In January, 2016, a long-time theatre friend told me about local auditions for an event called Listen to Your Mother. I had never heard of this event, so I looked into it. It was a live reading event, much like a Tedx Talk, but from the perspective of (or about) motherhood. Cast members could be men or women, mothers, sons, daughters, or grandchildren, telling their stories on what their mother or mother-figure taught them, or on what the learned from being a mother – in its many senses of the word. There were humorous stories, thought-provoking stories, and tear-jerkers. There were controversial topics and universally embraced themes. It seemed right up my alley, since I’ve been performing on stage for 30+ years, and blogging about being a parent to a gender creative child for 8 years.
When I checked out the audition info, there was only one day of auditions left, which happened to be the very next day. That was strike one. Then I read the guidelines. “Piece should be 5 minutes or less.” Strike two. I knew none of my blog posts would read under 5 minutes. But, as much as I was looking for a strike 3, I couldn’t find one. I hadn’t auditioned for anything in several years. A serious illness for which I was hospitalized for 10 days, followed by a series of surgeries beginning in 2009 left me with little energy to do much else than work for pay, and try to be a good wife and a good mother to three young kids.
Ultimately, I decided to do it. Without thinking about it too hard, I signed up for one of the last available audition time slots. I figured the experience of auditioning for a very different type of work would, at the very least, be good for me. I had never read any of my personal writing before an audience before. So, I revisited my blog, pulled sections from different posts, and tried to Frankenstein them together into a coherent, chronological story that would both attempt to say something meaningful, and hold an audience’s attention. I read it and timed it, whittled it down, read it and timed it again, and repeated until I had a piece that fit the 5 minute time limit.
The next day I auditioned. It was much like my experiences auditioning for professional theatre companies. I walked into a studio, stood at a music stand, and delivered my piece to a few friendly, but poker-faced ladies sitting behind a table. My voice was scratchy, my throat was dry, and my eyes were watering from a recent stint of strep throat. But I did it.
I was super surprised when, the very next day, while at work, I received a “Welcome to the cast of Listen to Your Mother RDU 2016” e-mail. I had to read it again and again to make sure I wasn’t seeing things. I then quickly accepted, and thanked my lucky stars.
Then, right before our first read-through as a cast, HB2 happened. HB2: The most discriminatory, anti-LGBTQ+ law in recent U.S. history; a law that hurt everyone, but especially singled out the transgender community, and sought to define their gender for them. (Talk about government overreach!) The concept of gender identity was suddenly forced to the media forefront, and quickly became the hottest topic in our country at that moment. It was the one topic that absolutely divided people into separate camps, but also created enemies where friendships and kinships existed before. And I was about to read a piece about how I actively support raising a gender creative little boy who’d rather play with My Little Pony and princesses than anything else in the world.
I didn’t know these ladies. I didn’t know if they were liberal or conservative, accepting or not. I was terrified. I’m sure everyone could hear my voice shaking as I read without daring to look up even once. Much to my relief, though, I quickly learned that these ladies were my people. They were a perfect cross-section of society, with some being more liberal and some being more conservative, but because we could all relate as mothers, my message did not fall on deaf ears. Nobody’s did. We all laughed and cried together that day, and I met some of the bravest, strongest, funniest, most entertaining women I’ve ever had the pleasure of knowing.
On May 4, 2016, I was honored to be a part of the live reading series, Listen to Your Mother.
Here’s my story: