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Gapers Block published from April 22, 2003 to Jan. 1, 2016. The site will remain up in archive form. Please visit Third Coast Review, a new site by several GB alumni.
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Profiles Fri Jul 20 2012

Stories of Chicago Storytellers: Shannon Cason

Jill Photo Shoot 075.JPGHere in the Second City, there is a flourishing storytelling community formed of writers, comedians, actors, and just people with a personal tale to tell. The New York Times covered this new art form recently, and just like New York (but better), Chicago's storytelling scene is booming with shows and readings most every night of the week throughout the city.

Shannon Cason is a veterans of this small scene, both as a storyteller and show producer. A Detroit native, father to two daughters, writer, stand-up comic, and past Chicago Moth GrandSLAM Champion, Cason is a well established voice. I first met Cason at the Windy City Story Slam Semi-Finals back in April at the Chicago Urban Arts Society. The ease and confidence with which he told his stories is magnetic. When I sat down with Cason, we talked about storytelling as bravery. Many storytellers get the best response when they tell personal, heart-wrenching, or embarrassing stories--the stuff that makes a listener simultaneously cringe and relate--and for the most part, these tales are shared with complete strangers. "Sometimes the best stories are the ones you don't want to share," Cason said. "A lot of people can relate to the stories because you had the bravery to be vulnerable."

Cason credits Chicago's story scene to the city's "low tolerance for B.S." and the desire for something real to hold on to. The support of the Chicago storytelling community, he said, and the lack of competition compared to that felt among his comedian cohorts, doesn't hurt either. "Storytellers are just people sharing experiences." He would like to see a diversified audience and performers, as the shows getting attention are almost exclusively on the Northside.

Cason got his start in storytelling when he attended Story Club, a long standing live literature show at Uncommon Ground produced by Dana Norris. He was hooked. He, along with fellow storytelling veteran, Scott Whitehair, founded and co-produce the show Do Not Submit. DNS is a storytelling open mic, but unlike many, it is an opportunity for storytellers to experiment with a piece or a rough draft and engage a small audience. It's also an opportunity for first-time storytellers who may not be ready for a massive audience, to get up and test the waters. Cason and Whitehair connected one night in a bar and just like that Do Not Submit was born. Both have a lot of stand-up comedy experience throughout Chicago and lamented the abundance of amateur open mic nights for comedy, while storytelling open mics were only for readers and writers who had fully fleshed out pieces for performance.

Do Not Submit is hosted upstairs at Trace at 3714 N. Clark St. in Wrigleyville at 8:00pm, with sign up at 7:30pm. The next shows are set for Monday, July 23 and Monday, August 20. Check out where you can find Cason's upcoming events here.

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Dan / July 20, 2012 11:10 AM

Do Not Submit is awesome. One of my favorites. I love that room at Trace. And I love the idea of having a space that's for B game.

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