It’s Not Just a Show.

by Melisa on January 28, 2016

There’s only one week left to submit your motherhood story to us if you’d like to be considered for Chicago’s 2016 (Fifth Annual!) LISTEN TO YOUR MOTHER show.

This is, obviously, a very exciting time for Tracey and me because the newest members of our LTYM Chicago family are sitting right there in our inbox (or they’re about to arrive!). We’ve written about this “family” many times, and I bet some people think that we are tossing that word around lightly. We’re not. Each year, our alumni have been the first to cheer for the new cast members. The first to offer assistance with the show. The first to offer advice. We cheer for each other when there’s good news and help each other weather the bad. It’s incredible, truly. Tracey and I being a part of the circumstances that connect lots of fabulous people from all walks of life–who may not have ever met otherwise–has been a privilege for us, and in our fifth season we remain in awe and so thankful that we actually get to do this. LTYM changes lives. It’s changed mine and Tracey’s. It’s changed the lives of lots of Chicago folks as well as people all across the country. It could change yours, too.

Here's the alumni picture we took after our 2014 show. We hope to be snapping another one this year: we're gonna need a bigger stage!

Here’s the alumni picture we took after our 2014 show. We hope to be snapping another one this year: we’re gonna need a bigger stage! (Photo credit Balee Images)

A couple of days ago I read this great post, written by Oklahoma City alumna Jennifer McMurrain, about her LTYM OKC family. What she says is true for so many people who get involved in this project: they come into the fold expecting one thing but end up with so much more, and often different from what was expected. (That said, if you want to be a part of LTYM only to tell your story? TOTALLY GREAT. I’m just saying that you might be surprised with what you get from the experience. Regardless, SUBMIT YOUR STORY, please and thank you!)

Jennifer inspired me to ask my OWN Chicago family to reflect on their favorite part of the experience or what they’re most thankful for and they were, as always, ever so generous. (Thanks guys, love you!)

If you’re on the fence about putting yourself and your story out there, I hope you’ll get a sense of the love that comes through what LTYM Chicago Alumni had to say, and then sit down to prepare an email for Tracey and me, introducing us to your story:

Robin Frisch (2013): LTYM gave me a voice to speak out, loud and strong, about things that were hard when, as a child, I felt I had no real voice at all. The most gratifying part of performance day was when someone in the audience came up to me after the show and told me she had a similar upbringing to me, and hearing me speak helped give her the insight to realize that she has come out stronger from her childhood as well. Growing up with a mother who is mentally ill is hard, but being able to come to terms with it, and finding growth and strength, is a very good thing after all.

Julie Vassilatos (2014): LTYM made it possible for me to think and share publicly about how complicated loving our mothers can be. And mothers loving children. It goes on and on throughout the generations and everyone can relate to this. And I met some amazing women in the process. Together we went through a huge challenge in an atmosphere of complete support. It’s easy to feel alone in our experiences–that they are “unique” and “no one can understand them.” LTYM fractures this fiction into a million pieces and leaves them lying on the stage.

Lyletta Robinson (2015): Aside from gaining a new family, LTYM Chicago allowed me to tell the story of my mother. A regular woman—who through simple acts, was allowed to pass along wisdom that can’t be gained in a classroom. While not a mother myself, being allowed to give my late mother a voice was more impactful than I can ever express.

Stephanie Kush (2012 & 2015): This whole processes of letting go, surrendering and becoming comfortable with the rawness of exposing myself is all thanks to Listen to Your Mother. It was my participation in the 2012 show that was the catalyst for everything that I have been able to achieve artistically.

Meggan Sommerville (2014): Listen to Your Mother was an opportunity for me to find something in myself that I lacked – confidence, Confidence in telling my story. Confidence in being more open about who I am.

Pamela Valentine (2015): LTYM gave me the courage to share my story and the realization that people wanted to hear it. Stepping up on that stage opened the floodgates and the doors to a world of opportunities. Now I call myself a writer and an advocate and a kickass mom, and that’s all thanks to LTYM.

Kari Wagner Hoban (2014): Man, there are so many favorite parts for me to list. I mean, I wrote an entire post dedicated to it but if I had to pick what I was most thankful for, I would have to say the family I was adopted into after being selected. I have this amazing tribe of people who I know will always have my back no matter what and it is the most unexpected thing I ever thought I would get out of this experience. I entered this kind of selfishly, thinking it would be really cool to get up on stage and talk about MY experiences and yet, the best part of the whole thing is that I got extra family out of it. (Note to Kari: NOT selfish! ~Melisa)

Patti Minglin (2015): When I first auditioned for LTYM Chicago my goal was to simply tell my story. It was during the first rehearsal when I realized this was more than just an opportunity to be a storyteller—it was an opportunity for me to expand my own definition of what it means to be a mother. Yes, motherhood was all the things I had experienced: love, tears, joy, exhaustion. But, through the stories of others, I learned that motherhood is also strong, forgiving, limitless and breathtaking. By sharing my own story of motherhood I was able to appreciate even more the stories of others—something that has stayed with me long after I left the LTYM stage.

Saya Hillman (2014): LTYM helped me do something that shouldn’t be a hard thing to do, yet it was and is hard for me to do. Because, complicated. LTYM helped me say “Thank you” to my mother. And regardless of complicated, I am forever grateful for that.

Sheila Quirke (2013): The opportunity to parent a child who is no longer with you simply by telling their story is a gift. LTYM was that opportunity to share my daughter with an open and receptive audience, surrounded by the most supportive castmates you could conjure up. So grateful.

Kathleen Buckley (2015): I was so nervous at our first rehearsal but the other cast members, all of whom were strangers only moments before, sat before me with encouragingly smiles and gave me the confidence to tell them my story. When they began to laugh IN THE RIGHT PLACES, well, that just fueled my confidence further and I found myself smiling back at them. The high fives and reciprocal pats-on-the-back that we gave each other in rehearsals and via our daily social media contact was all I needed. I knew I could do it. I could get up on that big stage at that fabulous theater and tell my story as well as anyone. And I did. I owe so much to the support of the Listen to Your Mother team – cast, producers, audience – and cherish the real friends so many of these strangers became. Support, confidence, friendship. That is what Listen to Your Mother gave me.

Samantha Schultz (2013 & 2015): Meeting one of my best friends and then performing with her two years later!

Katy Jacob (2012): The opportunity to read something to my daughter that I would have never told her in person.

Angela Bahng (2015): My favorite part of the LTYM journey was that first rehearsal and listening to everyone’s stories for the first time. I can’t describe what a powerful and amazing moment that was. So thankful for the opportunity to have been a part of the Chicago cast last year!

Kim Z. Dale (2014): I was worried my story was too specific and small for others to care about, but from the first rehearsal through the final show I found a community who laughed with me, cried with me, and accepted me. Listen to Your Mother is a reminder that our experiences may be different, but we don’t have to be alone.

Brandie Langer (2012): My favorite part was finishing it. No, not like that. But I honestly didn’t think I was capable of doing it, and then when I did – when it was over and I realized I was indeed capable, I felt really amazing!

Please consider submitting your story to us this week. Yes, you. YES, YOU. I am speaking directly to you. We’re waiting for YOUR story, and we can’t wait to read it!

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