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home : features : wordsandpictures October 20, 2017

"Listen to Your Mother"
WordsAndPictures: From blogging beginnings to national stages, storytellers share their thoughts about moms
Courtesy photo.

2017 "Listen to Your Mother" cast members:
Hanadi Chehabeddine
Danielle Daniel
Molly Beth Griffin
Rachel Guvenc
Emily Heinis
Ann Hohenshell
Erica Hunt
Sally Vardaman Johnson
Amoke Kubat
Carrie Peterson
Mandy Poke
Susan Triemert
Tzitel Voss

Everyone has a mother story to share, even if they weren't raised by their mother.
- Ann Imig

By Sheila Regan


Mother's Day is more than a brunch special, especially for the storytellers across the country that participate in "Listen to Your Mother" (LTYM). The show will happen in 29 cities this spring, for the two weeks leading up to Mother's Day, and gives diverse perspectives of motherhood - from mothers, children of mothers, people who grew up without mothers and people who chose not to have children. To date, LTYM has been hosted in more than 50 cities.

It started in Wisconsin. Ann Imig had been a theater major in college, which seemed like ancient history by 2008, when she started blogging. With two kids at home, writing became an outlet for the stress and isolation of raising small kids while her husband traveled for work. She started annsrants.com, which helped her connect to audiences online. Her blog led to other writing opportunities, and Imig found herself connecting to a whole network of women writers and bloggers. "There was a community feeling at the time," she says. "There were these strong connections I was forging with creative people."

In 2010, Imig went to BlogHer, a national women's social media conference. A keynote address featured women and men reading their own writing. "It was so simple and so doable to me," she says. "The social worker in me was so moved by these stories." A few months later she called on her theater background to put together an event in Madison, Wisc., around a motherhood theme, which she called "Listen to Your Mother."

From the beginning, LTYM's mission has been to be diverse and inclusive. "Everyone has a mother story to share, even if they weren't raised by their mother," says Imig.

The first event was a smashing success. Soon, women around the country, especially from the blogging community, asked Imig if they could host LTYM events in their own cities. Imig created a business out of it, developing relationships with local producers across the country. Besides ticket sales, additional funding came from local and national sponsors, which Imig was able to land because of her corporate background and with the help of business strategist Deborah Rogers.

This year will be the grand finale season of the project as originally developed. Next year, Miracle or 2 Productions Inc. will hold licensing options for those who want to host future LTYM shows. The program likely will emerge in new cities, with productions year-round, including longer theatrical runs.

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Women support women

In the Twin Cities, producers Galit Breen and Vikki Reich, who currently run the local production, plan to continue under the new ownership. Breen and Reich submitted applications when Imig put out a call for LTYM submissions five years ago. They didn't know each other at the time, but were selected, along with two other Minnesota bloggers, to put together their own LTYM evening.

"Now I feel like I've known her forever," Reich says of Breen. "LTYM has brought so many great women into my life. The stories that I have the honor of hearing and the people I've met are the greatest gifts of the show."

Imig's comments about how LTYM was all about women supporting each other intrigues Breen. "That's what drew me to blogging," she says.

According to Breen, the beauty of LTYM is that nobody is expected to perform. "It's literally a woman on stage with a microphone," she says. "It's the good, the bad, and the ugly."

After holding auditions each year, Breen and Reich put together a line-up of stories that compliment each other. Typically, about 80 people audition, but only 10-12 are chosen to perform.

Once the storytellers are selected, LTYM-Twin Cities holds two rehearsals, which are basically table readings, to give a chance for everyone to hear the stories, and figure out the flow of the evening. The Twin Cities chapter donates 10 percent of ticket sales to the Jeremiah Project, an organization that provides transitional housing and support services to single mothers and their children.

While all the stories are different, Breen says each of them have a "me, too" moment in them. "So many people feel so alone in their stories," she says. "That's the magic of this. Every year, people will come up to readers and say that suddenly they don't feel so alone. It's really beautiful."

IFYOUGO
What: Listen to Your Mother Twin Cities
When: Thurs., May 4, 2017, 7-9 p.m.
Where: Riverview Theatre, 3800 42nd Ave. S., Mpls.
Cost: $18 online/$20 at the door
Tickets: tinyurl.com/MWP-LTYM
FFI: http://listentoyourmothershow.com/twincities/ Check the website in 2018 for information about auditioning for future shows. The call for auditions is usually held in January.





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