. Going virtually, the challenge has been to bring that intimacy to the audience in their home. Often in solo theatre, we break the fourth wall in connecting with the audience, so we’ve been working to make sure that connection continues to happen. Jessica has a great eye to help marry that process.
BD: At Fanbase Press this year, our #StoriesMatter initiative endeavors to highlight the impact that stories can have on audiences of various mediums. How do you feel that Mamaisms’ story will connect with and impact viewers, and why do you feel that this story was important for you to bring to life?
SJ: First and foremost, I have always loved to make people laugh, and we can use more now.
Mamaisms connects with audiences because everyone’s had a mama or mama figure or been one in someone’s life. Everyone will relate the stories that are told because, in some way, they are our stories.
Storytelling is a powerful medium and a great way to get someone to think about an idea without beating it over their heads. Through laughter and storytelling, we are more open to other possibilities.
Mamaisms acknowledges that Mamas have one of the hardest, but most important, jobs in the world. What Mamas have taught us is another aspect of ageless wisdom. I believe I honor that. I honor my mother with all that she taught me through her Mamaisms; it is my desire for others to consider some of those ideas. And, in some cases, I have given those ideas a different twist, or at least a different way to think about things.
We all could use support with what we’re doing, including mamas. There is an African proverb that says, “It takes a village to raise a child.” I would like us all to consider being the village to each other’s children.
BD: Are there any other projects on which you are currently working that you would like to share with our readers?
SJ: With the addition of virtual performances, I’m looking at revamping some of the projects that I’ve done in the past. One is Conversations ‘Bout the Girls, a play which examines a woman’s relationship with her breasts and how it’s changed by the world around her. I’ve done it off and on for 15 years, and audiences love it. I’ve done it as both an ensemble and solo piece. I’m considering bringing back the solo piece and looking to see how I can have an ensemble performance under COVID safeguards and bring it to a wider audience. I started writing another piece called Avatar about the teacher of wisdom and intuition within each of us. It’s a really fun story and might turn out to be a children book.
BD: Lastly, what would you like to tell readers who want to learn more about and purchase tickets for Mamaisms?
SJ: Information and the ticket link can be found at www.SoniaJackson.Com or on Facebook (@SoniaJacksonTheatre). The upcoming show is Sunday, November 8,2020, at 6 p.m. Tickets purchased in advance will be good for 48 hours.