LTYM’s legacy spans 7 years, nearly 200 shows, and over 2000 stories. How do you begin to recognize the depth of that work? How do you begin to recognize that level of devotion to writing, stories, and community that is gathered in our beautiful body of work and has been witnessed by tens of thousands of live and online audience members? As we prepare to raise the curtain on the grand finale of our national project, my heart is full of love and appreciation for the brilliant women who make LTYM happen: the LTYM Torchbearers.
If you live outside of Madison, Wisconsin, the reason you know anything about LTYM–the reason you’ve auditioned or sat in our audience, read at our podium, or simply used LTYM as a prompt for your own stories–is our local director/producers. These visionary women have each carried the LTYM torch to their hometown, kept it aflame year after year, and collectively shined our light across the nation.
While a few started out as seasoned theatrical professionals, many of these women had little experience with directing, producing or event-planning. However each and every single one of them leaped into an unknown endeavor, using their influence both in their online and real-life communities to include others along their journey as they sculpted a brand new space for stories and sisterhood (brotherhood, too).
Today this group holds tremendous power, and they wield it creatively, generously, and strategically to fund their shows, curate diverse stories, produce unforgettable annual live-storytelling events, and ultimately forge bonds that endure far beyond the stage. The efforts of these women directly result in meaningful connections and friendships, important personal and professional alliances, and new business and creative collaborations. They definitely count as seasoned director/producers now–entrepreneurs and impresarios to boot–and their influence is evident in the lives of their casts, audience, and the LTYM legacy.
Thank you to the LTYM torchbearers who’ve helped hoist, hold, and tend the dazzling (if occasionally heavy or unwieldy) LTYM torch. Should you see one of these torchbearers in your timeline or email inbox, let them know you see their strength and how brightly the light they’ve created shines. Maybe it has warmed you personally, or someone important to you. These brilliant change-makers continue to stoke the flames of creativity and connection, and all in an effort to share it with others. They are:
Jana Anthoine, Miranda Wicker
Kristin Shaw (with help from new assistant Susanne Kerns)
Taya Dunn Johnson, Arlene Jackson
Meghan Matt (with help from new assistant, Whitney Andrus)
Stephanie Sprenger, Ellen Nordberg
Suzanne Weerts, Taia Perry-Kretz
Anna Hartman, Becca Finley (with help from returning assistant: Jennifer Buddin– and new assistant Meredith Betzhold)
Melisa Wells, Tracey Becker
Stephanie Stearns Dulli, Kate Coveny Hood
Greta Funk, Kathleen Fisher
Jess Witkins, Beth Erickson, Molly Hilligoss
Kristina Grum, Kirsten Piccini
Angela Amman, Angela Youngblood
Rochelle Fritsch, Jen Gaskell, Alexandra Rosas
Sandy Rustin Fleischer, Deborah Goldstein, Brooke Lefferts
Amy Wilson, Elizabeth Robinson, Barbara Herel
Mari Farthing, (with help from returning assistant) Jennifer Dennis-Smith
Jennifer Hicks, Stephanie Jankowski,
Margaret Elysia Garcia
Brianne DeRosa, Kirsten DiChiappari,Chelley Martinka
Keanne Hoeg, Marty Long
Monica Gebell, Sarah Fitzgibbons, Corrie Spike Carter (with help from new assistant Sally Bitner Bonn)
Jill Robbins (with help from assistants: Patricia Walters-Fischer and Celina Montoya)
Janine Kovac,Tarja Parssinen (with help from returning assistant Mary Hill)
Stacey Conner, Elise Raimi
Naomi Francis, Laura Edwards Ray, Ellen Grossman-Cohen
Kim Jorgensen Gane, Beth Haire-Lewis
Vikki Reich, Galit Breen
All the “me too” moments resulting from this group–all the personal stories celebrated, and experiences validated–these women and their leadership directly impact a spirit of hopefulness and understanding. They organize a space for voices that might otherwise go unheard and that can open minds and hearts, allowing us to see commonalities among humanity at a time when it might be needed more than ever.
Our national project finale season begins ten days from now. While some of our director/producers will go on to create future LTYM shows, the project as we know it– as it was born from blogging, and as a once a year national phenomenon– embarks on our grand finale. It’s important to mark this milestone and honor the legacy our torchbearers leave as they take their final bows. I hope you’ll join me in thanking a local director/producer today.