Keith Ecker Storyteller

You and your mother are very into storytelling, right? I mean, who isn’t? It’s an accessible and low-cost art form to both digest (after all most shows in this town are free) or to participate in (after all we don’t require ample training before you’re allowed on stage).

While storytelling has existed as a form in Chicago for many years, literally decades, the neo-storytelling revolution seems to have really taken root around 2009 with the creation of Story Club, This Much Is True and Essay Fiesta, which all sprouted up around the same time. This was all pure coincidence. Other shows predate these three (Funny Ha Ha and 2nd Story, specifically), but these three shows are where many of today’s most visible storytellers within the “scene” popped their performance cherries, so to speak.

At the same time, the same storytelling phenomenon was sweeping the country, with shows in New York and L.A. and other major cities, forming national communities of storytellers.

Today, Chicago boasts at least a dozen storytelling/live lit shows. I’d argue we are ground zero for this form, and I couldn’t be happier. We’ve got a great tradition of storytelling rooted here, thanks to the likes of Studs and Ira and Royko and many others.

But one thing that I know is on a lot of people’s minds right now is where do we go from here?  Now that we have created this “community” of storytelling, what do we do with it? And what do we do with the form so that it doesn’t stagnate?

Well, there are some pretty cool things going on right now in the city that you should know about, and they are all projects that, in one way or another, expand the scope of storytelling, intermingling it with other forms or repurposing it to create new art. Below are just some of what people are up to that I know about:

  • *  Former Stories at the Store producer Jen Bosworth just finished her run of Why Not Me?,  her critically acclaimed one-woman show (directed by Essay Fiesta co-founder Alyson Lyon), at the New York Fringe Festival. The show came together in part from her work within the live lit/storytelling scene.
  • *  Write Club producer Ian Belknap is about to produce his one-man diatribe Bring Me the Head of James Franco…
  • *  Storyteller Erin Kahoa and I (along with a slew of storytelling talent) are going to be producing an experimental play that mixes storytelling, theatre and folk music in a work we call “Welcome to PleasureTown” at Stage 773. There is talk that the project might pan out into a regular podcast.
  • *  Speaking of podcasts, Shannon Cason, Willy Nast and Karen Shimmin, and others are going the podcasting route. Don Hall and Tyler Greene just did a two-part live lit-focused podcast for General Admission.
  • *  My good buddy Monte is producing an amazing show called Shoot’em Up that takes stories and converts them into scripts, which then become short films. I saw the results last night and its amazing! (One of my stories will get the film treatment soon!)
  • *  My co-producer of Guts & Glory, the amazingly uber talented Sam Irby, has her debut collection of essays coming out in September. It’s called Meaty, and you need to read it.
  • *  Scott Whitehair, Ian Belknap, Dana Norris, Kelsie Huff and myself have all been teaching at various venues, with the bulk of us conducting classes at StoryStudio Chicago, which has been a great supporter of the form.
  • *  I have an interest in some other unique applications of storytelling, specifically for personal and professional growth. In fact, I’ll be speaking about storytelling for brands at the upcoming Content Jam conference.

Any other unique applications of the form? Did I miss anything? Let me know!

3 Responses to Storytelling and Live Lit: Where do we go from here?

  1. Please come out and see what we’re doing with “A Month Of”!

  2. Malinowski says:

    Malinowski’s newest solo show “a little bit not normal” was developed at 16th St. theater and victory Gardens and is ready to launch late 2013. Coming out of the closet with my bout of clinical depression. My five year plan is to become part of the national conversation around mental illness. And that’s what this storyteller is doing

    • Thanks for mentioning the classes! I wanted to link to my class info, if that is OK, as I am not based out of StoryStudio. Clicking my name in this post will take you to my website, where there are more details.

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