Fourteen years ago, Maria Broom walked away from a glamorous, high-profile position as a television news reporter with WJZ-TV to pursue a lifelong dream to dance professionally.
It was a pirouette into the unknown for Ms. Broom, an act of faith that the realization of a childhood ambition was more worthwhile intrinsically than prestige and security.
Ms. Broom studied dance in such locales as India, Bali and Africa, often working in areas and situations that required a degree of personal sacrifice in terms of material comfort. She returned to her native Baltimore in 1987 and has worked here as a dance performer and teacher. She even returned to local television in 1990, as host and producer of shows for the Mayor's Office of Cable and Communication.
Now, Ms. Broom, 42, is moving into a new arena of self-expression, acting. On May 23 and 24, she played Teri, an adult who was sexually abused as a child, in the Splitting Image Theatre Company's production of "Closets," a story focusing on survivors of sexual child abuse. The play, which was written by Binnie Ritchie Holum, was performed at the Baltimore Museum of Art as part of its "Off the Wall" series.
She also played Lady Capulet in a Cockpit in Court production of "Romeo and Juliet" last month at Essex Community College. This fall, she will star in "Baby's Breath," a play about the use of aborted fetal tissue for medical research, and next year, she will play the title role of Sojourner Truth in "A Woman Called Truth."
Q: What led you from television to dance and from dance to acting?
A: Well, at the time, I had been in TV for five years. First at the ABC affiliate in Miami and then at WJZ from 1974 to 1977. But I had wanted to be a dancer all the time I was growing up. I had studied dance. I had been dancing on the side. By the time I turned 28, I realized, "Hey, if you're ever going to find out if you can do this full time, it has got to be now." At the time, offers to move up in television were starting to come in, so I made the decision to go with dance and I spent the next 14 years studying, teaching and really honing my craft.
Then, about two years ago, I seemed to have reached the point in my life where my knees had seen their share of dancing, and suddenly, opportunities to act started falling into my hands. So, I feel these transitions were God-sent.
Q: Is it a difficult leap, from dancing to acting?
A: Actually, the role of Teri [in "Closets"] offers a beautiful transition between the two, because I am able to incorporate not only acting but movement into the role. Dancing includes a lot of acting, anyway, but without words. In a way, you could say there is a lot of movement in acting and a lot of acting in dance. As for the role of Lady Capulet, I look at that as an opportunity to stretch myself -- to do a role that is not me, a growth opportunity.
Q: Do you feel now that you've met the goals you first set for yourself?
A: Well, this is going to be really hard to put into words, but my real goals would be to be the most God-filled person I can be, to be used completely as a tool of God. That's a real awkward thing to talk about because people will say, "That's so nebulous, what does she mean?" It means that however I am functioning -- whether it is as a dancer, a performer or as a television communicator -- something is coming through that is worthwhile.
Now, my goal on a secular level, a mundane level, would be to use the best of my skills to the very highest level. What I have found out in my 40-something years is that I seem to be very good as a communicator, as a dancer and as a performer, and I happen to enjoy them, so you might say my goal on the secular level is to use those skills in as worthwhile a manner as possible.
Q: What do you mean by "worthwhile"?
A: I guess I am talking again about spiritual values, connecting to people in a meaningful and positive way. When we first did "Closets" [in a series of theater workshops last year], so many victims of sexual child abuse, survivors, came up with tears in their eyes. They were able to relieve, through me, some of the stuff they had gone through. It was cathartic. So whatever skills I have as an actress, if they can be used to touch or relieve or reach whatever the needs of the audience are, that's what I mean. I hope that makes some kind of sense to people.
Q: You sound apologetic.