One night, I was taking a bow onstage, smiling into the spotlight alongside a cast of polished performers. The next morning, I was back in my sweats, hurrying my double stroller down 2nd Avenue in hopes that my son and daughter would make it to preschool on time. This swift jolt back to reality, each morning after the previous night’s performance to a packed house marked my amazing journey in the NYC production of Expressing Motherhood. Through two dress rehearsals and three nightly shows, our group of thirteen mom writers transcended the typical grind of lunch packing and laundry and transformed ourselves into stars of the stage. Each night, we cheered each other on as we stepped center stage and revealed our most intimate thoughts and feelings about being a mom.
“Being able to say what you feel about being a mother, or sharing an experience for others to hear, gives a sense of normalcy and strength to keep up the work,” explains Jessica Cribbs, co-producer of Expressing Motherhood, which debuted for a short run in NYC last month.
Through a series of both poignant and funny monologues, our group touched on taboo subjects ranging from giving up an unplanned baby for adoption to enduring severe injuries in labor to how childhood trauma shapes motherhood to pining for a sex life after baby. In my piece, I shared my nagging internal conflict over my three year-old’s obsession with princesses and how I managed to cope. The diverse content was gathered through a nationwide search for original writing by mothers. A new staging in Los Angeles is planned for January.
For fifty-nine-year-old Deni B. Sher, the chance to tell the story of her son Chris’ descent into drug and alcohol addiction and the eventual dose of tough love that got him him clean had been seven years in the making.
“It is (my) time to stand up and be heard,” Sher told me via email. “Alcoholism and addiction are rampant diseases worldwide. Expressing Motherhood is a vehicle for my voice, my message and it gives me a chance to affect the lives of those who attend,” she explains. Sher flew in Florida to appear in the show and her son Chris came from North Carolina to be in the audience on closing night.
Sparking life changing experiences isn’t exactly what Cribbs, thirty-two, and her friend Lindsay Kavet, thirty-three, had in mind when they first decided to bring Expressing Motherhood to life two years ago.
“I had a young child and I was lonely, craving other moms to talk to. So I thought why not (put together) a play that consisted of real moms sharing their stories about motherhood in some creative fashion or another,” says Kavet, a former TV producer.
So, as the story goes, the two stay-at-home moms, hatched their plan for a stage production while their children napped. In June of 2008, it opened at the Electric Lodge theater in Venice Beach, CA. Now a month after a second Los Angeles run, which played to sold out-crowds, they’re gearing up for a fourth LA show and preparing for a new production in Des Moines, Iowa. A portion of the proceeds from the shows benefit Family Care International, a non-profit supporting maternal health around the globe.
As the project has evolved, Cribbs and Kavet have realized the impact of their work both on performers and on audiences.
“I really want the audience who are men or women who do not have children, to come away with the understanding that just because a woman has children, doesn’t mean she disappears. It doesn’t mean because of the choice to raise children, you simply cannot have a voice in real situations on real events. I want mothers in the audience to come away feeling normal,” Cribbs says.
Originally published on The Well Mom