I have always liked the idea of being “discovered.” I blame the movies for this. You know the drill: bright-eyed ingenue comes to the big city lugging an overstuffed suitcase, pratfalls across a pile of newspapers, bumps into the movie mogul who’s gonna make them a stah, kid, a big stahhhh. (In related news, perhaps I should start watching films made after 1947.)
But needless to say, this never happened to me. No matter how many times I put on my oversized sunglasses and walked to Duane Reade, hoping some off-duty paparazzo might mistake me for Natalie Portman with an Old Navy fetish and a reverse nose job, I remained stubbornly unnoticed. To make myself feel better, I rationalized that perhaps that was a writer’s–and a mother’s–destiny; we work in the shadows, under cover of (at least metaphorical) darkness, kind of like Batman if, instead of the Batsuit, he were fond of donning Christmas pajamas. In February. At 4 pm. Most people never see us as stars. We’re more like the atmosphere: essential, but invisible.
I had never considered reading my words on stage before I heard about Listen to Your Mother, and given that I found out about the auditions four months postpartum as a brand-new mom, still living in a dense fog of exhaustion and baby vomit, I did not feel especially prepared for public viewing. But still, I had a gut feeling that I needed to peel off my snowflake pajamas, take the subway to midtown Manhattan, and give the audition a shot. I never felt that *ping* of recognition that some people say they get when they meet their future spouse, but I felt it when I discovered LYTM.
Incredibly, I got picked. I spent two months getting to know a dozen other brilliant, hilarious, deep and insightful women (and one admirably undaunted man)–some writers, like me, some actors, some executives, some teachers, some stay-at-home moms. A few of my fellow cast members didn’t have any children, but wrote about their own neurotic mothers, or their own ended pregnancies. Not a rehearsal went by without belly laughs and tears. We were intrepid explorers of each other’s stories, discovering new hilarity and heartbreak each time they were read aloud.
The day of the show was a heady blur. Everyone killed; the audience hung on our words–really seeing us, and not just because of the blinding spotlight trained on our flop-sweaty faces. I’d been writing for six years and yet I’d never spoken my own words out loud to anyone who wasn’t a blood relative. It was–and I don’t use this phrase lightly, since I generally avoid associating myself with Wall Street tycoons and fascist dictators–a power trip.
The next afternoon, still riding the adrenaline rush, I opened my email to find a message from a literary agent. She’d been in the audience, supporting her client, Some Nerve author Patty Chang Anker, and she’d loved my piece. She’d heard my voice. She wanted to know if she could take me out for coffee and try to convince me to write a book.
I stared down at my BlackBerry. Could I have somehow switched phones with Natalie Portman? If so, it was extremely strange that she was using a photo of my child with his head in a bucket as a screensaver. I composed a not-at-all restrained reply in which I admitted that I was worried I’d had a complete mental breakdown and hallucinated our exchange just to fulfill my fantasy of being discovered by a literary agent. For some reason, she still wanted to get coffee.
We met, we fell in love (metaphorically). My book comes out next year. None of it would have happened without Listen to Your Mother. So if you’re feeling that *ping* that tells you to get out and audition, don’t ignore it. Words are powerful. YOUR words are powerful. And there’s just no telling who they’ll reach.