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Washington Voices

Thoughts of mom take center stage

Thu., May 9, 2013

After reading their essays during a dress rehearsal at the Bing Crosby Theater on April 29, the cast of “Listen to Your Mother” takes a practice bow on stage. (Colin Mulvany)
After reading their essays during a dress rehearsal at the Bing Crosby Theater on April 29, the cast of “Listen to Your Mother” takes a practice bow on stage. (Colin Mulvany)

No matter where in the world children grow up they undoubtedly hear the phrase “Listen to your mother.”

Sometimes it’s said sternly as a reminder to not act up. Other times it’s said more gently, pleadingly, with the hope a child will not repeat a particular mistake.

On Sunday, Mother’s Day, the national show “Listen to Your Mother” will be performed in 24 cities nationwide. The local performance – at the Bing Crosby Theater – features 13 Inland Northwest women reading their own pieces about motherhood or how they remember their mothers and grandmothers. Gretchen Cleveland’s piece is about yearning to become a mother.

Cleveland, who’s the executive assistant to the provost at Whitworth University, went through years of fertility treatment with her husband and she wrote about that.

“It was a very private thing while we were going through it,” Cleveland said. “Only close friends knew. And it’s such a struggle with so many disappointments.” It was right after a successful in vitro fertilization treatment in December that Cleveland heard of “Listen to Your Mother.”

“I just felt this pull that I had to do that,” Cleveland said.

She describes herself as an introvert and is a little intimidated about sharing a personal story from the stage, but at the same time she feels empowered by the opportunity.

“I feel like I’d been given an amazing chance to share something that’s not talked about a lot,” Cleveland said.

“Listen to Your Mother” is co-produced by Stacey Conner and Elise Raimi. 

Conner has what she calls “a mommy blog” at and it was at the national blogger convention BlogHer in Chicago in 2011 that she connected with Ann Imig, one of the people behind “Listen to Your Mother.”

“I made her have breakfast with me,” Conner said, laughing. “We had been commenting on each other’s blogs for years and we finally met.”

It will be the third “Listen to Your Mother” show Conner and Raimi have produced and Conner said the most difficult part is picking the readers.

The call for auditions went out in February and more than 30 women answered it.

“People just hand us their hearts and it just about kills us to have to pick,” said Conner, adding that she and Raimi both read the first two years, but not this year.

Sara Smith, an English teacher at Chiawana High School in Pasco, is coming to Spokane for her performance.

“I wrote about my mother and my grandmother and the things I heard them say,” Smith said, “and about how your perspective changes when you become an adult and understand the meaning behind their words.”

Smith has two children and said she finds that motherhood can be very isolating, especially while the children are young.

“I just feel really connected to this group,” Smith said, adding that she’s been surprisingly nervous about the reading.

“My mom is coming, and I have not read the piece to her,” Smith said. “It’s my Mother’s Day gift to her.”

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