Ten years ago, four women applied for the opportunity to start up a stage show in the Twin Cities that would focus on empowering women through storytelling – but because there were four of them, they had to agree to do it together.
“We met at Cafe Latte and we shared one piece of pie,” said Galit Breen. “The four of us are completely different writers, [from] completely different backgrounds, everything. But it worked.”
That was how Breen, Heather King, Tracy Morrison, and Vikki Reich became the Twin Cities producers of Listen To Your Mother, which is putting on its 10th-anniversary show on Wednesday, May 3 at 7 p.m., and Sunday, May 7, at 10:30 a.m. Both shows are at the Riverview Theater in Minneapolis.
The Twin Cities show launched in 2013 with 24 other cities after it was founded in Madison, Wis., in 2010 by Ann Imig.
Listen To Your Mother is a live show featuring women who write and present roughly five-minute true stories of motherhood on stage — the good, the bad, the ugly, the sad, and the hilarious.
Breen and Reich are the two original founders who are still producing the show. The show is around Mother’s Day each year, with a holiday alumni show each winter. This year, in honor of the 10th anniversary, an alumnus from each of the previous spring shows will play the role of emceeing the show; Breen and Reich open and close the show, respectively.
For this year’s show, 80 people applied for 12 spots.
“For me and Vikki to sit there and hear people’s stories is amazing,” Breen said. “I’m not complaining about my job.”
Stacy Dinner-Levin is an alumnus who is emceeing this year, but she almost didn’t become part of the cast. A broken printer and a confluence of other things meant she couldn’t print out her story.
“I sent them an email apologizing, and I was a little heartbroken, but I didn’t feel prepared,” she said. “Galit sent me an email and said that if I could be there at 5, I could just read it off my phone. None of this ever occurred to me.”
After having second thoughts, Dinner-Levin made it from her Minneapolis home to the audition in St. Louis Park right at 5 p.m., but not as prepared as she’d want to be.
“I had this idea that I was going to be presentable with hair and makeup. I flew out the door and I’m a total mess,” she said. “I didn’t have time to kind of rehearse it the way that you’d want to. I thought it was just awful.”
Breen and Reich had other ideas and cast Dinner-Levin in the show.
“I couldn’t even believe it; at first I thought they emailed the wrong person by accident,” she said. “And then I was mortified at … how close I came to throwing that away, and how gracious they were to me. It was really something. I don’t even like to think about it too much.”
From humble beginnings
Listen To You Mother, founder Ann Imig said, was born out of a moment of mom-blogging.
“I did one show and because it was this moment of peak mom-blogging, it kind of took off,” Imig said. “I just started hearing from people right after I put that first show online in 2010. It just kept doubling and growing exponentially.”
Imig has lost count of how many cities hold shows now. She contracted with a licensing company to manage the growth a few years ago.
“I pictured what happened happening in terms of it moving through the blogging connections, but I never could have imagined how many ways, how many lives this would touch. Even while it was happening, it was pretty hard to digest.”
“The Twin Cities has sold more tickets than any other city in the country, which I think speaks to us tapping into our networks,” said Breen, who was the original Minnesota Mammaleh columnist for TC Jewfolk. “I think it speaks to Twin Cities, which has a thirst for the arts, and for stories, and for supporting women. It was magical.”
Said Imig: “[Breen and Reich’s] show is incredible. It’s been such a huge success. That show was really so special. And you can tell by the way it’s received by the attendance and by the devoted community that they’ve created.”
Reich said that none of the original quartet had experience in producing an event, but their blogging background helped build the show a following.
“We were creative thinkers and we were really adept at using social media,” Reich said. “I think back then, the word really was a lot more social media driven and blog driven. Eventually, over time, it’s become more word of mouth and more organic.
Kelly O’Sulivan was in the original 2013 and has participated in two or three alumni shows. Next month’s shows are the first she is missing because of a pre-planned vacation.
“I have so many friends in this show because this community is like that: we all connect and we stay connected,” she said.
O’Sullivan said she wrote as a hobby and thought it might be worth putting something into the audition.
“It was really just sort of a leap of faith into something that sounded amazing … women’s voices to tell stories,” she said. “It was real stories, true stories.”
While some of the presenters are professional writers and others are hobbyists, O’Sullivan said that once you’re selected and on stage, it doesn’t matter.
“We’re all sort of put on equal footing and told ‘your stories are valuable. Your stories are worthy of being heard,’” she said. “It was just about the stories.”
O’Sullivan said the rehearsal process is full of tears and laughter and the storytellers read their stories.
“You cry at the same thing over and over again, even though you’ve read it so many times,” she said. “it’s incredibly bonding.”