Poetry TheaterMay 05, 2015


s Day a MicrophoneI believe that here are things in life that are both intimately personal and wholly universal at the same time.

Music is one. Art is another. Nature is like that.

And motherhood.

Everyone has a mother. Everyone knows a mother. And a whole lot of people ARE mothers.

And it’s the place where what’s “only mine” and what’s “everyone’s” converge that is at the very core of the show Listen to Your Mother (LTYM), on stage Saturday, May 9 at the South Orange Performing Arts Center.

On her website, Ann Imig, Founder and National Director of LTYM, describes it as a “live-reading series and video sharing company.” That is a factual and accurate description of LTYM, but it barely scratches the surface.

Sandy Rustin, Co-Producer/Co-Director of the SOPAC show with Brooke Lefferts and Deborah Goldstein, filled in details for me.

LTYM was first performed on Mother’s Day five years ago, in Madison, Wisconsin, Ann Imin’s hometown,” she said. “Ann was a performer and also a stay-at-home mom. She started to write regularly about her experiences, and her blog attracted a large and passionate readership.”

Through interaction with some of her readers and fellow mom-bloggers, Imin became aware of how many of them were eager to share their thoughts and feelings. And the idea of a performance in front of a live audience took shape.

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“Her mission,” said Rustin, “is to give motherhood a microphone.

That first year, there was just the one show,” she continued. “The next year, there was a couple more. This year, there are 39!”

Rustin, who was an actress in the show last year, first saw the show in Manhattan a few years back and thought it was fantastic. And when the opportunity arose to bring the show back to North Jersey, Rustin, with others from the repertory group in residence at SOPAC, made it happen.

Each show is directed, produced and performed locally, and draws on the talent and experiences of those in and around the community.

For the 2015 North Jersey production, 13 people were selected from a field of “lots and lots of amazing writers.” To choose from all the submissions seems like a daunting task, and I asked Rustin about the criteria that they used.

“Our goal was to find pieces that are a true celebration of motherhood,” said Rustin, emphasizing ‘celebration’ as an operative word. “The process was much like creating a quilt.”

“The ones we chose are very diverse, in theme and in emotional impact,” she continued. “Some are lighter, some are funny, and some are absolutely heart wrenching.”

Danielle Ferland is one of the cast members of this year’s show at SOPAC. She became aware of LTYM last year and knew what an amazing experience it was for the people involved.

“I’m an actor, but I don’t write my own stuff and I didn’t think I would have the nerve to audition,” said Ferland. “But I thought I had to do it, and I did.”

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Ferland recalls that she was extremely excited – and anxious – at the first read-through, but also felt a strong common thread running among the group.

“It felt like everyone was invested in this,” Ferland said, “and that it was very meaningful.”

Rustin couldn’t agree more.

“For many of the people in the show, this is the first time they have read their words in front of anybody,” she said, “and to watch it come together is very special. It’s a privilege to be a part of this.

“And the audience really relates to the sharing and the honesty,” Rustin added. “Everyone can see a part of themselves in the people on stage.”

 

Listen to Your Mother will be presented in two shows, at 2:00 p.m. and 8:00 p.m., on Saturday, May 9 at the South Orange Performing Arts Center, One SOPAC Way, South Orange, NJ 07079. Tickets are available at http://www.sopacnow.org/406/ListentoYourMother.

Meet the cast and learn more about the North Jersey production at http://listentoyourmothershow.com/northjersey.

 

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Shen Shellenberger
Shen Shellenberger

Shen’s been a Jersey girl for most of her life, other than living for a three-year stretch in Portland, Oregon, and six magical months in Tokyo. Shen loves the arts in all of its various forms – from the beauty of a perfectly-placed base hit to the raw energy of rock ‘n’ roll – and has successfully passed on this appreciation to her three grown children. Shen’s most recent jobs include WXPN (1993-2001) and the Philadelphia Museum of Art (2003-present). Shen also has been a working freelancer for 25 years, and operated her own frame shop in Mt. Holly in the late-70s.