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January 2014
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Suzanne Nance: Rediscovering an Art Form

A Tale from the Decameron by John William Waterhouse

A Tale from the Decameron by John William Waterhouse

Week 2: WFMT’s New Year’s Resolution for More Arts Coverage

In order to move others deeply we must deliberately allow ourselves to be carried away beyond the bounds of our normal sensibility.

—Joseph Conrad

Originating with prehistoric meals around the campfire, it is without a doubt one of the oldest art forms known to man: the art of telling a tale. Spinning the yarn is this week’s subject in WFMT’s expanded arts coverage; last week we featured sculptor Virginio Ferrari. For the scoop, Suzanne Nance went a-gathering at a local storytelling event.

Was this your first time hearing storytellers?
No, I actually come from a family of storytellers and often find myself surrounded by storytelling friends at WFMT and at home. This was however my first time attending a festival solely dedicated to the art of “Live Lit” performance.

1911 storyteller reciting from "The Arabian Nights"

1911 storyteller reciting from “The Arabian Nights”

It sounds like they deal with some very contemporary subjects. Are they family-friendly? Or do they have performances for different ages?
The Fillet of Solo Festival is definitely an adult festival. However, Lifeline Theatre (a festival host theatre) just opened The True Story of the 3 Little Pigs! If folks are interested in taking kids to a performance that is family friendly, it is billed as a safe and fun show and runs until February 16th.

Do these storytellers do this for a living or are they also actors or have other jobs?
Everyone I spoke with at the festival referenced a “day job” or mentioned other work as a performer. Several mentioned being musical, acting in other local troupes or working as a director, etc. I think for most involved in the Live Lit scene, storytelling is a passion and provides a regular opportunity to get on stage and connect with an audience. There seems to be several venues around Chicago, including bars and bookstores that are now hosting Live Lit events.

Do the host organizations offer classes or other storytelling events throughout the year?
I know that at least 2 of the storytelling collectives involved with the Fillet of Solo Festival keep a regular performance schedule around Chicago and offer classes. The Kates and 2nd Story (heard in our arts feature). In fact, I went to hear 2nd Story at Webster’s Wine Bar Monday evening. In addition to performing in Fillet of Solo, they perform at Webster’s on the second Sunday and Monday of every month. They had three new storytellers perform and one extraordinary veteran storyteller as part of the show. It was a lovely and supportive atmosphere and there was a large audience.

Can you tell us a little about a story that stuck with you? Why?
Monday evening at Webster’s Wine Bar, Maureen Riley performed with 2nd Story. Riley is an award-winning poet, writer, and filmmaker, as well as a life and wellness coach in Chicago. She shared a story about salsa dancing, her divorce, her young Latin lover and life. It was poignant. What I love about public storytelling is having the opportunity to hear real stories, from real people. I think that this kind of performance has the ability to promote emotional literacy and allows people to connect.

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