As you entered the performance of "Listen To Your Mother" at the Footlight Players Theatre last Sunday, the ushers gave you a program and a handful of tissues. It was that kind of show.
But the tears at the South Carolina premiere of the national show were just as likely to be tears of laughter as of sorrow.
"Listen To Your Mother," live readings on the theme of motherhood, is staged to honor Mother's Day. It was started in Madison, Wis., by blogger Ann Imig in 2010.
Since then, the show has grown every year. This year, it appeared in 32 cities during the two weeks leading up to Mother's Day. Each city features readings by casts who bring the unique flavor of their own city to their original personal essays.
Angie Mizzell, 39, of West Ashley applied to produce and direct a show in Charleston after a friend saw the Washington, D.C., show two years ago and prodded her to bring it to the Lowcountry.
Mizzell, a mother of three children, ages 8, 4 and 2, says that she looked up archives of the show from other cities on YouTube and decided she had to bring the show here.
"It wouldn't let me go," she says. "I don't usually feel that strongly about these things."
She says she knew Charleston would appreciate the show that includes live readings on topics ranging from comic tales of childbirth to the heartbreak of miscarriage.
"Charleston is supportive of the arts and artists, and I just knew that we have so many stories and storytellers here and that Charleston is the home of all of these rich, diverse stories," says Mizzell.
"I felt like Charleston was going to embrace this because we are storytellers, and we love connection and community."
Her hunch proved correct: The May 4 show sold out the 240-seat theater and a second sold-out show was added later in the day.
About 40 people brought their essays to audition for the show. Fifteen were selected, including ones from Mizzell herself and Becca Finley, assistant director/assistant producer of the show. The performers were all women except for Sean Scapellato, 43, of West Ashley.
Scapellato wrote a tongue-in-cheek letter of apology to his mother, Jodie Scapellato, who flew in from Phoenix to hear the "apology" that included reminiscences about her throwing two pumpkin pies across the room one Thanksgiving after learning that the canned pumpkin had been recalled.
She laughed after the show, saying, "I was young by today's standards. I made a lot of mistakes and there is a lot we can laugh about." She gave her son an affectionate hug. "No apology was necessary!"
Much of the audience was family and friends of the cast members, and both shows earned standing ovations.
Cast member Donloyn LeDuff Gadson, 41, North Charleston, had eight children, a husband and her parents cheering her on from the audience.
When asked the best part of the show, the youngest of the children, 4-year-old twin girls, both silently pointed at their mother, who had shared an essay about creating a lasting home for her large family.
Mizzell says all of the stories, which will be available on YouTube this summer, capture the heart of the Holy City.
"In some ways, the stories have a Southern flavor with lots of references to the church and Jesus. And just sort of what the day-to-day life of raising a child is like, that seems to ring true across regional boundaries," she says. "But what is really cool is that the stories are universal. They embody the universal themes (of motherhood) of love and relationships and loss and letting go."
Jodie Scapellato and her son, Sean, hug in the Footlight Players Theatre lobby after the “Listen to Your Mother” production last Sunday.×
Donloyn LeDuff Gadson×
Angela Goss Avery×
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