We’re still coming down off the high of watching 13 ladies bear their truths before a live audience in the second annual Listen to Your Mother North Jersey show.
Listen to Your Mother is a staged reading event where people share experiences about motherhood in all its forms. It started out as the brainchild of blogger Ann Imig with one show in Madison, Wisconsin and has now become a national movement– performed in 39 cities across the U.S. this year.
The audition process was fascinating and humbling. Over 70 people read their stories, and we had the daunting task of choosing just 13 for the show.
Aligning with the LTYM edict, we tried to find pieces with a unique voice, but a universal message about motherhood. If you’ve seen the show, you know it’s an emotional journey, so it was also important we have balance, with thought-provoking stories that would make an audience laugh and cry.
Thirteen people earned the coveted spots with their original, beautiful words. While several are career writers and/or bloggers, some have only dabbled in writing while keeping day jobs, or just had an important story to tell.
The age range ran from 30s to 50s, with topics ranging from foster care, parenting special needs children, divorce, racism, and gender stereotypes to cooking in the kitchen with mom and sending kids to summer camp. Each story had relatable elements, even if the experience described was completely new.
After a successful 2014 show, tickets went quickly for the scheduled 5pm show at the South Orange Performing Arts Center. When the show sold out, we got ballsy and added a second show at 2pm. We almost filled the theater for the second show and the cast got to read twice. As a reader last year, I remember being so sad when it was over, I wished I could start the show again, and this year’s cast got that chance.
We only rehearsed twice before show day but these ladies were ready. They came prepared with polished pieces, and open ears for fellow castmates. This year’s show was more emotionally charged than 2014, and the box of tissues made the rounds at rehearsal.
Although most of the ladies had not met before, they formed an instant connection, held together by respect and trust that carried them through performance day.
On the day of the show, there were a few butterflies but those tough broads laughed in the face of stage fright. The audiences were engaged, responsive, and enthusiastic. They laughed in all the right places and listened intently and reverentially to the cast share their intimate tales.
There were many hugs and promises to see each other soon as we parted to celebrate with family and friends after the second show. The following 48 hours were filled with praise online and in person from those who saw it. A few people told us the show was now officially part of their annual Mother’s Day weekend routine.
An email chain with all cast and producers continued through Mother’s Day as everyone reflected on the extraordinary adventure. I ran into one cast mate in town the night after the show and we ran into each other’s arms like old Army buddies separated by years, when really it had only been a day.
We are bonded forever by this meaningful experience.
We remain in awe of people willing to make themselves vulnerable by sharing deeply personal stories and exploring their feelings on a stage in front of 450 people. It takes a certain kind of courage and trust, and we producers were so grateful to each reader for their bravery and willingness to open their hearts.
As Sandy told the cast in the few exciting moments before they took the stage, you never know who in the audience needs to hear your story, needs to laugh or cry, or will be called to action. Words are powerful, especially when expressed with authenticity. That’s what makes LTYM work.
Maybe you have a story to tell about having a mother or being one. Write it down! LTYM NJ 2016 is not that far away…..
You can read more amazing stories in the new anthology: Listen to Your Mother: What She Said Then, What We’re Saying Now.
Post by Brooke Lefferts