Finding the Funny in Motherhood (Parenting!)
When Stefanie, Sheila and I were new moms, we were overwhelmed in the same way parents have been emotionally overwrought and physically exhausted since time immemorial. Navigating the all-consuming minefield of caring for another living being was frequently beyond our capacities (or so it seemed). Much of the day-to-day of parenting is not so funny in the moment. But in hindsight? It can be hilarious - as when we tell the stories to our friends and compatriots in the struggle.
So what to do? Write as therapy. Write funny. Write a comedy about motherhood.
The show began when Stefanie and I wanted to write something that she could act in and I could direct, since we were both desperate to get back to theater. For material, we crafted an email to send to our mom friends asking questions like, what are the three things you do every day that you swore you would never do as a mom? (Two of mine were: let the kids watch Barney and drive a minivan. Best of intentions - out the window.) My friend Sheila’s reply had so much hilarious material that we asked her to join us in writing what would become MOMologues. And thus, the show was born.
The original production sold out in Boston three weeks before we opened with a marketing budget of about fifty dollars. The message was clear: Moms needed a night of laughter out together. Sure, there are books, magazine articles, blogs — but it’s not the same as coming to a theatre and having the release of laughter and tears, and feeling collectively affirmed that we are not in this alone.
One of our favorite memories is when a large group of moms stood up during a curtain call at the Palace Theater in New Hampshire, clapping and chanting “It’s not just us! It’s not just us!” Other MOM feedback: “Thanks for telling it like it is!” And, “Finally, the truth!”
After the success of the first show — which begins with trying to get pregnant and ends with the oldest going off to kindergarten — everyone was asking us about a sequel. So we wrote as our kids grew. MOMologues 2: Off to School covers the elementary school years. MOMologues 3: The Final Push (thanks, Sheil for the title) is about middle and high school years. The first show starts out hopeful and sweet, the second is a magic time, “the golden years of parenting,” as Stef says. The third show is the most bitter and sarcastic — reflecting parents and kids alike — ending with the oldest going off to college.
Our shows have appeared around the country and around the world. We have traveled to the Netherlands to see the show in Dutch — and let me tell you, that was a trip in every sense of the word. And we have traveled to Ireland to see hilarious MUMS offer their take. Favorite set pieces which we saw there: large kids blocks that could be turned around to spell different things like MOMS and WINE.
Another unforgettable memory is when a large group of moms came into the theater and they all had different numbers of leis around their necks - one for each child. The mom with seven leis? The audience gave her a standing ovation before the show even began.
We are especially proud of the many benefit performances which have taken place supporting women and children. We have worked with some amazing organizations involving military families, survivors of domestic violence, public school foundations, cancer patients, and more.
As a director and producer, one of the things I love about MOMologues — all three of them — is that the cast members are all women, can read onstage anywhere from about age 25 - 45, and can be any color, type, religion, cis, trans, or non-binary. Moms are moms. Universal in every sense.
The very funny and talented MOM cast member, Erica McDermott, who acted material from all three shows as her own kids were growing, is grateful for the parent education: “MOM3 got me ready to be a mother of teens. To find the funny in the good, the bad and the ugly.” From the wonderful Amie Lytle, our first real-life pregnant cast member: “MOMologues truly inspires a sense of community among performers, creators and audience members. I wanted to know all of the secrets and now, as a new mom, lines from the show pop into my head all the time.”
It is beyond gratifying that material from all three shows continues to speak to new groups of moms, and dads. Parenting is parenting, of course. We love hearing from theaters around the country - and it’s terrific to witness all the different ways they market the show.
Who knew all those years ago that three moms looking to make sense of the whole new motherhood experience would get together and write it all down as a play. That it would get performed in front of other moms, who were relieved to find out they were not crazy. That a series of comedies about motherhood would spring forth and now these plays are being performed around the country and around the world, so moms everywhere can feel validated.
Someday, maybe, we will write the GrandMOMologues. Stay tuned.