A word on stage fright and storytelling

by Stacey on January 20, 2012

“I’m a writer, not a public speaker.”

“Oh I could never read it out loud without sobbing.”

“I’m terrified to be on stage.”

“I’m not an actress.”

“It’s so intimidating.”

It took me years – years – of public speaking, starting in law school and then in administrative hearings and educational workshops for my job before I could begin a presentation without blushing bright red.  I would feel the blush start and cringe inside knowing that my audience probably couldn’t focus on my words for wondering if my tomato-red head was actually going to explode all over them.

I know the Listen To Your Mother bios and the websites and the shows look polished and professional and intimidating and it’s because they are.  I’m intimidated by so many accomplished women in one place.  I’m not a theater major, I’ve never performed on a stage. I’m not a director. I have no experience beyond directing my four children into the car and believe me if you watched how badly that production goes each day you would NEVER give me a job producing a show.  I’ve never run a business. I have no marketing experience.  I haven’t written a book or spoken at conferences.  I can make it sound pretty, but if you boil it down to its essence, I’m a stay at home mom who loves to write and network with other women who love to write.

But last year, with the support and vision of Ann Imig to guide me and with Elise Raimi by my side, I put some money in an account and called it my production budget. I announced and publicized auditions. I cast the show, crafting a smooth flow of transitions and stories. I hired a videographer and signed contracts.  I publicized and marketed.  I pitched.  (I hated pitching, but I pitched.)  And then I watched twelve women – only two of whom had any stage experience at all – tell an audience of 200 their story, some small piece of the heart of who they are – and I watched the audience respond so intensely that it left me crying in the stairwell between introductions.

All of those hesitations above that I’ve heard a thousand times? I feel them and I know them, but I don’t buy them.  If I can “pitch” and “produce a freaking show,” you can write a small piece of who you are down on a piece of paper and read it to me.  It will take less than five minutes (that part’s required). Most of us have pushed a baby out of our vagina or had one cut out of our midsection or watched one or both procedures at some time or another, none of which can (usually) be done in under five minutes, so I KNOW we can all read in front of one or two people for five minutes. Right?

If you’re not cast, you’ve lost nothing, because Elise and I adored hearing your story.  If you are cast, you might be nervous and it will be hard, but you will step out in front of an audience and tell your own story in your own words (with the words written out in large font right in front of you, I promise). I’ll be beside you, steps away in that stairwell cheering you on and you’ll feel the strength of the cast that you’ve come to know and love around you and you’ll feel the audience holding you up too because they are there to hear your story.

You will be so practiced that the tears you thought you couldn’t read around won’t come.

But not the audience. They will be hearing your words – your humor – your pain – your story – for the first time.  And they will laugh or cry.  Some of them will think, “oh that’s me, I recognize myself in that.”  Some of them will think, “I never looked at it this way before.”  Everyone will be transformed.  You can’t hear another person’s story, given with humor and honesty and vulnerability, you can’t hold that in your hand, without holding it in your heart.

So, come on, it’s only five minutes.  What story do you have to tell?

(Email listentoyourmotherspokane@gmail.com to schedule an audition in Spokane. Check the city pages on this site for audition procedures in other cities.)

Ann January 20, 2012 at 11:43 pm


Deb January 21, 2012 at 1:24 am

From someone who survived – and flourished – during the LTYM auditions, practices and SHOW, do it, do it, do it! You will LOVE the whole process.

Melisa Wells January 21, 2012 at 3:15 am

What a great post! Totally sharing this on FB now, and will share again when LTYM Chicago announces auditions!

Elise Raimi January 21, 2012 at 5:13 pm

Beautifully said – and so true. I was surprised at auditions last year by the power of a person telling their story – there is no “experience” or embellishment needed. Just honest and true (and sometimes hilarious) words.

Liz @ PeaceLoveGuac January 21, 2012 at 8:51 pm

Wonderfully said and spot on! I loved every part of my LTYM experience. I get all shaky and spazzy in front of crowds, but having the words–MY words–right there in front of me made it more than just doable, it was amazing and fulfilling.

Varda (SquashedMom) January 23, 2012 at 4:59 am

This is so beautifully said, Stacey. When we put up our call to auditions for the NYC site (hopefully later this week) I am going to direct people to come read this if they are at all hesitant about auditioning. It’s just PERFECT. Really. Thanks!

mosey (kim) January 24, 2012 at 8:16 pm

This is perfect. Just perfect.

Alexandra February 7, 2012 at 2:40 pm

Reading for the LTYMshow in Madison was a turning point in my life. Since then, I’ve spoken at more than five young mom’s groups, on how humor can save your life.

Whoda guessed that was inside me?


Pam January 25, 2013 at 8:58 pm

Tearing up just reading this. Yes!!! Yes to all of it!!

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