Listen To Your Mother: Table Read One
When my Best Friend Jill told me she was auditioning for something called “Listen to Your Mother” I was like, “Good for you! You’ll be great.” I had no idea what the hell she was talking about, but I was going to be supportive nonetheless. Then she sent me the piece she had written, and well, I know she’s my best friend and everything but it was really, truly amazing. The kind of amazing where you just sit back in your chair and breathe deep and let the tears roll down your face. All I knew about Listen to Your Mother at that point was what Jill had written about being a mom and it was incredible and I wanted, somehow to be a part of this thing I knew almost nothing about. I emailed her back, told her I loved what she had written and to please let the powers that be know that I wanted to photograph this thing, whatever the hell it was.
Now, as taking pictures is my job this might not seem like that big of a deal to have me volunteer to photograph something. But friends, it was a REALLY big deal because I was smack-dab in the middle of a monumental, all-consuming photography burn out. The past few years have been difficult on various levels, but my work had become a wildly draining thing. The love I had for creating images was waning – to put it lightly. My heart for this work was in trouble – deep, dark trouble. I kept reading articles about how to avoid burn out and each and every one said, “Have a personal photography project.” Sadly, my view of “personal project” was pretty narrow and I couldn’t imagine finding something that would make me want to put my camera up to my face. The very idea of adding one more thing to my over flowing plate made me sick to my stomach. And then, out of no where, my best friend told me about this production and my view of “personal project” cracked wide open. THIS was it. THIS is what I had been looking for.
I didn’t hear back right away once I volunteered my services, so OF COURSE the voice in my head that tells me how horrible and awful I am kept telling me how horrible and awful I was and how I wasn’t a good enough photographer and I should probably start looking for other work soon. I not so politely told the voice to bug off and carried on with my life. Then the email came inviting me to be the photographer for this years event and my heart almost burst with joy. I didn’t know a single member of that cast except Jill but I knew, deep down in my guts, THIS was going to be something special. What I didn’t understand at the time, and really what I’m still learning with each day, is that this event is saving me and reinventing my love for my craft.
When I walked into the first table read I knew I was on holy ground and my heart was bursting with gratitude. I looked at the faces of the women gathered around the table and saw so much vulnerability, fear and excitement. This was a BIG DEAL for these women just as it was for me. I know how hard being photographed is, especially when you’re feeling raw and emotional. I have stared down the barrel of a gun and the barrel of a lens – to me they evoke a pretty similar fear. I could see the women sneaking glances as I unpacked my camera. “Holy shit, she is going to take pictures of me while I’m crying or ugly or scared or vulnerable,” hung in thought bubbles over their heads. I asked Nicole and Margaret, the amazing producers of the show, if I could speak to the group before things got started. In all of their wisdom they agreed. I talked to these women for a moment to let them know they were safe with me. It was okay to cry and be ugly and happy or sad or whatever emotion was brought up by their reading. It was okay. I would do my very, very best to honor them. “Forget I’m here,” I told them. “You are safe with me.” And here is the MOST miraculous thing – THEY DID! They let themselves be open and honest and raw. It was one of the most beautiful experiences of my life to hear them read; to witness them opening hearts and wounds. But even MORE beautiful was the reaction of their cast mates who took care with those open hearts and salved those opened wounds. Tears spilled, hands were held, hugs given, laughter rang out and words like, “Me too…that’s my story too,” whispered across the table. For the first time in a long time I was profoundly grateful I had ever picked up a camera. This is why I did.
I don’t even know how to express my gratitude for cracking my heart open and for giving me the opportunity to be a part of this amazing experience. These women have changed me for the better. I have fallen in love with them and their passion for motherhood and the stories they have so bravely shared. I can’t encourage you enough to join us on Sunday, May 12th at The Crest Theater at 7pm for an AMAZING evening filled with so much love and heart and awesome. You can purchase tickets online HERE or at the Crest box office. (I highly suggest buying at the box office to avoid service fees.) Please join us! We can’t wait to see you there.
You can view a slideshow of the first table read by CLICKING HERE or below.
So well said. I know exactly how you feel. I am the photographer for LTYM in NYC. Last year I met and photographed the women on the day of the show and I was completely overwhelmed! Enjoy! and Be Kind to Yourself! Like any job there are times when you feel energized and times when you are just drained. I am sure it is not a reflection of the quality of your work or the level of your creativity. The inspiration will return.