(From left) Jennie Badger and Jill Robbins directed and produced Listen to Your Mother at the Tobin Center.
(From left) Jennie Badger and Jill Robbins directed and produced Listen to Your Mother at the Tobin Center. Credit: Bonnie Arbittier / San Antonio Report

Lice? Baby poop? Your mother’s embarrassing genital-related utterances? During Listen To Your Mother events, lighthearted tales of being a mom and being raised by moms are sprinkled among deeper and more complex stories related to motherhood. Those might entail adoption, abandonment, having a horrible childhood, being thrown out of the house after coming out as homosexual, or worries of passing a congenital mental illness on to one’s children.

Listen To Your Mother (LTYM) began in Wisconsin in 2011, and quickly became a nationwide phenomenon. Independent producers eventually expanded its reach to 55 cities with San Antonio joining the list in 2016.

Despite a brief hiatus last year, LTYM is back in the Alamo City, calling for auditions from those who are willing to read their motherhood stories aloud during a five-minute window. Auditions are Feb. 22-23 for the next LTYM event in May.

Co-producers Jill Robbins and Jennie Badger encourage anyone to give their motherhood-related stories a try in hopes of being selected for the May 11 presentation at the Carlos Alvarez Studio Theater in the Tobin Center for the Performing Arts. The 90-minute afternoon brings together about a dozen storytellers.

“Absolutely everybody has a story about motherhood that is a worthy story,” Robbins said, emphasizing that they are seeking a diverse cast of readers. “We’re really hoping that we can get stories that represent the people who live in San Antonio.”

“We want to reflect the city,” Badger added. “We need Latina and Latino voices and LGBTQ, and all ages, we’d like younger and older, high school and octogenarian.”

The main qualities they seek for the storytelling event? “It has to be truthful and honest,” Badger said.

Fictionalized tales are not allowed, but poems are. More details on the auditions, with a helpful FAQ section, are listed on the local LTYM website.

Just auditioning can be cathartic, Robbins said, particularly if a personal story is difficult or revealing of the deeper complexities of human relationships. Her own story, told at the Austin version of LTYM — since its beginning in Madison, Wisconsin in 2011, the show has expanded to 55 cities in total — detailed her depression after adopting a child.

“When I walked out of my audition, it didn’t matter to me whether I was going to get a spot in the show or not,” she said. But she did, and the experience moved her to bring the show to San Antonio as its producer in 2016 and 2017.

“Through that experience of having that catharsis, to be able to say your thing in front of everybody, and the community behind the scenes, I wanted that for San Antonio,” Robbins said. But producing the show solo proved to be too much, and no show was produced in 2018.

Badger performed in the 2017 show and said the experience moved her to contact Robbins in hopes of reviving LTYM. “It was a real turning point for me, as far as getting me back in touch with my creative side and writing. It reaffirmed that maybe I need to start pursuing that a little bit more, which was a big deal at my age. I was real sad there wasn’t one in 2018,” said the 54-year-old former litigator and mother of three.

“Actually if there weren’t Jennie, there wouldn’t be a show” in 2019, Robbins said. Badger got in touch, the two women clicked, and she joined Robbins as a co-producer to keep San Antonio’s version of LTYM alive.

Both had experience with public speaking — Badger in federal court and Robbins as a military trainer — but encourage people without any experience talking in front of an audience to apply. “They just have to be able to stand up there and talk,” Robbins said of the Alvarez Theater stage.

Both agreed the main goal of the event is for people to recognize they are not alone in their experiences of motherhood, whether good, bad, hilarious, or horrible.

“It’s a great show because it covers a lot of emotions,” Badger said.

Robbins concurred.

“It’s a tapestry,” she said. “We want people to leave feeling they’re happy that they came, but understanding everything’s not unicorns and roses and sunshine and glitter.”

The location for auditions will be sent via e-mail once applications are confirmed, and those applying should expect to hear back in early March, according to the LTYM website.

Nicholas Frank

Nicholas Frank moved from Milwaukee to San Antonio following a 2017 Artpace residency. Prior to that he taught college fine arts, curated a university contemporary art program, toured with an indie rock...