LISC National

Moms Creating Theater & Community

By Margy Waller. Photos by Mikki Schaffner.

Cradle Cincinnati leaders are on a mission to reduce the number of babies who die in our community. They asked some artists to co-design a creative strategy toward this goal. This kind of community and artist-led approach is called Creative Placemaking. And in Greater Cincinnati, LISC and ArtsWave have been championing this human-centric approach to community building and development.

Ryan Mulligan of Cradle connected with two theater artists, Bridget Leak and Trey Tatum. Together the three devised a plan to use theater and storytelling to create more awareness of strategies for reducing infant mortality in the Cincinnati region. With contributions from Cradle, LISC, and ArtsWave they were able to include 13 women in the 13-week initiative.

Sharing stories.
Sharing stories.

Each week started with coordinated rides to the Price Hill firehouse where MyCincinnnati (the youth orchestra) gets together every afternoon. Then there was breakfast with the whole group, including all the kids. Paid caretakers watched the children for the next couple hours while the Moms created together—often with an assist from the artists of OTR Improv, using improv and theater community building techniques.

They started with theater games. Like: stand in a circle—pass an imaginary ball while you tell a story you make up together, one sentence per person at a time.

And storytelling: think about what you would do for yourself if you had one extra hour a day. The Moms laughed at this. As if....

But then they got quiet as they imagined what they could do with one hour for themselves.

All the while, they were creating bonds until one day, a group of Moms asked to be dropped off at one house so they could spend time together outside the official session.

After meeting for 13 weeks, the Moms put on a show. The Firehouse filled with family, friends, and neighbors of Mary, Loretta, Angie, Eve, Taylor, Melvina, Kadijah, Nicole, Jessica, Tara, Tiasia, Tiffany, and Camero.

Their storytelling about pregnancy, loss, family, motherhood, and community was revealing and compelling—there were tears, as well as shouts of joy and support.

Getting into action.
Learning about theater.
One of the moms and her baby.
Teaching theater.
A session in action

What's next? Moms who want to perform again will have new partners and resources to develop their stories for a broader audience, including a likely partnership with Xavier University to offer a professional stage experience. Ultimately this means sharing with a broader community audience, and supporting the Cradle Cincinnati goal of building a new public understanding about steps to reducing infant mortality in our region.

Not the end....Stay tuned.

Full house for the show!
Full house for the show!