Today, Listen To Your Mother Milwaukee held its second rehearsal. And just like that, Jennifer Gaskell and I saw our cast go from tentative 6th graders at their first school dance, to confident high school seniors ready to take on the world. We have just a tech run-through left and then it’s the day of our show, April 27, and that day will feel like we’re walking our cast down the graduation aisle.
Our cast of 10 began our LTYM journey just four weeks ago. We met for the first time on a March afternoon, surrounded by so much of the new — new people, a new adventure, new stories, a new experience. One by one, our cast took their seats around the table and listened to stories from strangers, knowing little more than their first and last names. We heard a woman tell of what she would do if given a second chance to really say all that there was to say about the magic of her special son. There was another, sharing what it’s like to look back on life and recognize the wisdom of a mother, before it’s too late. We were held spellbound by story after story in celebration and joyous sharing, enjoying the time we had together without interruption. We learned about each other from the pieces of our lives that we brought to our table — the beautiful in the extraordinary ordinary.
And then, today, meeting for the second time and hearing the stories after our initial tip-toeing around a new acquaintance from just a few weeks ago, we were again held rapt. How does that magic work? The power of authentic words told and true-to-life moments held… just for a few minutes, with no one to stop us or ask for anything. Today, we basked in the luxury of undivided attention to what we have to say.
It felt like communion. We were brought together for the one purpose of a shared experience. We arrive with open minds, we are there to LISTEN. We need no reminders to not judge, and each reader feels so safe in that. The fact that we come mentally prepared to LISTEN sets the stage for acceptance. We come to hear, to witness someone trust us enough to tell about their life. Today, we shared an afternoon of tearing up over the heartfelt, of bursts of laughter that the comical of motherhood brings, of grinning wide smiles as we hear of pride in accomplishment, and genuine applause in appreciation of sharing. We placed hands tenderly on the shoulders of those who needed it, and we paused in each of our lives for a few unhurried moments.
We don’t have to know people to feel what they’re telling us. Our lives don’t have to be similar for us to understand someone’s pain or to celebrate their joy. We can reach across the table, with our eyes more than our hands, and connect. This is how we build community — I want to tell our cast members not to be surprised if someone searches them out on the day of the show to thank them for being their voice that day. There is a comfort in hearing that someone else has walked the same road as you have, and survived.
For Jen and I to be involved in the joyous process of helping our cast bring their beautiful story to others is something that words can’t convey. But if you picture a heart beating for each cast member as they walk on stage April 27, and if you listen for the loudest claps from behind them when they’re reading at the podium, know it’s us, being so very proud, and so very grateful, that they have boldly shared themselves. Our cast is forever a part of Listen To Your Mother Milwaukee.
I tear up at the thought of all that our group of ten is discovering about themselves and each other. They’re forging new friendships, maybe a spark right now, but we’ve seen these early connections grow into something lasting. We see our cast walk to our makeshift podium for our rehearsal, and with one deep breath, they plunge into their story. They begin something they may not have ever done, nor even imagined for themselves. And it’s significant. When we share our stories, we are saying we are human beings, we give proof that we were here. Recognizing that each of us is special with our own unique story to tell is what we do when we listen to each other. What we look like on the outside disappears once our stories take life — and trust us when we tell you that your words are powerful, and there will be someone in the audience who is just the person who needs to hear them.
Jen and I want our cast to know that this is the beginning of their story. And we can’t wait for our Milwaukee audience to hear their beautiful voices together on April 27.
It takes a thousand voices to tell a single story. —Native American saying
We are so grateful.
Jenn and Alexandra
Listen To Your Mother Milwaukee