Or more acurately, when THIS:
Turns into THIS:
On May 6, 2012, Washington, DC hosted its very first Listen to Your Mother show. We hoped to fill 200 of the Synetic Theater’s seats. But in fact, 300 people came out to celebrate motherhood with us.
Our cast was selected in an impossible process of, as Director, Stephanie Stearns Dulli put it, “separating diamonds from diamonds.” But when they took the stage and spoke their truth, we knew that the right choices were made for this year.
We agreed early on that we would go into auditions with an open mind. We wanted to let the stories we heard guide US to what story DC’s 2012 Listen to Your Mother show would tell.
It was Cindy Green, our first reader, with her piece titled, “The Mother Warrior,” who gave us the answer. As soon as Cindy left the room, Stephanie said, “that’s our first reading!” And a theme developed. We selected a series of essays that flowed together, and more importantly, expressed this image of mothers as everyday warriors.
Cindy read, “The universal concepts of motherhood are of gentleness, self-sacrifice and unconditional love. And this is all true. But there is another part of motherhood that is just as vital – the primal, overwhelming desire to defend and fight for what is best for our children.”
All of the readings expressed this theme of fighting the good fight in motherhood – for our children and for ourselves. For our families.
We presented stories about the power of motherhood – of mothers as empowered people who fight for their families. Because even in their quiet everyday lives, that is what mothers do. No matter how public or private the fight. Sometimes a mother warrior boldly proclaims to be grateful for a life threatening disease she battled, simply because without it, the daughter she cherishes wouldn’t exist. And sometimes she just wants her toddler to stay in bed until at least 6:00 a.m.!
Even our charitable cause honored a mother warrior. Through ticket sales and additional online donations, we have raised close to one thousand dollars in the name of Susan Niebur. Susan battled Inflammatory Breast Cancer for five years. She fought to live and be a mother to her two boys; and she fought to educate every woman she could reach about this deadly form of breast cancer that presents without a lump. Susan left this world on February 6, 2012. But her legacy – as well as her fight – lives on through the lives that she touched.
As the show date neared, stories about Listen to Your Mother DC and the women involved began to circulate though local media.
In her On Parenting blog for The Washington Post, Janice D’Arcy wrote about DC’s “Mother Warrior” theme; as well as how the success of National Director, Ann Imig’s 2010 show in Madison, WI created a demand for more of the same in other cities.
Our DC show also gained the attention of two Huffington Post writers. In her article, “How to Make Friends and Influence People — Become a Mom,” Huff Post reporter, Jody Melto noted the power (and empowerment) of storytelling – how it brings people together as a community, “To laugh at our mistakes. To connect with others. And to get out of our own heads. Everyone, not just moms, needs a little of that.” We couldn’t agree more!
Then in another Huff Post article titled, “Screw Perfection, Listen to Real Mothers,” DC cast member, Monica Sakala described Listen to Your Mother as a show featuring “the real stories of motherhood, not the extreme ones that land you on the front page of the New York Times Sunday Style section.” And it should be noted that Monica brought down the house with a hilarious description of how she suffers from Stockholm Syndrome.
The local Patch publications jumped at the chance to write articles on cast members. Director, Stephanie Stearns Dulli was featured in the Germantown Patch, Jean Winegardner was in the Wheaton Patch and Anna Whiston-Donaldson was in the Vienna Patch. Each article captured not just the story of the DC show and how these women came to be involved, but also reflected their own unique life stories. And isn’t that exactly what Listen to Your Mother is all about?
We can credit much local enthusiasm for Listen to Your Mother DC to these wonderful articles as well as mentions in Washingtonian Magazine’s After Hours blog, Northern Virginia Magazine’s Culture pages and S.W.A.G. blog, and news reports by George Mesthos for WNEW 99.1 FM.
It’s fairly clear that DC gets Listen to Your Mother.
Know who else does? The audience. As soon as the show concluded, e-mails began flooding in. Not just with congratulations, but with personal responses to the stories they heard:
“Attending today’s performance/presentation was a gift. It was much more moving and intimate than I imagined.”
“I think overall – I’m getting this feeling of community – that the show was about the audience and who they came with just as much as it was about us and the stories we were telling. So many came with their own mothers and left feeling so fulfilled and emotional and together – in that great sense of we really are all in this together. Also, I think everyone came away with this overwhelming feeling of – you have no idea what the person sitting next to you is going through and there’s no way to tell by looking at them.”
“From the very first speaker to the last, there wasn’t a moment that didn’t touch me in some way. Who couldn’t relate to these hilarious, moving, and sad moments in these women’s lives. As each one got up to speak I sat there and realized that we all have a story to tell and how important it is that we document these ‘special’ times for our children and grandchildren. Although not having gone through those moments of a miscarriage or the loss of a child, as a Grandmother, Mother and as a woman, my heart ached for each and every one of them.”
“While the program was exactly what I imagined it to be, I was blindsided by my reaction to the speakers and to their stories. I don’t think I expected to become so personally and emotionally involved. They each moved me in a different way. Each woman’s story tugged at a different heart string or brought up a different (happy/sad) memory. Each woman was eloquent, elegant, funny, sad, inspirational and just plain entertaining.”
Even our videographer who was hired just a few days before the show shed some tears. He said it was “very emotional,” and told us not to worry about some additional charges that had been discussed before the show – claiming that it would be his “Mother’s Day gift” to us.
And for those of us who were on stage? How could any one of us begin to describe the absolute magic of that experience? We were all honored to take part in this first production of Listen to Your Mother DC. It was the best Mother’s Day gift imaginable.
We can’t begin to thank everyone for their support in making this show happen: local media, our sponsors, each audience member who came out to listen, and of course the twelve amazing individuals who told us what story our show would tell…Chrissy Boylan, Sarah Braesch, Nicole Crowley, Anna Whiston-Donaldson, Lindsay Felix, Lis Fogt, Devra Gordon, Cindy Green, Monica Sakala, Elena Sonnino, Sue Wagner and Jean Winegardner.
So when hard pressed to come up with an answer…we would have to say that THIS is what magic looks like:
Thank you! And we hope to see you again in 2013!