Mother’s Day is May 11 for all those needing a reminder.
Listen to Your Mother is an annual event featuring a slew of local mothers, mothers-to-be, and mother appreciators. The event was started by Ann Imig, a local blogger who gets featured around the internet. This will be the 5th year of Listen To Your Mother. There are now 32 U.S. cities joining Madison in staging this story event.
I got to ask Ann a few questions about Listen To Your Mother. Here are her replies:
Madison Storytellers: How did Listen To Your Mother start? Did you conceive and execute it all in one go or was this something that gestated for awhile?
Ann Imig: Listen To Your Mother began after I’d spent some time blogging. I wanted to bring my writing from the page to the stage, and let my real life community experience some of the vitality going on among creative parents online. Having returned from a decade living in Chicago, the logistics of putting a very simple show together in Madison seemed manageable to me–especially after Steve Sperling at The Barrymore liked my idea and let me use the theater. I executed the original Listen To Your Mother in eight weeks, with help from Stage Manager Darcy Dederich. (Eds: Here is an article with more a Listen To Your Mother.)
MS: Did you intend for Listen To Your Mother to spread out to other cities?
AI: I don’t think the idea occurred to me until I saw the success of the first show. I had the show video-recorded and posted online, and bloggers watched it and started emailing me with requests to do the show in their towns.
MS: How connected are you to the Listen To Your Mother events in other cities? Are you involved with the auditions and staging?
AI: I work as the National Director, mentoring the local cities throughout the entire process of directing and producing the show.Together with my national team (Stephanie Precourt, Deb Rox, Melisa Wells) we wrote a handbook that we provide to all cities. We host webinars, and have a very active private facebook group and weekly email blasts with the 80-plus group of local director/producers, as well as offering individual coaching. We work hard to communicate and translate the vision and the tenets of Listen To Your Mother show to our local cities, while also giving them autonomy to audition, cast, rehearse, and stage their own shows.
MS: What are you looking for during the auditions? What kinds of stories make the cut?
AI: We look for 5 minute pieces (essays or poetry) written by the reader, and that articulate a story that only that unique individual can tell specifically (rather than pieces that try to encapsulate the entire mothering experience more generally). Listen To Your Mother prizes diversity in reader and story. Most important, motherhood must serves as the star of the piece. It sounds simple, but as a parent it’s easy to write a piece you think is about motherhood, and it ends up being more about marriage, work–any number of other themes.
MS: Are there any especially memorable stories from past Listen To Your Mother events?
AI: That’s like asking a mother to pick her favorite child, but I will say that hearing Asmeret Yosef’s story “Don’t Give Up” (Madison, 2012–you can view it here.) of being separated from her still-nursing toddler, preschooler, and husband for 2 years while incarcerated and deported due to a CLERICAL ERROR with her immigration status moved me in a profound way–especially because she told her story with such faith and hope. That said–my favorite Listen To Your Mother moments are those that leave the audience roaring with laughter–and there are quite a few of those.
MS: What do you get from telling stories about motherhood or in appreciation of motherhood?
AI: Sharing motherhood stories can provide validation from a “me too” perspective (for people sharing similar backgrounds or experiences) and also expand perspectives and broaden understanding. At it’s core I believe sharing stories builds community.
MS: Does motherhood lend itself to storytelling? Is storytelling part of motherhood?
AI: Children provide endless fodder and inspiration, and constantly challenge our experience of who we are and what we think we know. Similarly, the mother-child-relationship is so profound it affects everyone–regardless of what your relationship is/was with your mother or caretaker. Go to any family reunion, Parent/tot playgroup, or therapy session and you will have no doubt that storytelling and motherhood go hand in hand.