Listen to Your Mother 3 PM on Mother’s Day

Mother’s Day is May 11 for all those needing a reminder.

Listen To Your Mother

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.

Some Questions for a Storyteller: Erin Boyle

Each month or so, we profile a Story Night regular by asking her some questions about herself and her storytelling. This month’s “Some Questions” features storyteller Erin Boyle. You can listen to Erin’s first story: Notes from the Past.

Erin Boyle

1.  When and why did you come to Madison?

I moved here in the summer of 2009 to start my physical chemistry PhD.

2.  What do you do with your time (when you’re not telling stories)?

Continue reading

A Few Improvements to Story Nights (Hopefully)

Because suddenly story nights are more than we ever imagined.

Story Nights Big CrowdStory nights are getting big. Which is great, but we want to make a few changes to how the nights are structured so that we can continue to get as many storytellers on stage as possible. We want to hear as many stories from as many people as we can.

1. The doors for story nights will open at 7 pm and we’ll start the storytelling at 7:30 sharp. We’ll be ending at 10 pm. If the audience is really in to the event we could spill over to 10:30, but we’ll make every effort to end by 10 pm. If you signed up ahead of time you should be there before 7:30 to check in with one of the organizers (Alison, Erica, or Brendon). If you aren’t there by the beginning of the night and haven’t let us know that you will be late before hand we can’t guarantee you a spot.

2. Lately, we’ve had 12+ storytellers sign up for story nights and we want to hear from all of them. So we are going to start being firm about the 10 minute time limit. We’ve gotten lax on this; we apologize. Matt is our intrepid timer and he will signal you as you approach your time limit. Please don’t go over because I’ll feel really bad when I cut you off and make you get off the stage. You’ll feel really bad. The audience will feel really bad. So to help all of us feel better about ourselves keep your story to 10 minutes. To help you do this practice it beforehand, then practice it again. If your story is coming in over 10 minutes figure out what to remove from your story. The truth is that in nearly every case it will be much better for it. If you try to keep the stage in spite of our persistent efforts to get you off the stage we will set up another stage. That’s right, we have a backup stage.

3. If you’ve told stories for the past two nights sit out on the third night. There are a lot of people coming to tell stories and in an effort to hear all of these voices we are instituting this limit. You can always tell a micro story. If we have slots available you can still tell a story, but don’t come expecting a guaranteed slot.

4. This isn’t a rule, but if you come and tell a story you should stay to hear the other storytellers. It is the polite thing to do. If you have a really great story that you are dying to tell, but have other plans later in the night you should cancel those other plans or push them back. Of course there are exceptions, if you are prepping to donate your kidney to your dying brother later in the night it is cool if you leave after your story, but short of that stick around. There are a lot of good storytellers in our group and your life will be better for having taken the time to listen to them.

Storyteller, tell thyself: Live Storytelling According to The Moth’s Lea Thau

Leah Thau writes about the heart of good storytelling.

Lea Thau storytelling

Here’s a good piece written about what we get together to do every month. Lea Thau was involved with The Moth for 10 years and currently hosts KCRW’s Strangers.

Thau’s piece is about what makes a story a story. Lots of things happen to us, but not all of them are stories and you know right away when someone starts telling you about something that isn’t a story. It’s painful. Really really painful. So what is the difference between a story and something that happened? Thau says it is understanding what happened to you emotionally when the events you are relating took place. To figure that out you need to listen to yourself when you are storytelling and figure out why you are telling it.

We need something besides a neat set of events or a coincidence. We need to see the human being and what that human being experienced. We need to know how that storyteller is a human being is like us or how we could be like that human being who is storytelling. To tell a story we need to make ourselves vulnerable to the audience. That’s a terrifying prospect, but if you turn that prospect into a reality the audience will reward you with attention and, more importantly and rewardingly, connection. For a minute or two the prism of the storyteller will concentrate a whole room of human beings together and then return them to themselves with a little shade of something new. I’ve seen our audiences do this every single Story Night because our audience is the best and I’m so very happy to be part of it.