About Me and My Mom

About Me and My Mom

Dana Black is the host and creator of I Swear on My Mother’s Grave. She is a TV/film/voiceover/stage actor, and producer based in Chicago. She grew up in the suburbs outside Chicago, and attended Skidmore College, in upstate New York…many years ago. She has performed on stages across Chicago including Steppenwolf, Northlight, Timeline Theatre, Raven, Jackalope, Lifeline, American Blues, Steep and About Face, where she was nominated for an Equity Jeff Award for Best Supporting Actress. She has also performed on stages in Key West and in Fayetteville, Arkansas. TV credits include Chicago Med, Empire, Inferno, Proven Innocent and Hot Date. Dana also helped run and coordinate an arts mentorship program in Chicago for 2 years that worked to create pathways to bring women and non-binary artists into full and equal participation in the arts. She is a graduate of The School at Steppenwolf in Chicago, and is a proud SAG-AFTRA union member represented by Grossman & Jack Talent Agency. Dana and her boyfriend Jonathan live in Andersonville in Chicago, along with their lab/pit mix named Beckett. He is black with white paws.

Photo by Ian McLaren

Dana Black is the host and creator of I Swear on My Mother’s Grave. She is a TV/film/voiceover/stage actor, and film producer based in Chicago. She grew up in the suburbs outside Chicago, and attended Skidmore College, in upstate New York…many years ago. She has performed on stages across Chicago including Steppenwolf, Northlight, Timeline Theatre, Raven, Jackalope, Lifeline, American Blues, Steep and About Face, where she was nominated for an Equity Jeff Award for Best Supporting Actress. She has also performed on stages in Key West and in Fayetteville, Arkansas. TV credits include Chicago Med, Empire, Inferno, Proven Innocent and Hot Date. Dana also helped run and coordinate an arts mentorship program in Chicago for 2 years that worked to create pathways to bring women and non-binary artists into full and equal participation in the arts. She is a graduate of The School at Steppenwolf in Chicago, and is a proud SAG-AFTRA union member represented by Grossman & Jack Talent Agency. Dana and her boyfriend Jonathan live in Andersonville in Chicago, along with their lab/pit mix named Beckett. He is black with white paws.

Photo by Ian McLaren

About Me and My Mom

I have been acting since I was 8. My first show was Cybernella, a futurist approach to Cinderella where Cinderella was a robot. I played Glenda, the Good Stepsister, and I got to wear a boa… and I guess a big hat, which I forgot about.

The photo below was taken at the last show my mother saw me in, which was in Chicago in 2010. A show where I played Emily Dickinson’s lover. Trust me, it was fun. My mom took photos after the show with me, her friends, and some of the cast on a disposable camera. She was slurring her speech and having trouble standing, and probably in pain the entire show as she sat on metal folding chairs in the basement of a church. She brought me roses, but kept asking me why I was acting embarrassed by her.

I was. I wasn’t rude, but I felt nervous she would say something odd or weird—but only because she had taken too many pain pills the night before, or hadn’t slept, or both. I knew most people wouldn’t be bothered by my mother, or find anything out of the ordinary, and that most would comment on how fun she was. No one would know about the neuropathy, pain, exhaustion, addiction spiral, and depression she was in. She had a cute Chico’s jacket on, come on, she looked good! 

I came home after closing night and she had written me a long, memory-filled email about my acting journey from birth and how much she loves watching me on stage. She saved all my programs from high school to my mid-20s. In her email, she wrote, “My passion equals family, teaching, music and in that order. Appreciate your space between your passion(s) and fill other needs. No one loves you more than me, tied with Nana and your father.” – Mom XXOO

I also found that disposable camera embarrassing at the time, but she was the smart one. She knew, and now I see. 

My mom died in her sleep in 2016, on a Saturday, about 2 hours before I was set to perform on another stage in Chicago. And this podcast is my way of talking about her death with other people in my life, other people who have lost their mothers—and I don’t just mean in death. There are lots of ways to lose a mother. 

I was. I wasn’t rude, but I felt nervous she would say something odd or weird—but only because she had taken too many pain pills the night before, or hadn’t slept, or both. I knew most people wouldn’t be bothered by my mother, or find anything out of the ordinary, and that most would comment on how fun she was. No one would know about the neuropathy, pain, exhaustion, addiction spiral, and depression she was in. She had a cute Chico’s jacket on, come on, she looked good! 

I came home after closing night and she had written me a long, memory-filled email about my acting journey from birth and how much she loves watching me on stage. She saved all my programs from high school to my mid-20s. In her email, she wrote, “My passion equals family, teaching, music and in that order. Appreciate your space between your passion(s) and fill other needs. No one loves you more than me, tied with Nana and your father.” – Mom XXOO

I also found that disposable camera embarrassing at the time, but she was the smart one. She knew, and now I see. 

My mom died in her sleep in 2016, on a Saturday, about 2 hours before I was set to perform on another stage in Chicago. And this podcast is my way of talking about her death with other people in my life, other people who have lost their mothers—and I don’t just mean in death. There are lots of ways to lose a mother.

I hope that by holding space for others to share, I might start to feel less alone and devasted…in losing the only mom I will ever have. I also hope I can start to remember some of the good days.

Thanks to Suzi Pond and Redbird Media Group, Alice Anderson, Meredith Montgomery, Matt Chapman, Na’Toria Marketing, Lora Nicole, Danny Bravman, Brian Golden, Jill Wolf, Heather Bodie, Tyler Meredith, Courtney Rioux, Jonathan Baude and all my friends for their love and support. And thanks to all the incredible guests on this podcast for agreeing to speak with me with such vulnerability and compassion and insight. We appreciate you subscribing, listening, and sharing with others!