Welcome to #LTYM Southwest Michigan!

Meet the cast!

LTYM 17 Cast Grid

Pictured from left to right, top to bottom: Sarah Fusté, Michele Gazzolo, Carolyn Graves, (co-director & emcee) Beth Haire-Lewis, (producer/co-director) Kim Jorgensen Gane, Beth Carroll, Loren Michaels Harris, Annie Brown, Deborah Leigh Norman, Laure McMullen, Molly Deuberry, Richard Perez, Erin Hamilton, Scott Gane. (Photo credits: Scott R. Gane Photography, Michele Gazzolo’s head shot by Chuck Osgood, and Rich Perez’s head shot by Brian McConkey.)

How do you thank people for sharing their hearts? For, as the saying goes, cutting open a vein and first sharing on the page or at a keyboard?

These twelve souls are willing to stand before you at a podium on the St. Joseph High School stage, this SUNDAY, MAY 7th, at 4:00 PM, and bleed into a microphone–to make you laugh out loud and ugly cry, quite possibly in the same breath, and maybe even make you think for days, weeks, even months afterward.

Producing and co-directing the Southwest Michigan version of Listen to Your Mother for these three amazing (and yes, sometimes frustrating…exhausting…sleepless–much like motherhood) years has been one of the best, most rewarding experiences of my life. Amplifying these voices and those that came before, giving our deserving cast members a platform on which to share their stories, has been a blessing beyond my and my co-director, Beth Haire-Lewis’ imagination. I don’t know what’s next for me, personally (other than running for St. Joseph City Commission), but I can tell you that Listen to Your Mother will be tough to beat. There will be tears on Sunday, just as there are when we send our kids off to summer camp or to college, but I am comforted that we’ve done a good and remarkable thing, not just for our storytellers, but for those who auditioned, for those who are lucky enough to sit in our audiences, for three amazing local charities, for motherhood and for a community we love.

In order of their photos, above, here’s a little something about each of our cast members:

SARAH FUSTÉ (sounds like ballet) grew up just north of Lake Ontario, the daughter of a true-blue Canadian and a Finn. She eventually married a dreamy Spaniard-American and they settled in Southwest Michigan. Her three babies, 2, 5, and 8, are a daily riot and together they speak English, French, and Spanish, and delight in the stories and poems of Sam Campbell and Shel Silverstein. Sarah wants to live a contemplative life, if that means praying away her mounds of laundry or just stopping to breathe (which she succeeds at doing about 5% of the time). She blogs at aCupOfGoodLife.com.

MICHELE GAZZOLO is a writer and entrepreneur living in Southwest Michigan. She and Ibrahim Parlak, who is scheduled for deportation, have a daughter. When not resisting deportation or selling Fruitbelt Tonic, she enjoys reading, writing, and hiking.

CAROLYN GRAVES hails from Fountain Hill, Arkansas, population: 169. She is the secretary (administrative assistant) at Union Memorial A.M.E. Church in Benton Harbor. She loves her church and her work ministering to others through her role there. She says emphatically that it’s the best job she’s ever had. She loves God, her children, her grands, and people in general. In April she was selected Lay Person of the Year 2017 at the Southern District A.M.E. Church Conference. She did a standup comedy act for Rotary a few years back and was featured in Lakeland’s Health Care Magazine with Lory’s Place for her involvement with the suicide survivors group.

BETH HAIRE-LEWIS (co-director & emcee), a tireless community advocate, wife, and mom to one woman-child, is passionate about two things: her family and everything she does. Though she spent several years in Long Beach, California, raising her daughter and co-managing a jazz club, Beth was born and grew up in Benton Harbor, Michigan. She resides happily there with her husband. Her many talents, besides putting everyone she meets at ease, are teaching water aerobics, singing, assistant choir directing, and Community Theater, including a role in Ragtime, as well as a recurring appearance in the Vagina Monologues. She emcees on occasion for The Livery’s Open Stage night, and is known to croon a silken tune there, as lead singer for the band, Sankofa, and in church. For twelve years, she has emceed and co-chaired the annual Gene Harris: Coming Home, Coming Together concert. Beth is employed as an Early Intervention Specialist at CARES (Community AIDS and Resource Education Services), where she enjoys her outreach duties, helping people infected and affected by the HIV virus. If you are ever in need of a condom or some lube, Beth is always carrying in that big purse of hers, which she somehow manages, usually on perilous heels.

KIM JORGENSEN GANE (producer/co-director) is every woman, every mom, every writer. After many Erica Kane worthy iterations, she is firmly rooted in her hometown, content with writing, selling real estate with Pete Jorgensen Real Estate, producing/co-directing Listen to Your Mother®, Southwest Michigan, and co-facilitating local #Write2TheEnd Writers Workshop™, with the first ever WriteAway spring retreat coming up after Mother’s Day in Lawrence, Michigan. Kim is an author, with an essay published in the book, 51%: Women and the Future of Politics. She is wife to a taco truck owning photographer (who you’ll meet below), aunt to a trombone, baseball, and video game playing live-in nephew, and mom/stepmom to a hers, a his (two grown, married daughters) and an ours: a middle grade, cello playing, dragon-obsessed boy. Find her at GANEPossible.com, follow her on Facebook, and on Twitter @KimGANEPossible.

BETH CARROLL is Pastor of Discipleship at Hope Church in Holland, Michigan. She is passionate about issues concerning social justice, mixing the perfect martini, her two teenaged children, her impending wedding to fellow Listen to Your Mother cast member Richard Perez, and sarcasm, all in no particular order. Beth also writes and blogs regularly for several publications, including In All Things and Perspectives Journal. Her fantasy is to “make it big” in writing so that she can someday open her own bar, combining all of her passions, calling it “Tequila Mockingbird.”

LOREN MICHAELS HARRIS is one of the Listen to Your Mother project’s greatest success stories. He first brought his story, Lost or Found, about surviving the foster care system–and 22 mothers–to the Listen To Your Mother: Southwest Michigan Stage one year ago. Since the YouTube version of Lost or Found was released, Loren’s career has catapulted to levels he says he could never have expected.

Loren’s LTYM reading was immediately published in both FOSTER FOCUS and ADOPTION TODAY magazines. Not long after, he began doing podcast interviews all over the country. In less than a year, Loren has built a successful Breakthrough Coaching business, mentoring program, launched an online digital program designed to assist others seeking to share their message through speaking, co-written his first Amazon #1 Best Selling book: How To Get Speaking Gigs Fast!, and has been hired to speak on 41 stages across the country. Loren writes a monthly motivational column for Money Inc. Magazine, and later this year he is slated to testify before U.S. Congress on behalf of foster care advocacy. Loren is launching his latest book: Fostering Your Message…Growing Your Message for the Masses on June 12017. Loren and his fiancé, Dr. Brian Rzepczynski, will be married on October 14th in Naperville, Illinois, where they reside. For more information on Loren’s incredible journey, visit www.lorenmichaelsharris.com.

ANNIE BROWN is stay-at-home mom and Our Lady of Perpetual Laundry to three kids. She and her husband own the Filbrandt Family Funeral Home in South Haven. Annie loves dogs, strong coffee, Washington, DC, re-runs of Law and Order, and she has strong opinions when it comes to breast feeding and politics. Her hometown is Hillman, Michigan, but she has lived in South Haven for more than 30 years. She ran for State Representative in 2014 and 2016 and lost both times. She’s a good loser and a happy warrior. And yes, she still keeps the letter from Congresswoman Shirley Chisholm in her underwear drawer.

DEBORAH LEIGH NORMAN is excited and grateful to be a part of LTYM for the second time, after first appearing in the Northwest Indiana show with Kim in 2014.  Originally from Delaware, Deb has lived in Virginia, Louisiana, and now Indiana. She is enjoying the journey of living in different regions of our country as well as the journey of her heart becoming a wife, mother, and then the mother of a child with a disability. Deb and her husband will celebrate their 25th anniversary this year, and they have two sons ages 16 and 13.  She enjoys running, volunteering, and advocacy work. Come share your journey with her at www.departingholland.com or follow @DebLeighNorman.

LAURA McMULLEN is mom to three fantastically unique children, the youngest of whom was born four months early (23 weeks gestation) and with two rare genetic conditions. That child’s tenacity for life and ability to thrive despite adversity has become a muse for her. She volunteers in the hospital that saved his life, is a parent advocate for a DeafBlind organization, writes, and speaks on topics related to prematurity and special needs. She has been published on Different Dream for My Child, The Banner, Catapult* Magazine, and she’s been a regular contributor to Preemie Babies 101. She blogs at momofa23weeker.blogspot.com.

MOLLY DEUBERRY is a native of Northwest Indiana, and lives in Indianapolis where her professional days are spent navigating the world of government and communications. Active in the community, Molly is a member of the Race and Cultural Relations Leadership Network and Common Ground Church’s Multi-Ethnic Team. She serves on the boards of Dance Kaleidoscope and the Richard G. Lugar Excellence in Public Service Series. In 2014, she was recognized as a finalist for “Indy’s Best and Brightest” by Junior Achievement. In 2014, Molly married Tim Craft and became a stepmom to his two adorable, internationally adopted kids: Ana, age 9, and Yoseph, age 7. Molly blogs about her adventures as a new stepmom at StepMolly.com and facebook.com/StepMolly and was recently invited to join the writing team at Indy Moms Blog. Molly is a (very) amateur cycling enthusiast and is passionate about clean closets, Academy Award-nominated movies, and celebrating Christmas.

RICHARD PEREZ is an award-winning actor, director and educator.  He is the recipient of the Theatre Communications Group’s New Generations/Future Leaders Fellowship, which took him to Chicago Dramatists as its first Associate Artistic Director in 2009. Prior to that, he was the Producing Artistic Director of the Bloomington Playwrights Project in Indiana for seven seasons.  In that time he oversaw the production of over thirty new plays, with at least sixteen of those being world premieres. His directing credits include: RoustaboutMiss JulieUrinetownAll My Sons, True West, Hurly Burly, The Mercy Swing (New York Fringe Festival) and Nocturnal (part of the Kennedy Center’s New Visions/New Voices Festival). Chicago credits include: Fucking A for Urban Theatre and Invasion of Skokie for Chicago Dramatists.

As an actor he has appeared as Councilman Ortiz on Boss, with Kelsey Grammer as well as roles on Chicago Fire and Chicago Med. He studied acting at The Lee Strasberg Theatre Institute and with Uta Hagen at HB Studios in New York City.  He has an MFA in Performance from Arizona State University and is proud to serve on the Theatre Faculty of Hope College in Michigan. Learn more at Rich-Perez.com.

ERIN HAMILTON grew up in St. Joseph, MI with her loving family including a brother, Mike and sister, Kelly who are all fortunate to remain extremely close. She enjoys spending time with her family and with the family she gained when she married her love, Brad. Erin enjoys being a mother and an aunt, weekend trips north, beach days, music, laughing so hard her face hurts and being a part of the best family of friends on Earth. Erin loves channeling her inner hippie by using essential oils and making soap she sells through her business, EllasSoapBox.com, which is committed to using safe, natural ingredients and to helping understand the causes of Anencephaly and Neural Tube Defects. 5% of profits are donated to Anencephaly Research, with another 5% going to other favorite rotating causes. Together, Brad and Erin love their dog, Harley Quinn and cat, Lilly, their brilliant and charming 16-month-old son, Lennox, daughter, Ella, who spent three and a half love-filled days in this world, and they are already madly in love with soon-to-come Rainbow Baby, Iris.

SCOTT GANE is a Michigan farm boy who studied health science, criminal justice and fire science at Grand Valley State College and Kalamazoo Valley Community College. He has some fantastic stories from his years corralling college students and delivering 17 babies as a Firefighter/Paramedic/Police Officer. He is a very busy guy owning and operating three businesses as well as running a company on the east side of the state. Scott is laid back (tired) but, contrary to commonly held belief, is not all business all the time. He has a creative side silently screaming to get a word in edgewise, which, until he decided to surprise his bride, producer and co-director, Kim Jorgensen Gane, with a story for Listen to Your Mother, it only did in the kitchen (usually the one on his taco truck), and when he got the chance to take pictures at weddings and of high school seniors, pregnant ladies, and newborns (not necessarily in that order) for his business, Scott R. Gane Photography. Less creative perhaps, but just as fun and inspiring, he was also responsible for taking official head shots, photos at rehearsals, and at the #LTYM #SWMichigan shows as photography sponsor and reluctant timekeeper for Beth and Kim. Who knew he could write too? As usual, he’ll be doing double duty taking photos and reading a story in this year’s show. Scott also volunteers as a photographer for Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep.

 

You don’t want to miss our grand finale Southwest Michigan show on Sunday, May 7th, at 4:00 PM, at St. Joseph High School’s John & Dede Howard AuditoriumEarly bird, student, senior and group discounted TICKETS available online only until midnight 5/7/17, at https://ltymswmi17.eventbrite.com. Admission at the door is $20 per person.

All seating is general for this PG-13 show. A portion of this year’s gross ticket sales will benefit Safe Shelter for Domestic Violence in memory of Denise Bohn, and in honor and memory of all local victims of domestic violence. Doors open at 3:30 PM.

 

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Another Amazing Charity and THANK YOU to Our Sponsors

by kimjorgensengane on April 24, 2017

Listen to Your Mother: Southwest Michigan has been blessed beyond measure with some incredible charity partners and sponsors who have made our local show possible. This year our Grand Finale season is no different.

Ten days before our show last year, local radio personality and prominent motherhood figure, Denise Bohn lost her life to domestic violence. Our community was devastated to lose a voice that road with us in our cars to school every morning, and sometimes followed us into our homes. Our children knew who she was, they knew she was a mother and a breast cancer survivor, and we couldn’t escape explaining what happened to Denise–why there was suddenly such a palpable vacancy in our cars, in our homes, in our community. We couldn’t escape our anger at the fact that she survived breast cancer with a toddler in tow, only to lose her life in such a violent, shocking way. And that her children–clearly the most important thing in her world–were left without parents and that her ability to mother them to adulthood was taken from her, and that she was taken from them.

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We’ve been thinking about Denise and her children ever since. But we haven’t only been thinking about Denise. Kenyatta Wright is another local woman who was kidnapped from her place of work by her estranged husband and taken against her will to a hotel in Benton Township, where her husband shot her in the arm before police shot and killed him. Thankfully Ms. Wright survived. But what these two disparate events illustrate is that domestic violence has no zip code, it has no skin color, and it has no socioeconomic status. This year we’ve chosen to support Safe Shelter for Domestic Violence in Denise’s memory, and in honor and memory of all local victims of domestic violence.

We hope to make our biggest difference yet! We can’t do that without you. In addition to giving a portion of every ticket sold to Safe Shelter for Domestic Violence, we offer our charity partners the opportunity to collect donations in the lobby before and after our show. This year we’re also offering the opportunity for local businesses to join us in contributing to Safe Shelter for Domestic Violence in Denise’s memory in a really meaningful way. Please contact producer and co-director, Kim Jorgensen Gane at 269.487.6024 or email ltymswmichigan@gmail.com for a form that will allow you to either pledge to match the donations we collect on behalf of Safe Shelter in the lobby at our show on Sunday, May 7th, or to give a cash donation in Denise’s name in advance of the show. Donations over $100 collected before the show will receive two tickets as our thanks (checks should be made payable to Safe Shelter for Domestic Violence).

By no means is our show *about* domestic violence or is it meant to paint husbands and intimate partners as monsters. Quite the opposite, in fact. We have three wonderful stories that celebrate motherhood from men in our show this year, likely a record in Listen to Your Mother history! Just as we did in 2015 and again in 2016, we’re bringing you a wonderful evening of thoughtful and moving entertainment with a fabulous variety of stories that will make you think, they’ll make you cry, and they’ll make you laugh out loud, maybe all at once.

Cosy Coast WSJM Mid-West Fam

We couldn’t bring you a grand finale season of local motherhood stories without our sponsors. With our deepest gratitude we welcome back for a second year, media sponsor 98.3 The Coast. Joining us on stage this year is Meagan Francis, the other half of the morning show with Jonny Reinhardt. Not only is Meagan a Listen to Your Mother 2011 alumni from the Northwest Indiana show, but she worked with Beth and Kim as part of the production team that brought Listen to Your Mother to Southwest Michigan in 2015. We welcome Meagan back into the fold and Beth and I are beyond excited to have her join us on stage for our Grand Finale season!

There are some very special sponsors we’d like to thank who have been with us from the beginning. Without them we never could have brought this national movement to our little community with such success. They have joined us in celebrating Mother’s Day and the mothers in our lives and in their lives and we celebrate each of them.

LTYM Sponsor Group

Our thanks to Scott R. Gane Photography for taking our cast head shots, photos at all our rehearsals, and at each one of our shows. He’s the best husband and personal official photographer a producer/co-director could ever have. And this year, he absolutely shocked Beth and me by writing a story and auditioning! Not only is he a wonderfully supportive husband, he’s truly a renaissance man! He is also the man behind the tacos with BajaGringo Tacos, providing snacks and appetizers for some of our rehearsals.

We at Listen to Your Mother don’t like anyone to go hungry, and we sure don’t have to worry about that at our rehearsals that are sponsored by the Mason Jar Cafe’. Jayme and Abel stay some extra long hours to give us a beautiful space in which to do our cast head shots and our initial table reads, and they feed us a beautiful light dinner. They also let Beth and me wallpaper the place with audition and show posters! We are so grateful for their friendship and support, always.

We wouldn’t have a show without a venue, and Pete Jorgensen Real Estate has come through every year to pay for us to do the show on the St. Joseph High School stage. It doesn’t hurt that he was a St. Joe Bear, and it’s where his kids and grandkids have gone to school. And finally, DeAnna James from The Sign Shop has provided signage each year along the Blossom Parade route to help promote the show.

We’d be grateful if you would join us in supporting the businesses that have supported us. Please like their Facebook pages, if appropriate, and consider patronizing them whenever you have occasion to use their services.

You’re going to want to hurry up and get your tickets, folks! Early bird pricing is $15 online, admission at the door will be $20. All tickets are general seating. We can’t wait to see you on Sunday, May 7th, at 4:00 PM, at St. Joseph High School!

 

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Listen to Your Mother: Southwest Michigan. Has. A CAST!!

April 9, 2017

What has 24 legs and can make you laugh and cry, sometimes in the same breath?? Our latest AMAZING #LTYM #SWMichigan CAST!!! Drumroll, please…. Listen to Your Mother: Southwest Michigan returns to the St. Joseph High School stage with all new stories celebrating motherhood and Mother’s Day for a third and final season on Sunday, May 7th, at 4:00 PM. Our amazing 2017 cast of storytellers includes all new stories from new faces and some returning cast members: Annie Brown Beth Carroll Molly Deuberry Sarah Fusté Scott Gane (!!He HAS been listening!!) Michelle Gazzolo Carolyn Graves Erin Hamilton Loren Michaels Harris Laura McMullen Deborah Leigh Norman Rich Perez This year a portion of each ticket purchased supports the Safe Shelter for Domestic Violence and we guarantee another powerful, heartwarming and laugh-out-loud hilarious event. Whether you are a mom, had a mom, missed a mom, or never wanted to be one, gather everyone you know and […]

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Auditions, Information & Signups for #SWMichigan’s 3rd & Final Show!

February 27, 2017

It’s true! If you ever thought…maybe? This is your last chance to be a part of the incredible, bonding experience that is Listen to Your Mother: Southwest Michigan! At least as it has existed thus far. Here’s the short version: The Listen to Your Mother brand has been sold to a theater company. That’s actually amazing news! It WILL live on, just not with our esteemed founder and national director, Ann Imig at the helm, and not with the same national team, all of whom have been incredible to work with. I have no doubt that Miracle or 2 Productions, Inc. will be amazing to work with, too. And the cool thing is that in the future Listen to Your Mother shows could pop up anytime of year, anywhere, featuring either local readers with original stories, as always, or actors reading from a provided script. You can learn more about the future of Listen to Your Mother here. […]

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Audition Season for Listen to Your Mother 2017 Has Begun!

January 17, 2017

Your story could be an essential part of this year’s Listen To Your Mother celebration of mothering by giving a voice to motherhood — in all of its complexity, diversity, and humor. If you have a story longing to be heard about your mother, your own view as a mother, or about a mother-figure in your life — write it down and share with us! Southwest Michigan is currently accepting written submissions via email to ltymswmichigan (@) gmail (.) com. Please make sure your piece is edited to the best of your ability and that it does not exceed FIVE MINUTES read aloud (we suggest you record yourself reading it so you can get a time). Please be sure to write SUBMISSION in the subject of your email. You will be contacted soon when try-out/audition signups are made available for March!     Audition process and requirements vary by city, and some cities have not yet made […]

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