Just like that! Ex Fabula’s Season Eleven was a wrap… Like all Ex Fabula events since March, All Stars was on Zoom – so no worries about parking around Turner Hall. Who cares about face-to-face interaction when you don’t have to find a space in the once lively Deer District?
Five audience favorites from the season offered their takes on the theme “Imposter”. I know what imposters, and “imposter syndrome” are. “Fake it till you make it” – yes, I know that. I had to look up “catfishing”. I learn new stuff all the time blogging for Ex Fabula.
The first teller was Patty McNamee Rosenberg. Earlier this year, Patty had the audience laughing, then stunned into tears at the “In My Mind” slam. For “Impostor”, Patty told us how she – raised seriously Catholic – played the role of a Jewish wife and mother until she was widowed after thirty years of interfaith marriage.
When Patty was in the hospital for the birth of her second son, Jonathan, she got a routine visit from the hospital rabbi. Her (Jewish) husband Stan, who was in the trophy business, was off at a trade show. Patty was feeling ill and supercharged on hormones when the rabbi arrived.
Now Patty knew that by tradition, a child must have a Jewish mother to be considered Jewish. She had chosen not to convert when she married Stan. The rabbi was compelled to break hard news to Patty: her infant son was disqualified from becoming the Messiah. She described how, in her volatile state, she freaked out about this. Can’t I get a second opinion? I have to let people know!
When she reached Stan on the phone, he calmed her down. Their son could be many things, even if Messiah was out of reach. Stan said we could change his name to Jesus. Patty told us that Jonathan grew up to be a part-time carpenter. And he has twelve special friends…
Jessica Laub, audience fav from “Signs” joined the Zoom from her art studio in the Toy Factory building in Riverwest. That’s where she creates ceramics, mosaics and paintings. Jessica is self-taught. When MARN (Milwaukee Artists Resource Network) asked her to serve as a mentor to other artists, imposter syndrome kicked in. But Jessica decided to challenge herself and do it.
When she went to the first gathering of mentors she was excited and terrified. She was sure they’d “find her out” and expel her. If you’re a working artist, feeling like a fraud keeps you from placing value on your work. Jessica found a mental health counselor to help her overcome that feeling.
One summer when she was volunteering at Peace Camp as an arts and crafts counselor, the music teacher asked about her training. Where’d you go to art school? Jessica flinched as she prepared to explain that she was self-taught. An impostor! But the music teacher said: Way to step into your own power.
That was powerful to Jessica. She doesn’t shrink from recognition any more – she claims it. Recently, she was featured as “Artist of the Day” in OnMilwaukee.com. Yeah – she’s an artist. A famous Milwaukee artist, not an impostor at all.
Sara Beth Nelson, audience favorite at November 2019’s “Goodbye” slam, has been a storyteller for a long time. When researching and preparing a story to perform at a festival in Georgia, she faced a dilemma that Ex Fabula tellers don’t. Stories for our events are our own – personal and true. That’s the rule.
Sara was researching a woman named Mayhayley Lancaster. Mayhayley was a serious character in South Georgia. She considered herself to be a seer and an oracle. People told her things, and many people believed the mysterious things she told them when they sought advice.
Sara doesn’t believe in psychics, or channeling, so she was conflicted. Should she tell a story about Mayhayley; or enter her persona and tell the story as Mayhayley. She read a biography, then found more information in a book aptly titled “Weird Georgia”. There were coincidences and symmetries that were compelling, even to skeptical Sara.
Sara, a “professional talker”, like Mayhayley has a sister who’s a professional pianist. Mayhayley’s sister would play the piano for Mayhayley. People come to Sara, as they went to Mayhayley. In the end, Sara concluded that she was chosen by Mayhayley to be Mayhayley. She rehearsed and performed with conviction! No impostor.
Leah Anderson, champ from the “Faith” slam, partnered up with a man who had two children. Steeped in the rich literary tradition of hated and feared stepmothers, naturally she was nervous the first time she met them. But it went great! They clicked right away.
She enjoyed play on trampolines, water fights, reading stories and martial arts games with them. Gave and received sincere, tangible love. This went on for several years. Leah felt the joy of being an important part of their lives – the real thing. But one time, they went away for two weeks with their biological mother, and Leah felt a shift in Eve (the daughter’s) attitude when they returned.
Leah’s partner talked to her, and reported back Eve loves you very much, but doesn’t love why you’re in our lives. Leah had learned never to compare herself to their mom. But, as she stuck around, weathering that change, she realized that it’s enough to be around, and be who you are in a child’s life. Just the real you, not an impostor mother.
Finally, Jenn Hoepner took the screen. She won the “Vacation” slam last December. Jenn used the impostor theme to supply a sequel to a story she told some years back. When she was in college in Madison, she met a super-attractive guy one night. They took to a secluded spot near the Memorial Union to get it on since they both shared tiny apartments with roommates.
They were caught in the act by a police officer, who lectured them on their lewd behavior and asked for ID. Jenn didn’t have any on her. When the officer asked for her name and address, she piped Kelly Chmielewski. 1109 Daisy Lane, Oconomowoc. He suspected nothing. Who else would know how to spell a name like that?
But how did Jenn spell it so flawlessly? Back in the days of snail mail, people had pen pals. Someone you wrote letters to! And they’d write you back. Kelly Chmielewski was Jenn’s pen pal, so she’d spelled it on envelopes over and over. Jenn used that alias more than once. Underage drinking? Skinny dipping? Kelly C did it, not Jenn. Every once in a while, Jenn had a pang of conscience. Could the real Kelly be getting in trouble on her account?
Now Kelly is a step-cousin of Jenn’s. Jenn is Facebook friends with Kelly’s mom. The original tale aired on WUWM. Jenn knew Kelly’s mom listened to public radio. Sure enough, someone who heard Jenn on the radio messaged Kelly’s mom with the link! Jenn reached out, since she was decisively busted for her impostor act. Turns out the whole Chmielewski clan listened to the tale and thought it was hilarious. Kelly herself friended Jenn. So, now we know. Jenn got away clean.