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Letter to Our 2014 Cast

by Jennifer on April 14, 2014

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To the amazing and inspiring cast of LISTEN TO YOUR MOTHER Milwaukee 2014,

I am on cloud nine after our final rehearsal.  I felt the magic and community in the air as the thread of your unique stories combined to make this beautiful tapestry of the entire motherhood experience.  I saw each and every one of you come alive as you told your story.  Your stories were every bit as magical to me as the first time I heard them at auditions.  I cannot wait until we take the stage on April 27th.  Alexandra and I are so proud of you all.  You are putting your heart and soul into these pieces, and it comes across in your pieces.

Listen To Your Mother changed my life last year.  When Alexandra approached me to help her do the show, I did not hesitate for a second.  She helped me nudge me to write a piece for last year’s show.  I know how intense it can be to share your own words in front of an audience.  As the self proclaimed theatre nerd of the group, I was very comfortable up on stage.  I did not feel as comfortable at first when I read my own words instead of the words from a script.  I was not inhabiting a character; I was exposing my most vulnerable self.  I took more risks after LTYM because I had found my voice.

I realized the day of the show that sharing our vulnerability and authenticity is what binds us all together.  Listen To Your Mother helps us to build community.  We come from different backgrounds, and our life situations are uniquely ours.  I found something in everyone’s story that I can relate to.  I still felt the jitters and the nerves, but Alexandra’s words to the entire cast resonated with me.  Set an intention or a dedication for your piece, and that is who will receive your message.  Listen To Your Mother is that beacon of hope, that feeling of solidarity and community, and that message of all encompassing love.  In the words of the musical Wicked, “I do believe I have been changed for the better because I knew you.”  Thank you all for reminding me of the transformational power of storytelling.  It has been a honor and a privilege to bear witness to your stories.  Thank you for entrusting Alexandra and I with your beautiful words.  We are ready to let them take flight and soar into the universe!

Best,

Jen

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What Telling Our Stories Can Do

by Alexandra on April 7, 2014

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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

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Tips for Show Time

March 31, 2014

by Jennifer May 1, 2013 As the resident theatre nerd of the Milwaukee team, I think in show tunes.  Doesn’t everyone dance across the stage during the technical rehearsal to break the tension? For the record, I did a superb running man.  Alexandra and I are blessed to have a gifted technical staff as we return for a second year to our venue,  Alverno College’s Wehr Hall.  Rollie is the technical director, and his expertise shines through.  His crew is professional and efficient.  Our wonderful photographer, Matt, and amazing videographer, John of Orphonic Multimediafollow, also showed up at our rehearsal to preview the venue and get some of the technical details ironed out. As an actor, I dreaded tech week also affectionately known as “hell week”.  Focusing lights and spotlights made me antsy as an actor.  I had to stand in my spot while the lights were focused.  As a director and producer, […]

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Top Ten Reasons to See Listen To Your Mother – Milwaukee!

March 25, 2014

LTYM Milwaukee will take the stage again,  Sunday, April 27, 3 PM at Alverno College’s Wehr Hall. You will hear stories from the depth, the breadth, the marvel and the expanse, that the community of Milwaukee will bring. Here we have the Top Ten Reasons you won’t want to miss this show: 1.) Elizabeth Braatz 2.) Christi Craig 3.) Linda Dindzans 4.) Colleen Hayes 5.) Rebekah Leger 6.) Nancy Ellen Martin 7.) Mel Miskimen 8.) Sini Mulloy 9.) Lane Pierce 10.)Mandy Reilly *Alexandra Rosas (co-producer) *Show will be emceed by co-producers Jennifer Gaskell and Alexandra Rosas Come see for yourself what the nation is talking about. Listen To Your Mother Shows will take you on a trip through the land of motherhood that will leave you nodding yes, grinning in solidarity, and wiping away a tear in shared moments. A LTYM show is an experience not soon forgotten, and one that is long after, talked […]

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First Rehearsal – Listen To Your Mother Milwaukee

March 16, 2014

Everything is quiet now. I wait for our new cast for LTYM Milwaukee. In half an hour, they’ll begin to arrive. There is a still moment in this room, and I watch through the window for ten new readers to enter this space, one by one. They’ll approach the door, heads full with thoughts from their drive here. I can feel them taking a deep breath as they park their cars, thinking about what they’re about to embark on, what they’ve agreed to. They will be excited, jittery with nervous anticipation — they will have all the unknown and disbelief that comes with a new venture that stretches how they see themselves. And yet, they’ll come, walking fast, rushing toward the opportunity. There will be no dragging feet or regrets… only the butterflies of the thrill of a chance. Milwaukee has chosen their 2014 cast, ten voices with stories that we heard on audition day that we knew would bring every […]

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