Tuesday, December 9, 2014

These are 10 Shows...

You know what's cool about Chicago's storytelling scene? You can't define it.

There isn't one right way to tell a story and there are countless ways to do a show: weekly mics, curated showcases, thematic one-off events and hybrids in between. Some performers read, while others never bring notes onstage. Musicians, comedians, puppets and spoken word artists. The only way to figure out if you like something is to try it.

So I asked a bunch of hosts to give me two words to describe what they want their audiences and performers to take away. Here are some of my favorites. I've experienced all of these as an audience member and all but one as a performer. If you want in, check out their sites or e-mail the hosts. Better yet, show up and give it a try.

The Moth
Every story lover's got one, a Moth memory. First time in the car or random podcast with headphones. Go to a live event and experience it in stereo, packed and suddenly you're listening to something familiar. Craning cross-legged on pub floor or across the spread of people from the stage, feel the rush of your own story fall into place. Your name is called, you heard the theme an hour ago. Time starts.
Audience: Honest
Performers: Dialogue

The Paper Machete
When I was a kid, I fell in love with reruns of The Ed Sullivan Show - Topo Gigio, Phyllis Diller, Elvis. Never knew who you'd see next, but you knew you'd crush at least once, laugh twice and fight the urge to dance or celebrate full-body by the end. The Paper Machete culls the richest writers, thinkers and performers into a live Chicago magazine and host Christopher Piatt makes you want to dance. Come once and you'll leave wondering "When's the next Saturday I can make it?"
Audience: Entertained
Performers: Challenged

Loose Chicks
Twice a month, a fistful of women shake their raw into the softest settings: a Blue Line bookstore that doesn't carry duplicates and a quiet coffee shop just below Sheridan Red. I've seen a comic, monologist and spoken word artist with 30 years between them move the crowd like frenzied atoms. Ask a Loose Chick what kind of story you should tell and she'll give it to you straight: vulnerable, revealing and bold. 
Audience: Powerful
Performers: Bold

Nerdologues: Your Stories
Joy, Your Stories is pure mixed candy joy. Your family talent show, that one year when everyone actually wanted to do something. So you sing, your sister tells jokes and your mom shares that story she shouldn't have. Your uncle stirs all the warmth in the room into this connected cake-pie with his guitar. Makes you wish you guys got together more often. So you listen to the podcast.
Audience: Welcoming
Performers: Welcoming

The Stoop
Ride or die these two kids, Lily and Clarence Be. No it's Clarence and Lily Be, but they're so inseparable their names run tight together. They're just as much fun to watch onstage as the featured tellers. Once a month, no notes in the heart of Humboldt Park. You get one piece and tell it like you do on a summer night, sitting on the stoop with a smoke, a beer and your best friends. I got so heated last night ...
Audience: Understanding
Performers: Real

Reading Under the Influence
Fires rumble Sheffield's to night life as the word-thirsty collect around the music stand. A pile of books claims the center, waiting for the winners. Gather round, take a shot, these writers pivot pressed words from paper hands. Trivia, Tequila, sometimes Jack and tall lines of shouting answers invoke the readers' shifting tones. It's like Dead Poets Society in a Lakeview beer garden.
Audience: Glee
Performers: Camaraderie

Story Lab
Story Lab was the first story event I told with in Chicago and it was a warm, welcoming learning experience. Scott Whitehair has made a business of finding and helping new tellers start out. Like other shows, Story Lab holds a short workshop to prep performers. The line-up's never the same and my favorite part was making friends and seeing our journeys unfold.
Audience: Inclusion
Performers: Inclusion

Story Club
The energy at Story Club is metallic, features deliver and first-timers wait. Wait to hear their own names called to the mic to release their story, wait to hear the timer buzz them done. Building, rushing, then silence and the supportive applause of a ready crowd. Notes or no notes, sign up, sit down and experience a range of tellers in biweekly north and south side shows.
Audience: Connected
Performers: Addicted

Tell it from the Heart
Audiences don't usually talk balk, except with woops or trite emotion-shot words. But here they tell you what they liked in your story and what they'd want more of. Part show, part workshop, it's a unique experience for new and seasoned storytellers but a helpful one, especially if you want to try something new or have trouble reading your audience. Everyone come ready to take notes!
Audience: Interactive
Performers: Authentic

Write Club
The writer, the writer has to rip the war from her insides and slam it on the floor for her crowd to decide. Three rounds of two opponents are pit against each other to fight for competing ideas. It's not her crowd yet. Unapologetic gladiator prose, each reader has 7 minutes to win the audience. Spectators leave filled but wanting more, performers floating down from the explosive sound of smash-joining with others for that quickest moment.
Audience: Phiosophotainment
Performers: Badassification

Contributing Writer - Natasha Samreny
Natasha is a writer, story teller, producer and stand-up comedian.