One Sunday afternoon last March, I drove into the city alone. That sentence rings strange on so many levels, but when you factor in that I was also wearing make-up and nice clothes, I might as well have been Neil Armstrong headed to the moon.
Which, in a way, I was.
I had an appointment to audition for San Francisco’s second annual Listen To Your Mother (LTYM) production, and although I only live 14.3 miles from the city, my road to that moment was much longer. Four years and 7 months to be precise, when I became a mother for the first time. It was motherhood that set my true course as a writer, motherhood that was the impetus for starting a blog, and the blog that was the conduit for meeting my people. You know what I mean. The people who get you, support you, nurture your ambitions, and guide you on your path. People like Ann Imig, who guided me to LTYM.
As a fellow blogger, writer, and mom to two boys, I instantly felt connected to Ann and in 2010, watched with wonder as she organized the first LTYM production in her hometown of Madison, Wisconsin. A smashing success, this series of live, staged readings celebrating Mother’s Day struck a nerve with people. Ann put the whole show online and the response was overwhelming. She remembers, “The requests poured in from bloggers who watched it and saw a piece of themselves – other mothers and daughters wanting to bring this show home and share it with their town for Mother’s Day” (Ann Imig, allParenting.com, 26 April 2013).
In the span of five years, the LTYM show grew from one city to 32 cities nationwide.
In 2012, the show came to San Francisco through the vision of co-directors and producers Kirsten Patel and local Mill Valley mom, Kim Thompson-Steel – and even though I had to follow live-tweets of the inaugural production from the recliner where I was breastfeeding my second baby, it was tremendously exciting. Several of my friends were selected to read and afterward they claimed it was “transformative,” “amazing,” “surreal” – words I heard again and again from the ever-growing sisterhood of LTYM participants.
Next year, I thought, next year I’m going to do this. It was difficult to explain, but I wanted to give voice to my experience about motherhood, to connect with other women, to go down that transformative rabbit hole and experience the wonderland of a phenomenon I had been following for so long. I wanted to test myself, to push myself beyond the safety of my humor writing. Heck, I was more than just a champion at the preschool-drycleaning-grocery store slalom, wan’t I?
So I submitted a piece and waited. The response: I had been chosen, along with 54 other men and women, to audition in person. Despite the fact that the last time I auditioned for something was for a sketch comedy group in college, I felt no fear. It was thrilling to claim myself for a day, to sit before the directors and tell them my story. Whether I was chosen or not, I had succeeded.
As it turns out, my voice happened to fit into the puzzle of 13 other voices that composed the LTYM narrative, a narrative designed to take the audience on a full emotional journey: funny, tender, heartbreaking, poignant. I made the cast of the 2013 San Francisco LTYM Show and it was all I could do to not take a bullhorn and shout it out. The 13 voices that joined mine belonged to a stunning group of women from around the Bay. We were of all ages and all professions, some writers, some not, some mothers, some not, but each of us had a story about mothering that we needed to share.
Between March and May, we met twice for read-throughs. The lineup was determined and I was to perform my piece third. Perfect! I thought. But at the final read-through, the lineup was changed. The directors wanted me to close the show. OH. MY. GOD. No pressure. I just had to knock it out of the park. I just had to leave the audience with their final takeaway of Listen To Your Mother. I just had to sit calmly backstage for an hour and a half and then walk under the bright lights and radiate my own light.
Which somehow I did. We all did. Because the LTYM audience is different than any other out there. We didn’t have to win them over because they were with us from the beginning. They were there to laugh with us and cry with us and say, Yes! Me too! I understand! The show allowed me to remember the fun and excitement and energy of performing, of people listening to my words. It was like Christmas morning when I was five and that roller-skating show that I performed in the garage and the spelling bee I won and waking up and realizing holy cow it’s my birthday! It was magical.
I found the camaraderie that I was looking for – that connection, not simply with my wonderful cast and the cast of women nationwide that I met online, but with the audience too. LTYM was life-changing, I went to the moon and back! And while I thought the show would be the rocket ship to transport me to new heights, it was just the launch pad. I am my own rocket ship, exhausted and harried most days, but powerful still.
As Listen To Your Mother gives motherhood the microphone again this year, I’m excited to forge that connection from my place in the audience, ready to receive the experiences of others from the narrative that connects us all.
If you live in the Bay Area, I hope to see you on May 3rd at the Brava Theater Center. Please click HERE for tickets.
*This piece originally appeared in the April issue of the Southern Marin Mother’s Club Magazine.