In today's wired world, candid moms bare souls on blogs, chronicle every detail of their daily lives on Facebook and share their joy and angst about parenting in a running stream of tweets. Often these intimate updates about the ups and downs of motherhood are deeply personal, sometimes sad, sometimes silly but mostly revealed behind the faceless veil of cyberspace. Now, through a series of new stage productions, some of these moms will step into the spotlight and tell it like it is to a live audience.
"It gives a certain strength and validation to what has happened to them, good or bad. Funny or not," explains Jessica Cribbs, co-producer of Expressing Motherhood, opening at the TADA! Theater in New York City on Sept. 24th.
"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," the mom of two says.
Through a series of original monologues, the 13 performers in the New York City cast (including myself) will touch 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. The diverse content was gathered through a nationwide search for original writing by mothers. Each writer will perform her own work. Submissions for the next staging in Los Angeles will be accepted through Oct. 1st.
For 59 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 has 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 will be making the trip from Florida to appear in the show and says her son Chris will be flying in from North Carolina to be in the audience on closing night.
Sparking life changing experiences isn't exactly what Cribbs, 32, and her friend Lindsay Kavet, 33, 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, Calif. Now a month after a second Los Angeles run, which played to sold out crowds, they're gearing up for a third Los Angeles 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, who still makes documentary films, and Kavet have realized the impact of their work on both performers and 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.
For more thoughts and tips on motherhood and the pursuit of wellness in mind, body and spirit, please visit my blog, The Well Mom and follow me on Twitter.