A Fort Lee mother, journalist, blogger and activist has been cast in the first-ever New York production of Listen to Your Mother, a show taking place at the JCC Manhattan in May in which authors, writers, bloggers and performers read their original essays about motherhood.
Estelle Sobel Erasmus of Fort Lee is a journalist, former magazine editor, author and columnist who said her life has completely changed since the birth of her daughter in April 2009.
Erasmus described Listen to Your Mother, a national, 10-city series of readings, as being an event “in celebration of all aspects of motherhood.”
“The mission is to give voice to motherhood in all of its complexity, diversity and humor,” she said.
The show in New York features 15 performers; across the country a total of about 150 people are performing.
Erasmus heard about the opportunity to audition for the show through one of the Meetup.com mommy groups of which she is a member. Producers wanted original stories that “displayed something that’s totally you—your feelings about motherhood,” according to Erasmus.
“I had this piece about my daughter,” she said. “Out of all the journalistic pieces that I had done, this is the one personal essay piece that I did. I felt particularly strong about it, and I wanted to give it further life.”
Erasmus didn’t want to give too much away, in part because she wants people to come see the show, but she did say her story is about how she views a situation through her then 18-month-old daughter's eyes.
“And because of how she reacts—through her—I see my possibilities and potential all over again,” Erasmus said, adding that she read her piece “from the heart” at the audition.
Once an opera singer, who’s done some acting—she even had a “five-line and under” part on The Guiding Light—and made numerous TV and radio appearances when she was a magazine editor, Erasmus admitted to being a little nervous for the audition at the end of February. But it would appear she quickly overcame that.
“Most people, when they talk about their top fears, one of the most common is public speaking,” Erasmus said. “But I love it.”
She learned about a week after the audition that she got the part. Her first rehearsal was March 11 for the show that takes place in early May, and she called the women she’s now working with “unbelievable.”
“They’re movers and shakers,” Erasmus said. “What was really special to me was that the women were all so empowering to each other. We’re all mothers, and everybody was really supportive. We all did a run-through. We read our stories, and I felt that it was so exciting to me to be with this level of creative, great writers—great women.”
Erasmus, who writes a blog called “Musings on Motherhood, Mid-life and other Forms of Madness” that covers topics relating to motherhood and parenting, said she considers herself “a journalist first,” but that as her now nearly three-year-old daughter gets older, she finds herself more focused on other types of women’s issues in addition to parenting.
“I loved writing about the technical aspects of parenting,” she said. “But I’m kind of looking broader now.”
She is speaking on behalf of Mothers and More in Toronto on May 9 at a Motherhood Initiative for Research and Community Involvement (MIRCI) conference called "What Do Mothers Need?" Motherhood Scholars and Activists Speak out on Maternal Empowerment for the 21st Century. The title of her talk is “Rebelling against ‘Mom’: Finding Fulfillment Beyond the Media’s Myths of Motherhood.” She said she also considers herself an advocate and supporter of local, women-owned businesses.
“I have reinvented myself since becoming a mother, and I am now looking towards activism and towards a goal of having society and government value the invisible, unpaid work of mothering,” Erasmus said. “We’re raising the citizens of tomorrow, and what happens is the work of mothering—cooking, cleaning, chauffeuring, making appointments, planning, thinking constantly about everything—is invisible work.”
One of her goals, she said, is to get society to value the unpaid work mothers and caretakers do “by separating the role of ‘mother’ from the ‘work.’”
Erasmus said she’s particularly excited to be a part of Listen to Your Mother, not only because it’s “giving life” to that story she wrote about her daughter, but also because it’s “impelling” her to get more involved in “this universe of writer/performers.”
“It’s kind of melding my passions, which is writing and acting and performing and telling a story,” Erasmus said, “and working with women who are very supportive.”
Listen to Your Mother is May 6 at 2 p.m. at the JCC Manhattan’s Goldman-Sonnenfeldt Family Auditorium, located at 334 Amsterdam Ave. at 76th Street in New York. Tickets are $30 with 10 percent of all ticket sales going to the charity, Room to Grow, supporting mothers and children. Sponsors of the event include The Motherhood and The Museum of Motherhood. Rene Syler of Good Enough Mother will be the host.
More information, including how to buy tickets, is available on the Listen to Your Mother NYC website.