This past Thursday 8/7, I had the honor of introducing the sold-out play reading of A Voice of My Own at LARAC gallery in Glens Falls, NY– — which was directed by my mother, Janet Davies. Because the show addressed the struggles and triumphs of women writers throughout history, Mom decided to combine the performance with a book signing of my Catcher’s Keeper during the reception afterwards.
Mom expected me to talk about my adventures in publishing in my introduction. What she heard was something entirely different. I’d like to share my speech for anyone who missed it Thursday. Here’s to you, Mom:
Hello everyone. Thank you for coming tonight to see A Voice of My Own. My name is Johannah Spero, author of Catcher’s Keeper. My mom, Janet Davies, director of the play you’re about to see, is expecting me to talk about my connection to this show: the challenges in getting my work published, how I use my initials to appear gender-neutral. But you can find me after the show if you want to hear about that. What I’d like to talk about is more important.
There comes a time in life when you see your mother not as just your mom—which is probably the most important job on the planet—but as a person. I remember, on a trip home from college, I visited my mother’s classroom where she taught high school English. I couldn’t believe the woman I witnessed at the front of the room. Now, I had seen her perform on stage before, as Daisy Mae in Lil Abner or Laura Wingfield in The Glass Menagerie. Throughout the 25 years Mom taught at Queensbury High School, she also directed the school’s annual musicals.
But in her classroom it was my mom—but not. Maybe it was a her mastery of the subject matter. Her confidence in explaining antiquated euphemisms. Or maybe it was simply her contagious enthusiasm in discussing Wuthering Heights—making a group of teenagers instant fans of Emily Bronte. (That’s no small feat!) In her classroom that day, she brought the text to life. Which is, essentially, what she’s doing today.
Mom started Theatre of the Mind in Sarasota, Florida after becoming friendly with another actress (Emily) who was tired of auditioning and never getting parts. Mom not only embraced the opportunity to start a theatre program, she encouraged her friend to stretch herself. She believed in Emily. They started a play reading group. They continue to perform 4 shows during the winter season—and since their inception 4 years ago, they’ve had sold out performances for nearly every reading.
Mom’s actress friend Emily is not the only one who has blossomed under Mom’s mentorship. Mom’s encouragement and belief in others has helped countless students (some of whom are in this show!) and thousands of actors—both male and female. And her influence continues…and is felt today in this very room.
In this play, you will hear some extraordinary stories about women writers—many classic authors that have helped shaped our culture and humanity—female authors who overcame surprising obstacles to become published. Some stories you might find unjust, shocking, even disturbing. But I challenge us all to accept these stories not as a shameful part of history but rather as a celebration. Let’s celebrate what these women have achieved. They have paved the way for future writers, inspired women of today to follow their passion, to achieve their dreams. To write. I am just one example.
Every successful person does not come by that success alone. Behind every successful woman, you will find her champion. It was my mother who inspired me to change careers and teach. And it was my experience teaching that inspired the idea for my book—a book that Mom helped me brainstorm when it was just a germ of an idea. My mom is behind it all and always has been. My champion is my mother, Janet Davies. She truly gave me a voice of my own.
Love you, Mom.
Enjoy the show!
The show was put on through ETC (Experimental Theatre Company)– — a branch of Glens Falls Community Theatre.
About A VOICE OF MY OWN by Elinor Jones (according to Dramatists Play Service)
Covering a broad spectrum from Sappho to writers of the present day, the play points up not only the triumphs of women in literature, but also the discouragement, derision and disbelief to which they were too often subjected. Spanning twenty-six centuries, the play evokes the words and feelings of women who were frequently obliged to hide behind anonymity or male names in order to practice their art, and from whom fantastic strength of character and indomitability were required. That they succeeded so brilliantly in their efforts is not only a tribute to these talented women in particular but, in a more general sense, to the irrepressible spirit of the entire “other half” of humanity, whose voice would not be denied.