Performer Interviews, Q & A, and performance excerpts
with Marsh and MarshStream founder Stephanie Weisman
Thursday August 5, 2021
Melissa is parallel-writing her next one-woman show and her first book. Once a month, she will share a 20 – 30 minute excerpt of this emerging work.
In this unique series, audience members will have the opportunity to go deep with acclaimed storyteller Melissa Bangs in the realms of love, death, loss, grief, forgiveness, spirit, the inexplicable, cancer, womanhood, motherhood, identity, self-worth, sexuality, sexual trauma and more.
Join us each month in the “writers’ room” to hear another excerpt of MAMA and then engage directly with the Melissa, Artist, and Stephanie, Artistic Director, about the piece.
Click Box to Watch Below
Think of MAMA as a series of eulogies or love letters to the Great Beyond.
Melissa says this about this series…
In 2018, I lost my mom to lung cancer. In those final 10 months she was a stone cold warrior, a terrified little girl, a monk with transcendence in her eyes and a raunchy comedienne that could find an audience anywhere. And I, her only daughter, did everything I could to show up in each moment… present, vulnerable, true, grounded… and give her anything she might need to feel safe, to feel held, to feel loved. She was one of the greatest loves of my life. Our love was deep and fierce, raw and messy, steady and unending. In her final act, we let go of many of the old stories, the well-worn pathways defined by unhealed wounds. We put our dukes down, leaned in and found nothing but love.
MAMA is a result of thousands of words scribbled onto the page, hammered on a keyboard or recorded by voice memo as I cried about her with the cottonwood trees along the Bitterroot River, as I laughed about her with the bursting purples and reds, the blues and oranges of her perennial gardens in full bloom, and as I whispered with her living spirit under the moon.
For the longest time, I didn’t know if these words were simply for me, a way to process my grief, a way to hold her close and keep her laughter, her smell, her wild spirit alive and with me. But, you know, my mama kind of always belonged on stage. The world was her stage and she was the Queen of Over-sharing! She was a walking, talking, sparkling, beautiful, foul-mouthed event. So, in honor of her, I’ve decided to share, or over-share, these stories.
This series is a part of the creative distillation process as I excavate and polish the core stories that will make up the upcoming show & book. You will have a chance to witness, and perhaps even influence, the emerging works as they come to be.
About the Guests
Melissa Bangs is a storyteller, comedienne, writer, director and producer. She finds her love of walking barefoot in the dirt, back floating down a river, growing her own food and being in wide-open wild spaces from the Montana in her, five generations back on her dad’s side. She finds her love of food from all over the world, joining packed dance floors, walking fast-paced city streets through extraordinary architecture and enhancing every story with f-bombs as if they were punctuation from the Massachusetts/Rhode Island and Scot in her, on her mama’s side.
Her first one-woman show Playing Monopoly with God & Other True Stories rocked thousands of hearts and blew minds. Drawing on her comedic roots from the Upright Citizens’ Brigade in NYC, Melissa toured with her husband, Eric, daughter, Adelaide and their 130 pound dog, Etta James. Over the past seven years, Melissa shared her harrowing journey with postpartum psychosis with sold out and packed houses all over the country. Parallel to her performance journey, Melissa developed a peer-led storytelling workshop designed to allow moms to excavate their truest voice around traumatic and painful experiences in early parenthood. This peer-led model for overcoming trauma was developed into a curriculum, funded by the California Healthcare Foundation and is currently being replicated in LA County in partnership with Maternal Mental Health NOW.
Also in partnership with MMHNOW, she led a series of workshops throughout LA county for moms and, in the spring of 2020, directed two virtual storytelling events in LA. In 2018, Melissa produced and directed MOMedy, a highly collaborative performance, presenting the hilarious yet heart-wrenching early parenthood stories of 7 moms and a dad. In 2019, she partnered with Salish storyteller/advocate April Charlo of the Flathead Nation. With support from Blue Cross Blue Shield of Montana, they shared their stories and led storytelling workshops for indigenous moms in tribal communities. Melissa is also a co-founder and emcee for Healthy Mothers Healthy Babies’ Perinatal Mental Health Conference which, in 2020, brought together over 250 providers from all over MT, CA and WA. Over five years she has partnered with HMHB to bring maternal mental health education to hundreds of providers working with moms and their families in this very tender period.
Kimleigh Smith is an Actress, Best- Selling Author, Internationally Acclaimed Multi-Award Winning Solo Performer, Sex Positive, Sexual Assault Awareness Advocate, Speaker, Founder of the “Embrace Your Cape!” philosophy, Singer, Dancer, Creator, Director, Producer, Superhero, Queen, Life Transformer, Life Coach & Life Long Cheerleader. A graduate Emporia State University, she received a BS in Psychology.Kimleigh is a member of SAG-AFTRA & AEA. Her first movie was Garry Marshall’s “The Princess Diaries.” Some of her television credits include, “Shameless”, “9-1-1”, “Everything’s Gonna Be Okay”, “Criminal Minds,” “Scandal,” “Castle,” “Grace and Frankie,” “The Mindy Project,” “Bones,” “The Mentalist,” “Parenthood,” “Key and Peele,” “Law and Order:LA,” and “Heroes.” Kimleigh has proudly written and continues to perform her solo show, T-O-T-A-L-L-Y!, receiving rave reviews and awards worldwide. Kimleigh’s career continues to flourish in theatre, commercials, voiceover, television, and film.
Sharon Eberhardt’s solo performances, Crazy Famous and Savage Arts, were both performed at The Marsh and at Fringe festivals. Her plays for other actors have been performed in NY and across the U.S. She is working on a nonfiction book for kids about Million Dollar Math Problems –seven math mysteries with $1,000,000 prizes. She has an MFA in Playwriting from Columbia University.
About the Host
Stephanie Weisman founded and has been the Artistic/Executive Director of The Marsh since its inception in 1989. Under her leadership, The Marsh has grown from a one-night-a-week performance series to producing 600-700 shows annually on its four stages. In addition to its developing work performance series, The Marsh’s programs include: artist-in-residencies, after-school and summer workshops for youth both onsite and in 5 SFUSD, and performance development classes, workshops and Performance Initiatives. In 1996 Stephanie spearheaded the drive to successfully buy their 12,000 sq ft facility on Valencia Street in San Francisco. This increased The Marsh’s programs four-fold as well as provided for a stable Bay Area arts organization. In 2010, The Marsh added a second venue in Berkeley. In 2020, Stephanie initiated MarshStream. She is currently at work developing her opera, Aphrodisia, with dancer, Wei Wang.