Elaine Bromka: Professional Actress and Teaching Artist – Theatre People
By Mitch Stark
Hello everyone! This week I have a special treat for you. Through the Teaching Artist Alliance, I’ve met and had the opportunity to interview actress and teacher Elaine Bromka. Being an ‘eighties kid,’ I had to confess to Elaine when we first corresponded that I was starstruck, as she played (with incredible honesty and charm) the mom in the film Uncle Buck. Elaine was quick to share how warm her experience was working with John Candy, taking the focus off of herself. This of course instantly endeared me to Elaine, and since I’ve seen more examples of her kindness, sincerity, and a passion for her craft. And of course, Uncle Buck, though well known, is just a part of her treasure chest of characters—in film, on television, and on the stage. I hope you enjoy Elaine’s theatrical musings as much as I did!
Elaine Bromka, professional actress and teaching artist, known for Uncle Buck.
What’s a show that inspires you? (explain away!)
When January Feels Like Summer by Cori Thomas really caught me off guard when I saw it at the Ensemble Studio Theatre a few years ago. It was the last performance and I didn’t feel like going into town, but the NY Times review ended with, “It’s rare to leave a play with such a strong desire to spend more time in the characters’ company.” I thought hmmmm. And sure enough, the play pierced me to the core. Beautiful, generous, funny work all around, starting with the playwright.
What’s one of your happiest moments in theatre?
Years ago, I was in the cast of the original run of Cloud Nine Off-Broadway, and towards the end of that run, I thought, “It really doesn’t get better than this. Superb cast, beautiful play, audiences that return night after night, some just for the last scene, to watch the final hug and share again in the characters’ self- acceptance.” Every night the music would play, “It’ll be fine when you reach cloud nine…everything will be OK,” and I could hear people sob. That play served such an important emotional/spiritual service…so that’s when I decided we should start our family! It felt like the time to have kids. I had achieved what I wanted, on a certain level, in my work. I wasn’t done, by any means, but it was time to grow in new ways.
What’s the biggest ‘fail’ or goof you’ve seen on stage? (do tell the story)
I saw Diane Wiest on fire and I don’t ever, ever, ever want to see that again. An actor came in with a flambé dish in The Art of Dining at the Public Theater and poured a bottle of alcohol onto the flames. The fire went up the arc of liquid—into the bottle—and exploded the bottle, raining fire onto Diane, who was sitting right under him. She spent a considerable amount of time in the hospital and needed skin grafts after that. Whenever I teach now, I emphasize that anything involving danger—heights, fire, fights, weapons—MUST be rehearsed with supervision. There must be communal trust for the individuals to explore. Without that safety net of trust, it’s not art—it’s chaos.
Why do you love theatre?
What’s not to love?! The people, the ever-changing task at hand, the study of human psychology, the self discoveries…all of it.
Theatre is for…
This is where we get to live truly in the moment.
More about Elaine
A professional actress for over thirty years, Elaine Bromka was the beleaguered mom Cindy in the film Uncle Buck. TV work includes The Blacklist, Girls, Sopranos, Sex & the City, E.R., Providence, Dharma & Greg, Sisters, Law and Order, Law and Order: Special Victims Unit, Law and Order: Criminal Intent, the crazed Stella Lombard on Days of Our Lives, the Emmy Award–winning Playing for Time with Vanessa Redgrave, and Catch a Rainbow, for which Ms. Bromka herself won an Emmy.
Theater work includes Broadway (The Rose Tattoo, I’m Not Rappaport, Macbeth) and Off-Broadway (Cloud 9, Inadmissible Evidence with Nicol Williamson, and Candide with the National Theatre of the Deaf.) She has played leads at regional theaters across the country, at Long Wharf, Hartford Stage, Center Stage, Actors Theatre of Louisville, ACT/Seattle, O’Neill Playwrights Conference, Shakespeare and Company, McCarter Theatre, Pittsburgh Public Theater, George Street Playhouse, and the Folger Theatre Group, in roles ranging from Much Ado’s Beatrice to Shirley Valentine (outstanding solo performance in New Jersey 1997 – The Star-Ledger.)
After starring as eight First Ladies opposite Rich Little in The Presidents for PBS, she collaborated with Eric H. Weinberger to write the Off-Broadway solo show TEA FOR THREE: Lady Bird, Pat & Betty, which continues to tour the country.
A Phi Beta Kappa graduate of Smith College, she has been on the faculty of NYU’s Steinhardt School, Smith, and the National Theater Institute, and has taken one-day acting workshops to more than a hundred fifty colleges and prep schools nationwide.