Do you remember, back to the days of being a preschooler, when you'd be listening to a story on someone's lap, or in preschool, or at library story time--and would hang on every word, with all your fingers in your mouth?
We wanted to know what would happen next, why the character did what they did, all the reasons for things to be playing out the way they were. Why did the mother ask the girl to take food to her grandmother? How come the mouse decided to share his last piece of cheese with the other mouse who had been mean to him? Would I have been brave enough to hide the kitten I found, alone and wet, on my way home from school?
There are so many reasons for a story to be a story, and the only way to find out about the parts of someone's life that make them the way they are, is to listen.
We listen and we come to know. We know, and that makes us love more--judge less. We enter someone's life when we hear their words and we aren't the same again. There's connection now, acceptance, understanding, compassion, enlightenment--awareness.
It's called bearing witness--to offer valid, worthy evidence of something being true.
That something is us.
By listening to someone tell of their life--we are saying you exist, I see you, you are valid to me. And when we are the ones doing the telling--we are saying you are important to me, I want to share myself with you, see what I have here to give you.
There is a transformation that occurs when you go beyond a surface level with others in this world; we grow. Either by telling or listening, we are fully present for someone. We are born craving this interaction, this sharing of experience.
That's why there are thousand-year-old caves--walls painted with mammoth hunt scenes. That's why people born to their lands have centuries old dances that tell the story of their clans, it's the reason for the tribal tattoos of Australian Aborigines, it's the narrative that runs behind the folk songs, it's why the tales that my Abuela told me are the ones her Abuela told her.
All of us, in our most honest moments, want to share our fears, our pride in personal accomplishments, question and seek to understand others, we want to respect differences, we want to teach by what we've learned. It's hard to do that--something holds us back.
There's no venue, no event planned for it, and there are worries that we'll be rejected. What if we're not good enough and who are we anyway that someone would want to listen to us? We're not trained, credentialed, schooled, degreed, or professional. Either as a trained listener, or as a performer. But our need to hear is as great as our need to be heard.
In 2010, I discovered Ann Imig, and along with that, her grass roots movement for the stage: The Listen To Your Mother Show. I wanted to be part of the story telling and life sharing of this show, but I had never read to an audience before. Ann encouraged me to audition anyway. I did. I made the cast of Listen To Your Mother 2011 and before an audience of over 300, I told my story. I told my story and found the me that I had never allowed out.
In 2012, I attended Listen To Your Mother as part of the audience. And if I thought reading before an audience was a life cartwheel? Being the audience changed me in ways far more reaching than standing before a crowd for five minutes. Both aspects left me moved, impacted me in ways that I couldn't shake out of my head for days.
The Listen To Your Mother Shows have gifted me with feeling part of everyone I see. I know that we all have a story inside us. And it is when we push ourselves past what we think we can do, that we break out and discover who we are.
I never thought of myself as someone standing in front of an audience, but I did it--I went beyond what I saw myself as, and read for Listen To Your Mother.
It's with this same trust and leap of faith, that I applied to bring Listen To Your Mother to Milwaukee. I completed a three-page application for the show and along with Jen of Tranquilamama and a friend of mine, Deb Tetzlaff, we hit send and crossed our fingers, and waited.
On Monday, the formal announcement was made: we will be one of 24 cities bringing Listen To Your Mother to their town in May, 2013.
There is only one reason I know I can do this for Milwaukee: because I had the chance to hear and be heard, and I want to be part of that process that brings that to others.
Because I believe that stories are the bridge to each other.
Listen To Your Mother Show Madison, 2011
For a complete list of the 24 Listen To Your Mother Shows across America, please click here.
Thank you, Ann Imig, thank you to all the past producers and directors, assistants and readers, for your part in bringing us the Listen To Your Mother Shows.