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A Love Letter to LTYM’s Torchbearers

by Ann on November 6, 2015

The passion, sweat and vision of 100 local leaders  give rise to the LTYM story-sharing and community-building phenomenon. The majority of our local director/producers return for subsequent seasons; honing their process, stretching their goals, and finding ways to keep their show electric and their LTYM community thriving.

Torchbearers

Today LTYM honors our torchbearers–the local director/producers who return again and again over 4, 5, 6, and 7 seasons to stoke the fires for LTYM storytellers to gather around, who spread warmth and light in which their community can bask, and who not only help LTYM reach across North America and keep her footlights aglow, but provide support for their readers, all year long, in ways the public never sees.

Bringing LTYM home requires creativity, dedication, time and energy akin to throwing a wedding plus a Bat Mitzvah times a multi-faceted social media campaign, divided by a community theater production sprinkled with a fund-raiser, and with a remainder of huge afterglow carry the exhaustion. As we say right atop the city application: This will be a lot of work. A lot. Of work. More work than you imagine. 

Yet many of our local women director/producers return again and again, with enthusiasm, ingenuity, and generosity to share with each new cast and audience. As we leap into our 2016 season, LTYM expresses our profound admiration and gratitude for these dedicated local leaders.

LTYM’s original torchbearer is, without a doubt, Darcy Dederich. Darcy agreed to help me produce and stage-manage the very first LTYM show in Madison in 2010. Darcy remains a steadfast superstar producer in Madison and dear friend–going into our 7th season!!

LTYM Madison Co-Producer Darcy Dederich (far right) and family by Melissa Austin

LTYM Madison Co-Producer Darcy Dederich (far right) and family by Melissa Austin

Darcy helps Ann to bring the LTYM cast together with her warmth and kindness and calm demeanor. She is a rock and also the glue that holds the whole thing together in her warm embrace and capable hands. I’m certain I’m not the only one grateful to Darcy for easing the stress of reading in front of an audience. She’s the head Mama figure of LTYM – Madison…and surely, the best producer ever. – Deb Nies, LTYM Madison cast member
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2011 brought the first year of LTYM as a national breakout project. One of my first trusted blogging friends, Stacey Conner brought the show to Spokane, Washington with the help Elise Raimi–both brilliant community-minded writer/mothers.

EliseStaceyLowRes

Spokane director/producers Elise Raimi and Stacey Conner by Briana Loveall

I’ll never forget the day I met Stacey and Elise. It began what was for me, a process of healing from the grief. And what I found remarkable about them is they let me have my grief. It took me 10 minutes to read aloud one of the most life altering events to date. Many tears and pauses came up during that time. They never patted my hand and said it’s alright. They didn’t pity my pain, they attended it. It was a huge gift to me. It is truly a place of dignity to allow someone their feelings factual or not. Their edits helped make the final piece what it is today- published! One dream, LTYM, to the next, the book! They have been relentless in their support of helping to find every woman’s voice in her own story. — Mery Smith, Spokane cast member and LTYM book contributor
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In 2012 mega-talented author and actress Amy Wilson spearheaded an effort to bring LTYM to New York City and has kept the show thriving over three seasons and last year’s mega book launch.
Amy Wilson by Jennifer Lee Photography

LTYM: NYC director Amy Wilson by Jennifer Lee Photography

Amy Wilson is responsible for so much – not only for producing a wonderful LTYM show all three years I worked with her as part of the NYC production team, but also for her friendship, inspiration and mentorship. I owe her so much. She is indeed a torch bearer but also a skilled theater professional with a wealth of knowledge and creativity. I thank and applaud her. — Holly Rosen Fink, CEO and Founder of Pivoting Media

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LTYM more than doubled its cities in 2012, and brought with it several of our torchbearers, including the savvy powerhouse team Tracey Becker and Melisa Wells, who’ve created an LTYM community in Chicago like no other.

Chicago Co-Producers, Tracey Becker and Melisa Wells (by Balee Images)

Chicago Co-Producers, Tracey Becker and Melisa Wells (by Balee Images)

I walked into the audition thinking that my story was too far out of the mainstream, but their acceptance and love prove the underlying commitment that LTYM has to the diversity of motherhood. Not only that, but the friendly and supportive environment they fostered through out the rehearsals and the show went a long way into building confidence in myself. Walking on to the stage of the Athenaeum Theatre was another huge step for me. Melisa and Tracey allowed me to step out of the shadows I had hidden in for a long time. Their continued support and loyal friendship has meant the world to me. — Meggan Sommerville of Trans Girl at the Cross

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Blogger/writers extraordinaire Kate Coveny Hood and Stephanie Stearns Dulli also joined the LTYM fray in 2012, going on to host stunning annual DC shows, and inspiring several cast members to host their own LTYM shows in Baltimore, Pittsburgh, and Birmingham, Alabama!

LTYM DC Director/producer selfie starring Kate Coveny Hood and Stephanie Stearns Dulli

LTYM DC Director/producer selfie starring Kate Coveny Hood and Stephanie Stearns Dulli

We bonded at my audition over Prince; I had to stop reading at the reference because Stephanie snorted and that threw me off. I looked at Kate and she was trying her best to not laugh, which actually made it worse. I recovered enough to be cast in the 2012 show, and I’m convinced the experience from start to finish was as seamless because of the two of them and easy way they have with each other…One standing tall saying, “You can do this” as you push through the words that may be hard to say, and one sitting beside you, rubbing your back as you say the words. The beauty of their team, though, is how without intention, the roles can reverse. Just when you think it’s Kate exuding resilience and Stephanie murmuring warm words amid circle-motioned back rubs, you realize it’s the opposite. It is a charm inside the magic of LTYM. Used to one being director, one being producer, they so easily merge the two. Even better, it’s not director, producer, cast; it’s a team. – Arnebya Herndon, DC cast member

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As LTYM doubled in size once again, to 24 cities in 2013, online mama writers Marty Long and KeAnne Hoeg spearheaded a beautiful Raleigh-Durham show and LTYM community, with fabulous casts and stories each season.

LTYM: Raleigh-Durham director/producer selfie, Marty Long and KeAnne Hoeg

LTYM: Raleigh-Durham director/producer selfie, Marty Long and KeAnne Hoeg

Marty and KeAnne should wear capes to the next production because they are a dynamic duo. They have a gift to make us all feel not only at ease, but confident.  The show puts the writers and their words front and center. The energy is palpable, and the experience unforgettable. — Ilina Ewen, RDU cast member

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2013 also ushered in a St. Louis show, thanks to a powerhouse team of /writer/enterpreneurs including event planner Naomi Francis and author/humorist Laura Edwards Ray who will keep their growing audience/community, and dedicated local LTYM fan-base coming back for more in 2016!

St. Louis team Laura Roodman Edwards Rey (right) and Naomi Smith Francis (center) pictured with 2013-15 producer turned volunteer Ellie Grossman. Photo by Caren Libby

St. Louis team Laura Roodman Edwards-Ray (right) and Naomi Smith Francis (center) pictured with 2013-15 producer-turned-volunteer Ellie Grossman. Photo by Caren Libby

From my audition, to the day of the show, Laura and Naomi  were the best. I have never felt so accepted. Laura told me they would  find a  way to allow me to participate the show and they did…i will remember LTYM 2015 for the  rest of my life. I made new friends, and I did something that was totally out of my comfort zone. I wasn’t a person with a disability,  I was just like everyone else. I was part of the cast.  That feeling and the experience was awesome.  — Joanne Grana, 2015 St. Louis cast member
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2011 Madison cast member and storyteller/writer Alexandra Rosas took a leap in 2013, joining forces with online writer/advocate Jennifer Pody Gaskell to direct and produce their own Milwaukee show. Year after year, they reach new and diverse stories and storytellers and champion the LTYM mission.
Alexandra Rosas and Jennifer Pody Gaskell by Orphonic Multimedia

Alexandra Rosas and Jennifer Pody Gaskell by Orphonic Multimedia

Somehow, Alexandra and Jenny put a nervous knee-knocking me at ease when I auditioned in the show’s inaugural year, and at the same time helped me understand how LTYM could be a serious movement that could create community where there once been division. I wanted to be a part of that creation, and now I am as a co-producer. If that isn’t LTYM magic, I don’t know what is.Rochelle Dukes Fritsch, LTYM Milwaukee cast member turned co-producer

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Both extraordinary writers and online community leaders, Galit Breen and Vikki Reich helped create a hugely popular LTYM: Twin Cities show in 2013, now soaring into its 4th season thanks to their leadership.

LTYM Twin Cities director/producer selfie featuring Galit Breen and Vikki Reich

LTYM Twin Cities director/producer selfie featuring Galit Breen and Vikki Reich

I remember auditions, standing in the front of a huge table, with Galit and Vikki on the other side, offering reassuring smiles as I began. I didn’t know either of them but I could sense their big-heartedness right away. Galit’s kindness and support, her reassurances––it all shines through from the moment you meet her. And Vikki’s confidence as a writer, her keen insights, her compassion––all were apparent to me from the start, too. Both are the kind of people you want to do well by. They bring out the best in you.  It’s been such an honor to have the chance to work with both. It’s an honor to remain in touch, and to count both now as friends.  – Author Kate St. Vincent Vogl, LTYM Twin Cities
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Heather Johnson, blogger, teacher, wife and mom of 6, brought LTYM to Northern Utah in 2013, and has kept directing and producing and fostering LTYM community through two pregnancies/babies and into her fourth season in 2016!!
HeatherUtah
I walked into LTYM as a novice without the background in publishing and social media that most of the participants had, yet Heather made me feel like I had something significant to share, that I had a voice. I expected to feel uncomfortable among a group of accomplished mothers, but I never did. Instead, Heather created an atmosphere that was warm, fun, casual but well executed, and one of the most enlightening experiences I’ve ever had. She is pretty incredible. — Heather Jones, Northern Utah cast member

LTYM applauds all of our torchbearers for their years of leadership and love!!

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alexandra November 6, 2015 at 3:23 pm

I have only praise beyond words for what LTYM has done for me, Jennifer Pody Gaskell and Rochelle Dukes Fritsch. This show has changed our lives and given us purpose, possibility, and pride. THANK YOU, LTYM team. Thank YOU Jenny and Rochelle for helping to keep LTYM Milwaukee alive. Together, our stories heal and by getting to know our neighbors by sharing a moment in their life, we come to see how we are more alike than different.

Amy Wilson November 6, 2015 at 7:43 pm

It may sound clichéd to say “Listen To Your Mother” changed my life. But it has. Personally, professionally, spiritually, LTYM has given me so much, and I am so grateful to be a part of it, so grateful to give more stories a voice this year.

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