Audition Day! Harriet’s Story

by Tarja on February 21, 2017

Submissions are officially closed and LISTEN TO YOUR MOTHER San Francisco is rolling ahead to our  auditions in Oakland, Mill Valley and San Francisco! Janine, Mary and I were blown away by the quality of essays this year. Thank you to everyone who bared a piece of their soul and please believe me when I say that each and every story was recognized and appreciated. As always, it was very difficult culling it down to the next level of auditions.

For those of you getting ready to read your work aloud to us, no doubt you’re feeling excited, nervous, jittery. Maybe even terrified. A little sick to your stomach. We get it. It’s one thing to reveal yourself on paper and it’s another to give life to it with your voice.

Harriet Heydemann, one of our talented 2016 cast members, shares her audition day experience with us – and how her lucky charm made all the difference.

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My Lucky Charm by Harriet Heydemann

I don’t believe in luck. I think amulets and talismans are a bunch of hooey. But I brought a friend with me to my Listen to Your Mother audition, and she brought me good luck. Without Maria, I would never have been selected.

Maria and I had known each other for a few years. We had connected through our daughters, but we had never had so much as a simple conversation without one of them present.

We had agreed to have lunch after my five-minute audition. Maria came early and met me in the library. She could have waited at the table outside the audition room. But the judges were gracious hosts. They greeted Maria and invited her in.

“You can do this,” she whispered to me as we walked in together. “Just read like you’re telling me your story.” Maria sat beside me facing the judges. What the judges saw was a woman with wispy grey hair and a drawn face in nondescript clothing, wrapped up in an over-sized winter coat.

I knew the judges liked my story, at least on paper. What I didn’t know was if Maria would like it. And I never could have predicted was how much she’d like it. She laughed when I said something funny, sighed when I said something sad, and nodded her head in agreement when I said something poignant. For those five minutes, she sat visibly captivated. At the end of my story, her light hazel eyes brightened, and her broad smile filled her face. Without my prompting, Maria was the perfect audience.

“Don’t worry,” Maria said to me over lunch. “You were great. They will pick you. I know it. I watched the judges’ faces. They loved you.”

I liked hearing that someone other than my mother thought I could write. I didn’t believe Maria could read minds or tell the future. There’s only so much a good luck charm can do. But maybe she was a little clairvoyant. The next week Maria’s prediction came true, and I was one of the eleven chosen to read.

In May, Maria came to the performance. “I knew you’d be terrific,” she told me afterwards. Maria’s hair had become thinner. The ninety-minute show had exhausted her. What the judges didn’t know was that Maria had undergone several rounds of chemotherapy for breast cancer.

By August, she was gone.

Sometimes we only have five minutes to be a true friend, to be a good luck charm in someone’s life. Maria made me believe that my stars were aligned, that I had the winning lottery ticket, that something magical can happen when you focus on someone else for a perfect five minutes. I was one lucky writer to have Maria’s encouragement — to laugh, and to sigh, and to nod in all the right places.


Thank you so much, Harriet. How wonderful to have had someone like Maria in your life.

To our auditioners, we can’t wait to hear your essays come to life in your own voice! Whether your lucky charm is something you hold in your heart, your hand, or a good friend like Maria, you will be terrific.

Here is Harriet reading her beautiful essay, “Thrilled.”

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Janine and I are so excited to reveal the venue of the LISTEN TO YOUR MOTHER San Francisco 2017 show!

For this grand finale season, we needed to grow. We needed a theater that could accommodate all of our alumnae from the past five years, our enthusiastic sponsors, and most importantly, our friends, family and communities. We searched high and low, for the first time looking outside the city of San Francisco itself. After looking at virtually every option, we have truly come full circle.

Back to the city, the center of the Bay Area.

Back to the very venue in which I, myself, performed as a Listen To Your Mother 2013 cast member.


Photo courtesy of Zemya Photography

Back to the spectacular Kanbar Hall at the Jewish Community Center of San Francisco!

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This theater brings back such good memories and holds such a special place in LTYM San Francisco history. It’s easily accessible by public transportation, has good parking, and is such a strong supporter of the performing arts and education. The JCCSF is a true community space, aligning perfectly with what  Listen To Your Mother creates: an emotional community space.

Photo courtesy of Ian Tuttle, Porcupine Photography

Photo courtesy of Ian Tuttle, Porcupine Photography

In other news, Janine and I – along with Mary Hill, who is assisting us with submissions and auditions – are stunned by the power and beauty and hilarity of the essays we’ve read. More to come as we approach auditions and start selling tickets!

Remember to mark your calendars for May 13th at 7pm at the JCCSF!**


Tarja and Janine


**Please note: Listen To Your Mother San Francisco 2017 is not a program of the JCCSF. The JCCSF is not sponsoring or hosting this event. The views expressed are those of Listen To Your Mother San Francisco.

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Submitting To LTYM? Virgina Duan Has Some Advice.

January 30, 2017

Seven days. I don’t know how it happened, but the LISTEN TO YOUR MOTHER San Francisco 2017 submissions window closes in seven days! Whaaaa???!!! It’s time to put quill to parchment, pen to paper, voice to Siri, fingers to keyboard, and bust it out. Believe me, I remember my college days of procrastination essay writing well, and I know how hard it is  to not only make time to tell your story, but to actually figure out how to do it. Have no fear! 2016 Cast Member, Virgina Duan, a Taiwanese American lifestyle blogger who focuses on identity, social justice, religion, homeschooling, Chinese/English bilingual education, parenting, and raising multi-ethnic kids, is here to share her experience. Virginia’s essay last year was so powerful, so touching, it struck a deep chord in me. And she performed it so beautifully, that it’s easy to believe these words came to her without effort. Not so. __________________________________________ […]

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Submissions Are Open! And Some Advice From Yoda.

January 17, 2017

Do or do not. There is no ‘I tried to submit my story.’ There is no “I have such a great story, but I’m not a writer.” There is no “I would love to tell my story, but I don’t know how to perform.” And there is definitely no “I’m scared people won’t be able to relate to my story.” The most beautiful thing about Listen To Your Mother is also the most simple: you do not need to be a writer or a performer, you just need a good story and the desire to share it. And in that very act of sharing, the second most beautiful thing about LTYM occurs: you become less alone in your experience. So don’t just think about submitting your story! Do it! Why should you take the leap? Because everyone has a motherhood story. Maybe it’s about your mom. Or it’s about being a mom. Or […]

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#SanFrancisco Show Date and Call For Submissions!

December 13, 2016

Mark your calendars! LISTEN TO YOUR MOTHER San Francisco is thrilled to announce that our 6th annual show will be on Mother’s Day weekend, Saturday, May 13th! Where will our grand finale year take place? The big reveal will be in our next blog post, so subscribe or follow Listen To Your Mother on Facebook! Now, all we need is YOU! Janine, Mary and I are seeking a diverse collection of local writers to read their words about motherhood. People of all ages, backgrounds and experience levels are invited to submit their work. Everyone has a mother story, whether you are a mother or not! Not sure where or how to begin telling your story? The LTYM New York City team has some great writing advice HERE. I love this nugget from them: “Remember, we’re not looking for your thoughts on Motherhood, the institution—we’re looking for the story of your Tuesday morning. We’re looking […]

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