Yesterday, I auditioned for Listen to Your Mother in Chicago. What is this wonderfully titled show about? According to their website:
The mission of each LISTEN TO YOUR MOTHER production is to take the audience on a well-crafted journey that celebrates and validates mothering through giving voice to motherhood–in all of its complexity, diversity, and humor–in the form of original readings performed live on-stage by their authors.
Pretty cool, huh?
Quite the antidote to the glazed looks I inspire at dinner parties when I tell people what I do and what I often write about. It’s also the counteragent to the many people over the years who have told me to never admit “too early” to creative artists I’m working with that I’m a mother.
Some writer/friends/instructors I know introduced me to Listen to Your Mother, and it sounded like the type of unusual and creative program I would enjoy participating in. I submitted my piece for consideration back in January and was called in to audition.
A resounding “Woohoo!” was heard throughout the land. Or at least throughout my house.
I edited the piece down to where I could read it in under five minutes and practiced until I was comfortable and unsurprised by any rogue tongue-twisters or winding sentences.
As this was a new opportunity to take a risk that was purely creative, artistic, expressive, exhilarating, and terrifying, my children took this as a challenge.
For 48 hours before my audition, the household was a flurry of stomach flu, epic meltdowns, and an existential crisis or two, all while my volunteer work presented me with time-sensitive emergencies. And there was laundry. There’s always laundry.
I went into Sunday having not slept since Thursday night and shaking from caffeine and nerves. I hadn’t been able to run the piece as much as I’d wanted in the two days prior, and I was feeling spent and drained.
I’ve auditioned for shows before, but never reading my own work. This was a different level of vulnerability/chutzpah. This mattered to me in ways other auditions hadn’t. I felt myself shaking and my voice cracking already, and I don’t usually have that in auditions.
The auditions were held at the gorgeous (and relatively easy-to-find-parking-near) Athenaeaum Theater. There was a sign-in table with a friendly note attached, kindly pointing out in various ways how happy the producers are to have us there and that we should not be nervous.
There were other moms waiting to tell their stories. One had a sick baby in her arms, the little one obviously feverish and unhappy, her head resting on her mama’s shoulders. “I figure if anyone is going to understand having a child in my arms, it’s here,” her mother explained. She was shifting her weight side to side, gently rocking her daughter in that timeless oceanic movement we have when holding babies, a motion no one teaches us, but one that seems to rise up from the earth or our feet and hips.
It was her first time auditioning for the show, she told me.
“Mine, too,” said another mom. She wondered what she was doing there. She’d written her piece as a way to process her grief over recently losing her own mother. She assumed she was going to cry during her reading. She talked about how hard that was, that she’s had to be a rock for her whole family during this whole time, and “I’m really just a marshmallow,” she said.
“You got this,” I told her, when she went in to read.
“I don’t have any tissues,” she smiled back at me. Bold and afraid, like everyone else coming in and out of that room.
A third mom came out from her audition and spoke with us and the mom holding the baby. She was dabbing tears. “I did it!” she cried, even though she had no idea who we were. “I made it to the end before crying, too!”
We congratulated her, as she did to me when I finished. She’d waited for me. We’d only just met, and in that instant we were each other’s greatest cheerleaders.
I thought about all the infantilising, dismissive comments about “Mommy Bloggers” and “Mommy Wars,” and too-often expressed opinions that those of us who have the awesome responsibility of motherhood are both silly and self-important, vain and shallow.
And to them I say, you’re not listening to our stories.
And to my fellow moms, I say we need to tell our stories — the ones of struggle and triumph and insecurity and identity…the ones that lie under all those other stories we tell a little more readily.
I only met and spoke with these women, these glorious mothers, for maybe five or ten minutes. That’s it. And it made my heart race just as quickly as the thought of auditioning, but in a way that reverberated and echoed through me. Through generations. Through time.
Because there was no bullshit, no competition. Just honesty. Raw emotion. Slivers of connection and recognition in a large city where we are ripping ourselves open every day needing to be heard.
Learn more about LTYM here.