Get to know a little more about the storytelling series Here, Chicago through Janna Sobel

Here, Chicago (c) 2014

Tell out readers a little more about Here, Chicago.

Here, Chicago is the new name for the storytelling show many people know as Here’s the Story. We are a beloved live storytelling event and potluck that has helped build powerful connections between creative communities and galvanize the live-lit scene in Chicago over the last three years. The show happens the first Sunday of every month, and features five invited tellers from all walks of life– teachers, scientists, cab drivers, ministers, farmers, lawyers, political strategists; people who aren’t just professional writers or performers– and five open spots that anyone from our audience can use to tell.

Our goal is to bring people together from Chicago’s various creative, social and professional communities to meet and share on common ground. It is with great love for this city– which continues to be a home for some of the most important technological, educational, theatrical, political, musical, literary and comedic movements of our time– that we offer a place for people to be enriched by good people outside our usual circles.

Here, Chicago (c) 2014
Here, Chicago (c) 2014

What sets your series apart from other reading series in the city?

First thing I’d say is the environment. Our show takes place on beautiful sets and stages at Stage 773 and Theater Wit, which lend a theatrical frame to the performances. We have regular audiences of around 150 people, who come as much for community as they come for a night of lively and powerful theater. We also feature a gigantic potluck dinner that our guests create for each other each month, so people can enjoy both dinner and comfy theater seating with every show. Some of my favorite live-lit events happen in crowded bars, but it was important to us from the beginning to have a different environment. Our show is also free if you bring a dish for the potluck.

Another distinction is that we are a storytelling event, and not a reading event. Which means that we honor the old-timey art of direct, person-to-person storytelling. No one is reading off a page on our stage. This is challenging and gratifying for many people, and writers in particular view our show as an initiation into embodied performance. Another unique thing along the lines of content, is the fact that we don’t predetermine theme. Storytellers are invited to use the show as an opportunity to listen to their own sense of what they have to give that’s good. In this way, themes always emerge at our shows that are more interesting and delightful than we could predetermine.

A final distinction that may be less obvious is the long-term result of a patient and intentional community cross-pollination process. Our invited storytellers are diverse along the lines of profession, social identity, economics, education, age, cultural background, sexual orientation and politics, and our audiences are the same. At Here, Chicago, you’ll be in a room full of people who don’t all look like you, connecting over food and stories.

In your mind, what makes a reading series great?

Any reading series that fosters the art of skillful and generous performance is successful. I believe that this art form in it’s highest purpose can transform both the teller and the listener through the act of sharing, and that this is accomplished when authentic generosity is present. To me what differentiates a story that can wake me up, inspire me, move me to tears from a story that has me grinding my teeth praying for it to be over, is not just the artfulness of it’s telling, but whether the teller has a clear wish to give something or to get something by telling it. That’s a hard thing to hone in on as a performer, and it’s even harder to foster as a producer. But seeking to cultivate an actual generous instinct is worth it.

Here, Chicago (c) 2014
Here, Chicago (c) 2014

If you could have anyone read at Here, Chicago, who would you chose and why?

Michael Powell. He’s the Red Line CTA train conductor who retired this past year. He’s the man who used the train’s PA system to say things like, “Take good care of each other, you guys,” and “It’s been a long winter, but we’ll make it through together,” and “May the force be with you,” as passengers entered and exited the train during rush hour. He made so many lives better by taking advantage of his position to do so. That is the spirit I seek when currating this show.

Using six words, describe Here, Chicago.

Joy Diversity Welcome Generosity Trust Magic

What can we look forward to with this series?

Hopefully more of the same! This month’s show is at Stage 773 on July 6th at 8pm with the potluck at 7:30, and we feature a beloved Chicago improvisor and teacher, a futurist and social entrepreneur, a sailor and humanitarian clown, and the most devastatingly beautiful acoustic folk duo I know of– along with five open spots that anyone from the audience can use to tell. Our website is, where we feature articles on our storytellers, podcasts, advanced tickets, and photos of past shows.

Here, Chicago’s next show is July 6th, 2014 at Stage 773.