Yesterday, I traveled to Oklahoma City to meet my fellow cast members for Listen to Your Mother 2017. The first table read is always the most emotional day. No matter how giddy and nervous I am when I get to the rehearsal space, by the end, I just want to rock in a corner with a box of tissues. The women who audition for this show are brave and bold. I’m ecstatic to join them and go on this adventure one more time.
Ghosts of Listen to Your Mother Past
This will be my third year to take the stage at Listen to Your Mother (LTYM). In 2013, I was part of the original Kansas City cast where I shared the story, Mama Knows, an emotional tale of my daughter’s brave battle with a rare brain disorder – Vein of Galen Malformation (VOGM). In 2016, I traveled the other direction and joined the Oklahoma City cast where I lightened the mood with Parenthood – You’ve Got 10 Seconds, Live It Up. The tone of the stories is not the only difference in these two videos. There is also the issue of about 20 extra pounds. Yikes! But food is so good, you guys.
Oh, you’re a LTYM alum, that’s cute, sit down….
If you think being a LTYM alum means I was prepared for anything and nothing could phase me, well, my friend, you’ve never attended THE Table Read.
The first rehearsal is actually a bit of a surreal experience. A few weeks before, cast members are introduced online. You might get brief glimpses of your new pals by stalking their Facebook posts and Instagram pictures, but we all know social media can be a veiled view. Except mine. I tend to share every damn thing, much to the embarrassment of my children and the delight of my husband (Doug) who has become a bit of a Facebook sensation even though he doesn’t even have an account. #dougie #somanly
For me, walking into the rehearsal space for the first time is like walking into class on the first day of school. I scan the room for people I know, make sure I’ve located the nearest restroom and candy machine, and then I sit quietly because nervous awkward outbursts are kind of my specialty.
Sitting in the bright welcoming room on the second floor of the American Banjo Museum in downtown Oklahoma City, I fidgeted nervously and waited. Twelve other women did the same. We started the table read with a quick introduction, a 30-second snapshot, “I’m Dani, I’m a three-time published author, this is my third show, I have two children, I’ve been married for almost 20 years, I keep threatening to stab my husband in his sleep but by the grace of God and Zoloft he continues to live another day,” you know, the basics.
Then, it’s ON.
Without giving story details away, let me just say that what I heard yesterday was uplifting, heartbreaking, joy-filled, hilarious, honest, and raw. The things these women have endured, the lives they’ve touched, the pain they’ve experienced, the loss, the gratitude, the redemption, and the humor, it’s A LOT to feel in just a few hours. Much like my favorite movie, The Notebook. “If you’re a bird, I’m a bird.” “That’s my sweetheart in there. Wherever she is, that’s where my home is.” *sniff*
Table Read day is often the first time cast members have shared their stories out loud. People can feel vulnerable, timid, and sometimes the soul-bearing breaks them a little. But in that moment when they are choking back sobs or staring blankly at the words they’re mustering up the courage to say, another woman will pass a tissue, whisper words of encouragement, or rub their back as if to convey, “Lean in, we’ve got you.”
Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants – sans pants
As I drove back to Wichita, I had almost three hours to reflect, and also eat my first Whataburger. I started the day looking at my cast but only saw external things like cute cardigan sweaters, smart tortoise shell frames, and pretty smiles. By the time I left, I saw them as warriors, stand up comedians, and sisters.
In April and May, there will be 23 Listen to Your Mother shows across the United States. If your city is hosting one, I encourage you to attend. I guarantee you will be entertained and moved by the bravery of these women…and men. Plus, each show raises money for a local cause. Ticket sales for my show will be supporting the Boys & Girls Clubs of Oklahoma County.
Apropos of nothing…
In case you do not follow me on Facebook (and really, why wouldn’t you) I must share my love and gratitude to Alamo who upgraded my economy rental car for a sweet new Toyota Camry at no extra charge. I’ve been driving a 1999 Honda mini van for 15 years. As you might imagine, I felt super fancy even though I never did figure out where to put the Plutonium. It’s a Back to the Future reference, kids. Ask your parents. I’m 46 years old. Yesterday, I got to cruise to Oklahoma without fear of my transmission bursting forth onto the highway, I met new friends, and treated my taste buds to Whataburger. You’re never too old to take yourself out of your comfort zone. You never know what can happen if you just say YES!