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Profiles Tue Oct 23 2012

Stories of Chicago Storytellers: Scott Whitehair

DSC_1928.JPGScott Whitehair, who hails from Pittsburgh and resides in Lincoln Square, is a storyteller, writer, producer, improv artist, and comedian. He is central to the Chicago storytelling scene and has contributed a wealth of energy to the storytelling movement in Chicago.

Whitehair got his start when he enrolled in a solo storytelling/improv class with Paula Killen at the Annoyance Theater. "It changed my life," said Whitehair, who started performing at coffee shops with his classmates around the city.

From there Whitehair went on to co-found, This Much is True, one of the oldest storytelling shows in Chicago, with Dorrie Ferguson, Larry Kerns, and Deanna Moffitt. These days, Whitehair co-hosts the show held at the Hopleaf in Andersonville on the second Tuesday of the month.

This standing-room-only show has been running since 2009 but, as Whitehair explained, it was not an overnight success. "It took a few years to get from being 6 or 7 people we knew well who were obliged to come, to what it is now. [The crowd] surprises me every month."

From the success of This Much is True, another project of Whitehair's, Story Lab, was born. "People kept coming up after shows asking, 'Where can I do this?' and I didn't have an answer," said Whitehair. Story Lab is open to anyone who attends a show and signs up, or reaches out by contacting producers.

The event is held every third Wednesday at the Black Rock Pub and gives new tellers a space to give telling a try. Over 100 new storytellers have participated since its founding. "My philosophy is that if you give people the space to be great, they'll do it," said Whitehair.

Whitehair also finds his inspiration in what Chicago offers its artists: "Chicago is a city that if you want to to do something, there is absolutely no reason you can't. This city is so hospitable to ideas." Whitehair is the co-host and co-producer of Do Not Submit (along with fellow teller, Shannon Cason), Chicago's Biggest Liar Contest, and has brought storytelling to Three Oaks, Michigan with his show Adult Education at the Acorn Theater. Not only does Whitehair perform his own tales, produce six different shows, he teaches his "Storytelling for Everyone" class to prospective storytellers and has been an instructor at non-profit 826CHI. He would like to widen storytelling to underrepresented communities throughout Chicago.

I am ever amazed by Whitehair as he offers his ever increasing support to other storytellers and producers throughout the community. While many artists remain guarded, consumed by their own shows and craft, Whitehair is constantly helping to promote and connect others and build the community.

"I really believe anyone can do this," Whitehair said. "The connections that we build can change the world. It's empowering people. The storytelling community is anyone who shows up to listen and anyone who wants to be heard."

Check out Whitehair's tales coming up at Two Sides, Wednesday, October 24 at the Raven Theater, Adult Education, Thursday, October 25 at the Acorn Theater in Michigan, and Kindling Tales, Monday, October 29. Whitehair will also be taking his stories to NYC in early November. Check out his website for more information.

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