A few years ago, I became acquainted with Westfield resident Haley Lawrence, an enterprising entrepreneur and producer. At the time, she was interested in bringing a franchised, annual storytelling show called “Listen to Your Mother” to Indianapolis. She explained the goal of the production is to “take the audience on a 90-minute journey of diverse, true stories about motherhood — being a mom, having a mom, losing a mom, finding mom — as many interpretations on the theme of mothering as you can imagine.” Eventually, Lawrence formed a company called The Fearless Leap and produced the first local production in 2019.
With a goal toward making the show a Central Indiana tradition, Lawrence and her cast of storytellers are presenting this year’s edition of “Listen to Your Mother” on Sunday, May 16. In this age of COVID-19, audiences can choose to enjoy the show in person at The District Theatre on Mass Ave or virtually from home. Reaching out to Lawrence by email, she responded to questions I sent her about the show. Below is the edited transcript of our exchange.
How did the show originate?
From the original, live, storytelling phenomenon that is “Giving Motherhood A Microphone,” a woman named Ann Imig founded “Listen to Your Mother” with a show at the Barrymore Theatre in Madison, Wisconsin on Mother’s Day in 2010. She and 11 other local writers read their original, true stories of motherhood before an audience of 300 people. The show became an instant sensation via creative online women, growing into a grassroots phenomenon, spanning 50+ cities and 250 productions across North America, an acclaimed anthology from Putnam Books, a charitable-giving movement, which raised thousands of dollars for nonprofit causes supporting women and families in need.
What does it consist of?
We have two shows on May 16. The 2:00 p.m. will be performed at the newly built outdoor space at The District Theatre and the 5:00 p.m. show will be indoors and livestreamed. We have 12 performers. A portion of the proceeds from the show and 100 percent of the raffle will go to Project Lia. This year, a company has offered to match each donation.
How long has the show been produced in Indy?
This is the third year that my company, The Fearless Leap, will present the show with me producing and directing. Ellye Tibbets is my assistant producer.
Why do you want to present it?
My passion is to support and empower people to take a fearless leap. Writing and sharing your story are courage in action and often require a big step out of your comfort zone. Every year, I hear from participants about how appreciative they are they auditioned, describing the process as therapeutic. And I love supporting nonprofits that support women.
What is the show’s track record nationally and in Indy?
Sold-out shows. Last year, we raised $1000 for Pass the Torch for Women Foundation. Pretty amazing considering it was a virtual show.
Why does the show resonate with the storytellers?
Anyone who has had a mother or knows one can audition for LTYM. We look for diversity of cast and stories, and everyone has at least one story! The show often launches other opportunities. First-year cast member Katy Gentry had never done storytelling before. After the show, she submitted her story and was published by the Washington Post. She went on to be accepted as a monthly writer for Indianapolis Moms. She says LTYM has changed her life. She is not the only one who feels that way.
What about the audience?
Audiences rave about the show — lots of family and friends, of course, and people who support the nonprofit.
Tell me about this year’s crop of storytellers?
In addition to alumnae Katy Gentry and Sonal Sheth Zawahri, we have a great cast that will not disappoint. They include John B. Hayes, Samantha Burke, Tonya Rave, Traci Baker Meador, Bethany Berghofer, TiGre McNear, Dan Roath, Lisa Devon, Pam Caldwell, and a special guest.
Whom does the show benefit?
This year we are supporting Project Lia, a nonprofit social enterprise aimed at addressing the many socioeconomic barriers to successful reentry for women impacted by the criminal justice system.
What can audiences expect when they see the show?
From hilarious and heartwarming, to emotionally intense and profound, “Listen to Your Mother” entertains, energizes, brings community together and leaves everyone feeling a little less alone and a little more understood.
To purchase $15 tickets to “Listen to Your Mother,” go to fearlessleap.simpletix.com.