What Happens When You Listen

The experience of participating in Listen To Your Mother San Francisco 2012 was one of a great folding in, an initiation, and a true joy. It was as if the mamas (and one papa) were saying, “Bring it in, bring it in. Let’s get close and personal.” Sharing stories as diverse as struggling with breastfeeding, the perils of clingy college-aged daughters, and how a group of mothers responds when you are first called the “N word”, the parent-writers got up on the stage, one by one, and revelled in the power of storytelling.

Sherri, holding a flower from Andre, looks on as Nichole hugs the jitters right out of Robin before the show. Image via Kim Thompson-Steel

Sitting just offstage, I felt the electricity in the theater as one reader after the other got to that point in their piece where they had the audience hooked. “She’s killing it!”, one of my cast members whispered in awe as Margaret shared her hilarious and touching story of when her children’s lesbian grandmothers announced their intention to marry with perfect delivery. We cheered each other on every time one of us returned, arms raised overhead, “I did it!” barely escaping our lips before we were enveloped in high fives and arm squeezes. And maybe a sip of Cosmo-from-a-flask.

Stepping up to the lectern for my read-through with my ladies at my back! Image via Kim Thompson-Steel

I was the youngest one in the cast, which for me just meant that I had been writing and mothering for much less time than any of my other cast members. I saw them as experienced, talented, beautiful parent-writers, who had a lot to teach me. Robin would probably laugh at this assertion, as her whole piece was about people who ask her how she holds her life together, to which she answers, “Hostess cupcakes, of course.” Seriously, I saw this experience as a bit of an initiation into the “club” of being someone who writes about parenthood, usually alone at my computer with my daughter literally hanging on my arm, as she is doing now. Meeting these women face-to-face, learning from them and laughing with them, made me feel like I was a part of something — parents who are trying to put something real out into the world, in a time of ridiculous baiting of so-called “Mommy Wars” and negativity all around.

Crooning my way into the audience’s good graces.

The power of vulnerable storytelling is that you leave feeling validated, and your audience leaves knowing you a bit more. And the people who came to see me, from my church, my dance community, my friend base, and even a few moms from the neighborhood who just know me from the playground, are all people I really WANT to be known by. It was beautiful, sharing this experience with them, and with my cast members and directors. My only regret is that I had to cut out right after the performance, as I was catching a ride at 4:20AM to go to the Midwest for a wedding! So, since I had to skip the cast champagne toast after the performance, I am toasting you now, beloved cast members — thank you for sharing your stories and a bit of your lives with me. The power of that evening will stay with me always, encouraging me to be more honest and vulnerable in my everyday life, as it always leads to me more connection, more true community.

Taking our bows! Image via Sherri Kuhn

If you want the 360 degree view on the experience, check out the pieces my cast mates wrote about that night:

Margaret

Joy

Andre

Melissa

Rhiana

LTYM SF (Kim/Kirsten)

Estelle

Sherri

Even one from an audience member! Lizz

More to come as we all gather our thoughts about this incredible night.  Thank you all for your support for my debut as a writer-performer!  My heart is full.

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8 thoughts on “What Happens When You Listen

  1. I’m still bitter that the flask never made it to me. However, since you also missed out on the champagne, we’ll make sure we celebrate properly soon. For sure. And I’m delighted to be part of our universal club. x

  2. Love, love this…and I wish we could do it all over again! You are an amazing woman, mother, writer, and person. I am honored to have shared that stage with you.

  3. Oh, this is beautiful! What an incredible night, and I was so honored to share a stage with you that night! You are an incredible woman, mother, person, and writer…we may never get over this experience. xoxo

  4. Your piece, in your voice, is the one still bouncing around in my head. Love how you read it. Champagne toasts are in our future….

  5. I’m so glad I got to see/hear you share your story Rhea!!! You are a gift in my life!

  6. I sounds like this was an amazing night. I would have loved to have been there if it wasn’t for an expensive 16 hour flight to get me there. Congrats on the success of the evening.

  7. Pingback: LTYM Making Meaning and Changing Lives

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