storytelling

Listen to Your Mother 2016!

Thrilled to announce that Marty and I will again be bringing Listen to Your Mother to the Raleigh-Durham area in 2016!  That show will be our 4th, and this year, Listen to Your Mother expands to 41 cities, including one in Canada!

Marty and I met for coffee last week to start planning, and we’re going to do a few things differently for the 4th year.  Shake things up a bit.  It will be fun!

Here’s the official announcement for 2016.

If you are in NC, information about the submission process will come out in January.  If you are outside NC, please look and see if there is a show close to you.  It’s been amazing being part of Listen to Your Mother, and I cannot recommend it enough.

What’s Your Story?

Lately, everywhere I go, everything I read, emphasizes the importance of storytelling.  It shows up in articles and blogs I read online. It even shows up at a data conference I attended in a session on visualizing data and using it to tell a story for stakeholders.  Dashboards used to be the buzzword; now storytelling is on the rise.  Headlines encouraging you to tell your story, share your story, tell the story.

The question is whether storytelling as a concept, as a tool, is truly on the rise or if I’m just more attuned to it.

It’s more likely that I am experiencing the Baader-Meinhof Phenomenon, the experience of encountering a new concept or thing everywhere after you learn about it.  I could call it by its more prosaic name of “frequency illusion,” but I think Baader-Meinhof is jazzier.

Storytelling.  I used to think of stories and the telling of them as something for children. It certainly wasn’t something adults do (we call that “blogging” or marketing if you’re in business). Stories are something we outgrow as we move from board books to novels with longer, more complicated plots. Stories are instructive, tools for molding behavior and character.

Ever since the spring and our two Listen to Your Mother productions, I’ve been thinking a lot about stories and storytelling. It’s likely because we had two cast members this year who work with stories, their structure, their form, their history, and their power. And I began to see our production as an important part of the storytelling process, giving our local readers – adults all – an opportunity to share their stories, to have the audience learn from them, and to learn from each other.  I found myself learning lessons from each one: the futility of control, respecting myself as worth a place at the table, learning from our children, flipping roles with our parents. I learned from them and internalized those lessons as I hope Daniel learns from the stories we read him.

It turns out that storytelling isn’t so childish after all. One of the most profound books I read this year was Scatter, Adapt and Remember: How Humans Will Survive Mass Extinction by Annalee Newitz.  In it, Newitz explore prior extinction events (spoiler alert: there have been many); the rise of humans; and finally, what we might face in the future.  The “Remember” part of the title refers to storytelling and how it is not merely something fun to do around the fire or at a party but is in fact a powerful survival tactic and evolutionary development. As Newitz writes, “Over the past million years, humans bred themselves to be the ultimate survivors, capable of both exploring the world and adapting to it by sharing stories about what we found there.”

And this:

It could be that one small group of H. sapiens developed a genetic mutation that led to experiments with cultural expression. Then, the capacity to do it spread via mating between groups because storytelling and symbolic thought were invaluable survival skills for a species that regularly encountered unfamiliar environments. Using language and stories, one group could explain to another how to hunt the local animals and which plants were safe to eat.

And this:

…people could figure out how to adapt to a place before arriving there—just by hearing stories from their comrades. Symbolic thought is what allowed us to thrive in environments far from warm, coastal Africa, where we began. It was the perfect evolutionary development for a species whose body propelled us easily into new places. Indeed, one might argue that the farther we wandered, the more we evolved our skills as storytellers.

Storytelling saved lives and may have even assisted in our evolution. I can’t think of many things more powerful than that.

***

Speaking of stories, this week the videos from the 30+ 2014 Listen to Your Mother shows became available on YouTube.  Here’s the link to the main LTYM channel with all the shows. And here’s the link to the Raleigh-Durham videos. And because I’m not above a little shameless self-promotion, here’s the link to MY reading 😉

I promise that you’ll laugh, you’ll cry and you’ll learn. Enjoy.

 

Whirlwind

Somehow, in this whirlwind of a year, the Listen to Your Mother season has come and gone. Raleigh-Durham held 2 shows last week, and they were both sold out and amazing. I can’t believe it is over. It felt like we had just gotten started and that we were building the show, meeting the wonderful women who comprised our cast and conducting the first nervous reading. I took a breath, closed my eyes for a second and months passed while I wasn’t looking. But both shows were amazing. The cast and audience were electric both nights. I can’t wait to do it again next year.

*** 

The two weeks leading up to Listen to Your Mother, I thought a lot about storytelling and what it meant to be a storyteller as I prepared for various media appearances (doesn’t that sound grand LOL). I don’t consider myself a storyteller.  As I have said before, I wasn’t the creative writing type of English major; more the analytical, critical type. I dissected stories. I analyzed stories. I did not tell stories. Even doing theater, the stories I shared on stage were not my stories but merely my interpretation of them. Call me a conduit maybe.

I’ve never thought of myself as someone with something to say which is a little absurd given that I have been blogging for roughly 6 years. But I consider my ramblings and musings to be simply that…ramblings and musings. Surely not storytelling. The bards who spread Beowulf were storytellers. The Native Americans who shared myths around fires and ceremonies were storytellers.  I’m just a woman rapidly approaching middle age in North Carolina with an Internet connection. That’s not a storyteller.

But as my 2014 cast mate and new friend Joy commented on Friday in our Facebook group:

People become the stories they tell about themselves. Rather than having to write at a certain quantity or quality to call ourselves writers, it is through telling the story of us being writers that we call ourselves to the page.

Isn’t that so true? And when I think about it, I’ve been telling stories even when I haven’t been using words.  I morphed from English major to web developer, finding enjoyment in coding and databases. I told people that when I coded, I was using language to create pictures and stories, something that I was unable to do otherwise.  While I code rarely now, I think the same can be said for what I do with data. I say I play with data, but what I’m really doing is figuring out what story the data is telling. It isn’t words being shared in a great hall, but it is story telling nonetheless.

***

Our cast is amazing. Last year’s cast was amazing. I truly consider myself privileged to know these people. I got LTYM last year, but this year I think I truly got it. I have a background in theater, so sometimes I forget how nerve-wracking it can be to be on stage. But it is, especially when you aren’t shielded by someone else’s words but exposed by your own. I am in awe of these women and their bravery as they shared their stories. And how as they shared their stories, they heard the gasps of recognition, laughter, sobs, and thunderous applause.  Listen to Your Mother is important because it gives average, normal people a microphone. We aren’t celebrities or elite. We just are, trying to get through each day as it comesThe power is in the epiphany, the “me too” moment. The empathy. The catharsis. That is its gift.

We are a week out from the final show. I sort of picture it like the final scene in Ocean’s 11 in which each member sort of fades away after coming together to do something amazing. It hurts not to see these women every day. But I also love how the camaraderie continues. Writing groups are being scheduled. And we are planning to get together.  Also, TWO of our cast members had their pieces published in the Huffington Post. How amazing is that? I am SO proud of them and so proud that I am part of something that enables such opportunities.

Bravo, ladies. The second Raleigh-Durham show was amazing, as you all are.