Mama Madison: Moms take the stage

This year, it's more than brunch

We have no real time-honored traditions around Mother's Day in our house. I'm not really one much for flowers. My houseplant curse carries over to cut bouquets; anything green in my care will die a natural death within hours--unless the cat gets to it first. And breakfast in bed, while glamorous in theory, ends up with crumbs, and then ants in places they shouldn't be. If the weather is nice (which I am not counting on this spring), biking over to the east side for a Lazy Jane's scone is sweet, and a handmade card even sweeter. But other than that, a day of lazy nothing sounds pretty darn good to celebrate my maternal status.

But this particular Mother's Day there's an intriguing performance going on in Madison that could inspire me to experience Mother's Day in a whole new way. The first is the back-by-popular-demand LISTEN TO YOUR MOTHER show at the Barrymore. The brainchild of Madison-based "stay-at-home" humorist Ann Imig, LTYM features live readings by local writers, primarily the kind that publish on-line, musing on "the beauty, the beast, and the barely-rested of motherhood."

By all accounts last years inaugural event was more than just a well-executed series of live readings. It was akin to a spiritual event--a revival of sorts--bringing amazingly talented women together to tell their stories, both happy and haunting, of the divergent paths of motherhood. Two friends of mine, both of whose writing I tremendously admire, took the stage last year and claimed the experience was transformative for both the performers and audience alike. This year, LTYM is taking it on the road with locally produced shows in new cities including Austin and Los Angeles. But the concept was born in Madtown, and with such talented Wisconsin women as Deb Nies, Elizabeth Katt-Reinders , and Sara Santiago participating at the 3 PM Mother's Day event, I have no doubt this is a perfect opportunity for mamas in Madison to take second-Sunday-in-May celebrations to a whole new level.

Twenty area high schools students"Jewish, Christian and Muslim"are the focus of the second show. While teens won't always listen to their mother, these kids have gotten the opportunity to "listen to the other" in a unique semester-long program launched by the Lubar Institute for the Study of the Abrahamic Religions (a UW-Madison initiative and my employer). Called the "Courage Project", this is LISAR's first program involving area youth. In the Mother's Day final performance you'll witness these kids sharing experiences of personal courage and burgeoning interfaith friendships through original poetry, interpretive dance and song.

Rohany Nayan, LISAR's Graduate Fellow has developed something pretty special with this program. She, a Muslim, along with Cantor Debbie Martin of Temple Beth El and Pastor Katie Baardseth of Midvale Lutheran have created a program that trains teens to develop the courage necessary to work through stereotypes about others and to communicate honestly with each other about their personally held beliefs. Oh, and all three are moms. I guess that should come as no surprise.

Hopefully my oldest can get involved in next year's incarnation. I can't think of a better Mother's Day present he could give me than new, unexpected friends and broadened social and intellectual horizons. Oh, and of course the chance of course to see him on stage. Gypsy Rose Lee's mom had nothing on me.

Sure, sleeping in and a manicure rarely disappoint, but both of these Sunday afternoon performances sound like pretty satisfying ways to spend Mother's Day.

And there's always time for a Lazy Jane's scone beforehand.

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