Sound and Stories

"If Mama Ain't Happy, Ain't Nobody Happy": An Interview with Writer/Director/Performer Katie Venit

If Mama Ain't Happy, Ain't Nobody Happy.png

by Lauren Becker

Mother’s Day weekend is almost upon us and we know just how you can spend it.

Join us at the Pablo Center May 13th at 7pm as we round out this season's Sound & Stories series with one final installment. 

Celebrate alongside local writers and storytellers Allyson Loomis, Yia Lor, Brooke Newmaster, Patti See, the Eau Claire Women in Theater (ecWIT), and musician Jerrika Mighelle for an evening of songs and stories on the vast and varying experiences of motherhood.

In preparation for this event, we had a chance to chat with the event’s director and storyteller, the tremendously talented Katie Venit.

Lauren Becker : For those of us who aren’t as familiar, could you tell us a little bit about the nature of the Sound & Stories Series?


Katie Venit : Sound and Stories is a series that combines the talents of local musicians with local writers and other spoken word performers. It's a great little event in an intimate space at the Pablo.

LB : Could you give us a teaser on what we can expect from the evening?

KV : Sure! All of our performers are women, and many of them chose to explore mother-daughter relationships, either through the perspective of the mother or daughter (or in the case of ecWIT's dramatic reading, both). Most pieces will be personal essays (with one fictional piece). We'll also have performances about mothering sons. So it's not just pieces about being a mother, but also having a mother. I'm really excited about the diversity of the ages represented in this show. Often when people think of motherhood, they think of new mothers and that astonishing time. But as this evening will illustrate, motherhood just begins when the baby is born. It just gets more interesting.

LB : Could you share with us some insights you’ve made about the brilliant artists you’ve had the pleasure of getting to know through your time spent planning this event?

KV : They're hilarious. Not every piece that we experience at the Sound and Stories event will be funny or have humor in it, but as people I think they're each delightfully funny. I also went into this process trusting the artists to do their best work. I figured all I had to do was tell them where to be and when, maybe with a little nudging to make sure we stay on theme. That faith has been completely justified. They're each so, so talented.

LB : Can you speak on how various manifestations of motherhood will be communicated with those who have never experienced it?

KV : That's a good question. I think the job of every good writer is to help the reader or audience understand an aspect of the human experience that they might not be familiar with. If we've done our job right, you won't have to have been a mother, or even had a significant relationship with your mother, to recognize some aspect of your own life in our stories. We've all known mothers, though, whether they were our own or someone else's, and we've all loved a woman who was a mother. I think this will appeal to everyone, mother or not.

Deb Brown, member of ecWIT and one of the artists who will be guiding us through this intimate evening of exploration, offered this thematically relevant quote courtesy of N.K. Jemison’s The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms : “In a child’s eye, a mother is a goddess. She can be glorious or terrible, benevolent or filled with wrath, but she commands love either way. I am convinced that this is the greatest power in the universe.” -

Can’t wait? Neither can we. Purchase your tickets here.


Love Hurts (But Less So with Stories and Music!)


The Sound and Stories Series was born of a single premise: everything’s better with music.  Even stories—as powerful as they are—can be amplified by the perfect musical note.

 (If you need proof of the magic of sound, we dare you to watch the shark attack scene from Jaws.  Without the famous orchestral accompaniment, the scene’s a bit of a yawner.  But we digress…)

On Thursday, February 13 at 7PM, the Chippewa Valley Writers Guild is excited to host the second in our Sound and Stories Series: “Love Hurts.”  Just in time for Valentine’s Day, this event will feature stories of heartbreak and hilarity by local writers Laura Buchholz, Garrett Denney, Jodie Arnold, Tom Giffey, and Jay Gilbertson.  Their stories will be accompanied by famed musicians Peter Phippen, Victoria Shoemaker and Tiit Raid.

We can’t say too much about the stories without giving them away, but if you like breakups (wait—who likes breakups?), ski jumps, online relationships gone awry, and the mysteries of love, life, and death, then you’ll need to be sure to snag your ticket today. 

As for the music, if you’ve never heard Grammy Award nominated flutist Peter Phippen, singer/songwriter guitarist/flutist Victoria Shoemaker and percussionist/visual artist Tiit Raid, you simply must.  Click here for a sample of their work.

Left to right: Peter Phippen, Victoria Shoemaker, Tiit Raid. Credit: Peter Phippen / Facebook

Left to right: Peter Phippen, Victoria Shoemaker, Tiit Raid. Credit: Peter Phippen / Facebook

What are you waiting for?  Be a part of a magical evening, and come celebrate love in all its variations!