Storytellers celebrated the heartaches and comedy of motherhood through live readings at the Walton Arts Center's intimate Starr Theater Thursday evening (May 30).
During May, 24 cities around the country participated in Listen To Your Mother productions in honor of Mother's Day, and Thursday was Fayetteville's turn at the mic.
About 200 people gathered to watch a cast of 15 tell personal stories for five minutes about motherhood, either their own mothers or their experiences with parenthood.
“It's exciting to elevate our writing community and be on the same level with the same exposure as big-deal writers from San Francisco or New York,” said Stephanie McCratic, LTYM co-producer, blogger and mother. “It's incredible that a mom in Fayetteville gets that same opportunity."
Each performance is memorialized on YouTube “where they will live forever,” she said.
Each community chooses a different nonprofit organization to help each year. From the Fayetteville event, 10% of the proceeds will benefit Arkansas Advocates for Children and Families.
"Each year we choose an organization that benefits women and families or the sport of motherhood," McCratic said.
Readers were not compensated. The remaining money went to putting on the show, which “was no small undertaking,“ McCratic said. The event sold out eight weeks in advance, thanks mostly to personal networking rather than marketing, McCratic said.
More amateurs participated in this year's production than last year, although participants include bloggers, a published author and an actress, McCratic said.
“Last year we had primarily bloggers and authors who were used to this kind of thing. It was dramatic; it was an emotional rollercoaster. That's true to an extent this year too, but these stories are just hilarious. These are real, local women having no shame and just telling their story.”
One of the amateurs was Fayetteville mom Karen Boston. Her story about her son's coming-of-age drew laughs when she related how he came home from school asking, "What's a bagina?"
The cast was chosen from a pool of 25 people who auditioned. Fourteen cast members were women. Brian Davis, the one male reader, told a humorous and loving tale of how motherhood has changed his wife.
"Motherhood agrees with her," Davis said.
Last year 12 cities were involved in LYTM productions.
“Since LTYM began, the number of communities participating has pretty much doubled every year,” McCratic said.
She expects they will either need a bigger venue or two shows next year.
The purpose of LTYM is “to encourage women to talk, be real and encourage each other,” McCratic said.
The prevalence of social media has “made women feel more inadequate as mothers. Just because they didn’t stencil a mural on their child‘s wall they think, 'Oh my gosh, I'm a bad mother,'” McCratic said. “We want mothers to breathe a sigh of relief when they hear these stories, to know that something that was so stressful is actually funny when it’s said out loud. There’s freedom in that. You’re not a bad mother because your child has a screaming fit in the middle of Target; that’s funny.”
In the spirit of LTYM, "I would encourage everyone to write their own story," McCratic said. "You might not think that it's much of a story, but to your kids and grandkids your story carries power."