Main Street News

Heather Dell’Amore Debuts No Hope for Oz at Stissing Center

By Published On: April 18th, 2024

Heather Dell’Amore’s No Hope for Oz debuts at the Stissing Center in Pine Plains, NY, on Sunday, April 28 at 4pm. 

The show addresses the ways in which motherhood mirrors childhood and how the way we grew up impacts the ways in which we treat our own children later on in life. 

Heather’s background 

Heather has a B.A. and M.A. in English Literature, and she also minored in sociology with a focus on gender studies. “My background in reading far too many books and studying human behavior in sociology certainly informs the way I write and the way I analyze and create stories,” she said. “It’s proved to be very helpful.” 

Heather, who is the daughter of a first-generation immigrant father and a stay-at-home mother, has been working in varying capacities since she was in the ninth grade. 

“I’ve always been a blue collar person. I’ve waited tables since I was 14 years old and still do. I’ve always been a laborer, so it’s not like I go on writing retreats, conferences, or to poetry club,” she said. “I think I just navigate the world differently, having grown up the way I did. All of my weird jobs have helped me become a good storyteller.” 

Heather grew up on Long Island and moved to the Hudson Valley when she met her now husband. “I think the funniest part of that is how much I love it here,” she mused. “If you would’ve told teenaged Heather that she would absolutely love living in a dairy town in upstate New York, she would have probably laughed in your face.” 

Putting together the show 

The process of putting together the show has been a real labor of love. “I’m not a wealthy person pursuing an art. I still have a job, I have three kids, and I volunteer regularly. It’s been a continuous process of carving out time and creating this show in fits and starts.” 

Once Heather was done writing the show, it was a matter of blocking out scenes and talking about how she’s going to perform the story that she’s written.

“I’m not an actress, so I found myself asking, ‘What am I doing?’ and ‘What did I get myself into?’” she laughed. “That’s been the hardest part, but my director, Samantha Jones of Hudson Valley Improv, is so great in telling me how to perform a story and how to use pauses and crescendos. My writing does that, but my telling doesn’t necessarily do that.” 

Heather is no stranger to stage fright, either. Whenever she performs at open mic nights, she always gets incredibly nervous beforehand. “I shake a lot. It looks like I’m cold,” she laughed. “The minute I get on stage, though, I’m fine. I think to myself, ‘you just have to fully embody what you’re doing or else it’s not going to land, and you’re already up here, so you might as well just do it well!’” 

The inspiration behind creating the show is the way that motherhood mirrors childhood. “I’ve noticed that there’s a mirror of your own childhood in the way that you parent or the things your children do and the way they behave,” she said. 

When she first became a mom, Heather found herself reading a lot of articles from the Gottman Institute, which is a research-based psychological organization that focuses on relationships. 

“There’s a phenomenon known as ‘ghosts in the nursery’, in which you’re afraid to parent,” she said. “The idea is that your own childhood bubbles up out of nowhere. It may have been 20 years since you last thought about that time your mother forgot to leave you a key, but here you are thinking about it, staring at this baby and wondering when you are going to disappoint them in the same way.” 

The inspiration to create the show also came off of an accolade that she received after winning a Moth StorySlam last year. The show she performed at the slam was a five minute story about her struggles with motherhood. She described motherhood as being similar to the part in the Wizard of Oz in which the characters are in the field of poppies and they fall asleep. 

“My life had a trajectory and it felt like I was forced to pause, like the big sleep in the poppy field. I figured why don’t I tell the truth about that? Why don’t I fully expound on the idea of that? Motherhood is hard, hurtful, great, and scary. You feel like your life isn’t yours anymore, so that was certainly the foundation of the show.” 

As far as taking a pause goes, Heather believes that society seems to want or prefer mothers to undergo a “permanent pause” in their lives when they have children. 

“The more I put myself out there and go to open mic nights, I feel that guilt weighing on me. Shouldn’t I be home? I think society tells us that we shouldn’t do this or that, and I’m fighting against that and doing it anyway.”

Why reflect now? 

There are a lot of personal reasons for Heather as to why she decided to write and perform the show now. Part of the inspiration came from watching the wildly popular show Ted Lasso.

“It was wholesome and positive, which is great, but I couldn’t help but watch that show and go, ‘he literally flew across the ocean to take a job in a sport he doesn’t even know and yet he has a ten year old child at home.’ If the show was Michelle Lasso instead, the pilot wouldn’t have even been watched by the executives,” she said. “The rage I felt over this idea that we allow fathers to do whatever they want and these things aren’t even an option for women. I feel the guilt all the time, like I’m not supposed to follow my dream of being a performer. I have no business doing that, but why does he get to? I figured I should do it too and change the paradigm.” 

While Heather is perfectly capable of “taking any blows” when she’s discussing the truth about her life and her own parenting, she had a bit of a difficult time reflecting back on her own childhood because she wasn’t only talking about herself, but also her own parents. 

“I don’t want to hurt my mom, but I do have to tell the truth,” she said. “It’s hard to be an editor of your own life and decide which stories are right for the theme of the show and the audience.” 

One of the more delicate scenes of the show centers around Woodstock ‘99. Heather watched the documentary and found herself reeling over the fact that her experience was incredibly different from what they were portraying in the documentary. 

“I didn’t want to put that scene in the show initially, but my director told me that it was brave and important, so we ended up including it,” she said. “It’s hard knowing what I’m going to reveal and it’s not that I don’t want to, but I fear the reaction when I do.” 

While rehashing old traumas has been healing in many ways, it’s also been difficult to relive them. When she first had her children, Heather said that she struggled a lot and couldn’t enjoy motherhood in the early days as much as she wished she could have. 

“I tell stories about when the kids were younger, and it’s hard to remember how much I struggled and how hard I was on them. The show centers on Lily because I see a lot of myself in her, and because of my own insecurities and dislike of myself in many ways, I’ve been hard on her because I don’t want her to be like me,” she explained. “It’s been hard to remember that I treated her that way.” 

In addition to the emotional struggles of rehashing much of her life, there is also the logistical struggle of simply never having enough time. “I cater an event and I’m up until midnight, so I don’t have time after, or a kid gets sick and there goes my writing day. It’s been difficult to make time.” 

Additionally, Heather has found herself rewriting parts of the show to make it relatable for all members of the audience. 

“It’s a woman-centric show, so my fear is that for my guy friends that will be there, it’ll either be too much for them or they’ll have no tangible part to latch onto and understand, so it doesn’t click,” she said. “I fear the alienation of half of the population, but that’s also the point. Women have been forced to watch how many superhero movies?” she laughed. 

Motherhood vs childhood 

Reflecting back on her own childhood now that she is a mother herself has allowed Heather to understand her own mother better and give her more grace for how she parented. 

“It’s not like it wasn’t the truth when my mom was hard on me or didn’t believe in me, but I give her grace that she had to parent a kid like me,” she said. “It’s allowed me to truly believe my children and honor the things that they say.” 

Watching the way her own children navigate through their childhoods and the ways in which they deal with difficult situations that are presented to them has allowed Heather to view her own childhood as incredibly valuable. 

“Childhood does shape who you are in many ways. It makes sense that I am that way because of that thing or this thing. Motherhood has allowed for that understanding.” 

So, is it true that you always end up becoming your mother? 

“Nobody wants to be their mother, but the funny thing is that the thing that hurt or bothered you most as a kid, you end up doing to your own children when you become a mother,” Heather said. “I hated that my mom was concerned with my looks, and I find myself sometimes asking my kids, ‘are you going to wear that?’ and then I think, ‘oh shit, it’s true!’ But there’s also some beauty in eventually becoming the women that came before us. It reminds us of their value.”

Debut show 

What is Heather most excited for about her debut show? “I’m excited for it to be over,” she laughed. “I can’t wait to be able to say that I did it. This is something I made and it’s real.” 

She’s also looking forward to seeing how she rises to the occasion and how it’s received by the audience. 

“I’m excited and nervous to see what people have to say. As much as it’s a performance and true stories, I’m a writer first and foremost. I’ve made interesting writing choices as well, so I’m looking forward to seeing who picks up on the subtext and how it comes to fruition later in the show.” 

Perhaps most importantly, she’s looking forward to seeing how her show resonates with the mothers in the audience. “It’s not just for me, but I also want it to be something special for someone else. If only one person comes up to me and says to me, ‘you said everything that I didn’t know I needed to hear,’ that would be enough for me,” she said.

Going forward, Heather is excited to see what happens with the show. She’ll likely end up applying to festivals and other similar events to reach a wider audience. 

“I have no business doing this and I did it anyway. So yes, it’s for a larger audience of women and mothers, but this show is a gift to myself and to my friends first and foremost. But most especially, it’s for my daughters. I owe all of my growth to them.”

No Hope for Oz debuts at the Stissing Center on Sunday, April 28 at 4pm. Tickets are available for purchase here.