Join Us May 12th at Shady Side Academy’s Hillman Center for the Performing Arts at 8PM!

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Cast Profile: Johanna Collins

by stephaniejankowski on April 13, 2017

This post concludes our cast profiles, but that doesn’t mean you can’t buy tickets to the show after today! Snag yours ahead of time (and save a few bucks), or grab them at the door on May 12th. Either way, our hearts are full and we’re so grateful to spend the evening with you. Fitting that we’re ending our cast profiles with Ms. Johanna Collins, a woman who exudes grace from her gait to her words. Enjoy!


Who is Johanna?
I find this “who am I” question difficult to answer…In my early forties I am still searching to know better who I am…

I understand myself as being made by a loving Creator and this knowledge is central to me. I have been blessed in life to have a loving relationship with my family. My own parents are dear to me. I love my husband and I love our five children. As a daughter, wife and mother I am very much affected by the emotional and physical work of these relationships.

I look for strength in the scriptures of the Bible, in various parenting resources, through friendships and prayer. Yoga and lots of deep breathing – and some counseling too- have helped me tremendously to discover the best parts of myself. JC older

I am a free spirit in many ways. I delight in the human individual’s ability to express themselves. People are beautiful to me! Being outside and active feeds my soul. I love to run and work in my yard/garden.


If you were mayor for a day, what law would you enact or change?
I do not like the injustices of this world and I try to contribute what I can to fight injustice. If I were mayor I would want to make this city more livable for all its residents, not just for those of us who are more privileged.


What is your favorite place to eat in Pittsburgh?
It has been my privilege to dine out at many Pittsburgh restaurants that employ farm to table practices in their kitchens. To me, there’s nothing like eating food that’s been grown, raised and harvested locally. I love the Big Burrito restaurant group and other small ethnic spots, like Udipi, (Monroeville) which serves up some of the best southern Indian cuisine.


What’s your favorite thing you’ve ever written?
I don’t have a specific favorite piece of writing, but I can say that I love to write notes and cards to people to express how much I appreciate them.


JC youngerWhat do you love most about our great city?
I am thankful for Pittsburgh. I love Pittsburgh’s hills. I think that they make us stronger and that they represent the ups and downs of this life. I live on a hill in the city’s Garfield neighborhood. From my third floor balcony I can see so much of the East End and this view of my community is a thrill for me. Traversing the incline of my hill makes me grateful for the flat and level places.
In a flat place in my yard we found five tiny kittens in a hollow tree stump in early March. While we were fostering them at home until they were old enough and strong enough to be adopted we had to give them frequent baths because umm… everything got caught in their fur.

What’s one of the craziest things you’ve ever said to your children?
I remember I told my children to “keep blowing on them until they were completely dry and fluffy”.  (They were blow drying the wet kittens after their bath.)


What do you wish most for your children?
I hope that as my children discover more and more of themselves that they will love themselves more and more- and the One who made them- and the people and world around them.


How did you learn about LTYM Pittsburgh?
I learned about Listen to Your Mother from my neighbor/friend, Jen Pelling. I loved the show when I went to see her in it!
I am so glad to have a chance to be a part of it this time around and to have the opportunity to tell a piece of my story that reveals a bit of how I have grown to see and understand and love my Mom.


JC mom

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Cast Profile: Natalie Gillespie

by stephaniejankowski on April 11, 2017

If the name Natalie Gillespie sounds familiar, it’s probably because you recognize her from our inaugural 2015 cast! As per everything she does, Natalie hit a home run with her essay, and it is our distinct pleasure to welcome her back to the Listen To Your Mother Pittsburgh stage!

  • Who IS Natalie Gillespie?Natalie

I’m a mom to three, ages 19, 13, and 10. My husband and I have been married for almost 28 years, which seems impossible since I often feel like I’m just barely past 25 years old myself. I’m a native Pittsburgher with most of my family nearby and in-laws in beautiful New England. Professionally, I’m so fortunate to make a living doing what I love — communicating and helping others to lead through communications at a large global company.


  • How did you discover LTYM?

I’m grateful to a coworker who tipped me off to Pittsburgh’s inaugural show in 2015… I’ve been a loyal follower ever since. Jen and Stephanie can’t shake me!


  • What is the craziest thing you remember saying to your mother? And how did she respond?

Now that I have a teenage daughter myself, I can truly appreciate what my mother was thinking when, as a teen totally miffed at having to do chores, yelled “You just had all of us kids so we could do all your work and make your life easier.” Ummm, sure… the best way to have a super clean and organized house is to have four kids and a dog. Right. I think it tells you everything you need to know about my mother that she just started laughing. And probably cast an evil spell on me with the words “I hope you’re just as lucky as me some day…”


  • What is one of your favorite things you’ve ever written? 

Sadly, I just wrote the eulogy for my father’s funeral… it was incredibly important to me to capture who he was and what he meant to so many people, especially my mom and my siblings and my kids. As heartbreaking as that was to do, I know he’d be really pleased. In high school, I had a column in our weekly community newspaper and my dad was my first editor. His pen was really red… and I learned a lot from him.

Natalie famOn a much lighter note, I am so so proud to have been part of the inaugural cast of LTYM Pittsburgh in 2015. This was way outside my comfort zone and it really changed my life, connecting me to so many people’s stories and helping me find my own voice. Click here to hear “My Declaration of Independence.”


  • What do you wish most for your children?

That they will always choose to be kind… and look back on their childhood with happiness and appreciation for our love and the willful neglect that helped them become the independent, wonderful people I know they’ll be.  That they’ll laugh a lot and be a tight team, supporting each other and reveling in each other’s differences.


  • What do you love most about Pittsburgh?

I tell my kids there are two kinds of Pittsburgh’s: those who live here, and those who left and are trying to get back. I love our sense of community and small-town bigness.  That we were at the forefront of the industrial revolution (think steel and aluminum) and then completely reinvented ourselves for the new millennium (thanks to world-class universities, health research, and technology). Throw in bike trails, cultural events, affordable housing, free/low-cost parking and friendly people…. We are lucky indeed.


  • What do you hope the audience takes away from your essay?

On our honeymoon, my husband and I attended a show where a comedian poked fun at the Disney tourists spending their vacations taking photos and videotaping, saying “I bet they can’t wait to get home to see if they had fun.” [Note: this was a gazillion years ago, in the days of 35MM film and VHS tapes.] That was a defining moment for us: enjoy the moment… the memories will make themselves. My essay demonstrates we’ve continued that theme.


  • Name a hidden secret of Pittsburgh

My favorite ticket in town is Pittsburgh Arts and Lectures. I’ve dragged all three of my children to the children’s series (PAL: Words and Pictures) to inspire them to see the inspiration behind their favorite books and to discover a few new ones. I’ve gained incredible insights into the authors of some of my favorite books.


  • Being a mother may be the most rewarding gig ever, but it’s not always the easiest. What are your best tips and tricks?

I have three:

  1. Eating: The little things put us over the edge, right? Like having kids ask you – before breakfast – what we’re having for dinner. That’s when I realized I don’t hate making dinner, I hate deciding dinner. Now we have a weekly menu board and I am totally smitten by the cookbook Dinner: A Love Story. We don’t always stick to the plan, but at least we have one.IAN_7188
  2. Whining: Best response to whiny kids—move bedtime up 15 minutes, every time they whine or are grumpy. (If this rule applied to mothers, I might have to go to bed before I even got up in the morning… ) It’s amazing how much more pleasant children are when they aren’t tired.
  3. Responsibility. The director of our childcare center (Riverview Children’s Center, the greatest place for kids on earth) tipped us off to “Love and Logic,” a parenting curriculum for raising independent, responsible children through love and consequences. If I’m a zealot on anything, it is this program—the books, the DVDs, the free weekly emails, the classes and discussion groups. It allowed us to enjoy our kids and help them grow up great.


We’re in love with Natalie–she’s a wealth of wisdom and kindness, and we’re sure you’ll feel the same! Don’t miss her story on May 12th!

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Cast Profile: Elizabeth Hirshorn

April 6, 2017

Liz is a curly-haired Philadelphia native, cognitive neuroscientist, and lover of all things orange, lush green landscapes, Americana music, houseplants, imperfect crafts, late night talk shows, public art, and cheese.  She is fiercely proud and supportive of her amazing friends and family and enjoys bragging about their achievements whenever possible. Her happy place is being surrounded by said friends and family, with no set plans and lots of good food.  She lives with her husband, Greg, and son Eli, who she thinks is *objectively* the best baby in the history of the world. How did you discover LTYM? I first heard of LTYM from my best friend who participated in San Francisco in 2016 (shout out to Minna Dubin!).  I also went to the Pittsburgh LTYM in 2016 with a good friend and my husband.  We love storytelling, so it was an easy sell.   What is the craziest thing you remember saying to your […]

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Cast Profile: Mariah Passarelli

April 4, 2017

Fun fact: I’ve known this lady for-ev-er. (And if you didn’t enunciate that like The Sandlot, you are not one of us). Anyway, Mariah and I are childhood pals and I am so super excited she is sharing her hilarity with the city of Pittsburgh. YOU WILL NOT BE DISAPPOINTED, PEOPLE! Who is Mariah? My name is Mariah Passarelli.  Spelled backwards, it is Hairam Illerassap.  As a child, I fantasized that I would be famous enough to need a code name for hotel reservations and determined that, when this became necessary… Hairam was a solid winner.  I also surreptitiously changed into one of my brother’s neckties before my kindergarten school pictures.  My mother is still partially convinced that I am straight. How did you discover LTYM? I discovered LTYM when my childhood friend and parenting soul sister, Stephanie Barone Jankowski [editor’s note: that’s me! *waves*], wrote about it on her blog (and I watched with […]

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Cast Profile: Diane Tarantini

March 30, 2017

Diane Tarantini is a writer, wife, and mother of three humans–girl, girl, boy– two kitty-cats, and one plush boy bunny. She lives in a 106-year old Sears Kit House in Morgantown, West Virginia. Aqua is her favorite color. Coffee is her favorite beverage. Come, learn more about our 2017 cast member Diane! How did you learn about LTYM? Years ago I heard about LTYM over at Then last year, one of my grad school buddies, Cinelle Barnes, participated in LTYM 2016 in Charleston, South Carolina. What is one of the craziest things you’ve ever said to your kids? Possibly the craziest thing I’ve said to my children, usually when one came running to tattle, was: “Don’t ask me to take sides. If I don’t see blood, I don’t believe it.” Oh, and there was the time I said: “Sweetheart, get that thing off the kitchen table right now. We do NOT allow […]

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