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Feature Fri Nov 16 2012
Essay Fiesta is a staple of Chicago's live lit scene, which is no small thing considering the way things have gone for the medium in the past few years. Most of us with literary interests in Chicago know that lit performance has exploded with shows sprouting left and right.
When Essay Fiesta got going there were just a couple disperate performances around the city. Now, there are multiple going on nearly everyday of the week. That said, it's been a long run for Fiesta founders Keith Ecker and Alyson Lyon, both of whom are moving on to other things. For Lyon, that'll mean focusing on her life as a make-up artist for film; for Ecker, it means a new show.
The last Essay Fiesta under the Ecker/ Lyon reign is set to take place on Monday, November 19 at the Book Cellar, located at 4736 N. Lincoln Ave., at 7pm. But don't fret--the show is far from over.
"Essay Fiesta was an out growth of Alyson's and my personalities, so to do it without one or the other didn't feel right," Ecker said. "But to end it out right felt like a disservice to the lit community and the audience we've built."
With that in mind, Ecker and Lyon selected a new duo to take over. Willy Nast, and Karen Shimmin are uniquely qualified for the role and, according to Ecker, will satisfy longtime fans and probably draw some new ones, too.
"We think these hosts will be able to keep the essence of why we started the show alive," Ecker said. "They'll bring their own personalities to it."
Nast and Shimmin host a podcast, All Write Already together, which recently featured the co-founder of Ecker's new project, Guts & Glory, Samantha Irby. Irby is another major figure in the live lit scene, as well as on the blogosphere known well for Bitches Gotta Eat.
"Essay Fiesta was an out growth of me being tired of doing improv and stand up," Ecker said. "I wanted to do something different that concentrated more on reading with moments of poignancy and honesty. Its tone--poignant, personal, light hearted, and everyday kind of stories--was established organically over time."
With three years of live lit production experience, Ecker approached Guts & Glory, which takes place at Powell's Books at 2850 N. Lincoln Ave., with an ultra specific mission; this series is designed to showcase the stories that are difficult to tell to a close friend, let alone an audience. They're at once cringe worthy and utterly relatable.
"I really want to take story telling to the next level, striking at the heart of the human experience with the most challenging stories," Ecker said. "I wanted to challenge other artists, whether they're new to the story telling community or not, to reach within themselves and tell these extraordinarily personal stories."
Those stories are sometimes raunchy, devastating, and often those that the writer, despite her or his best efforts, will never strike from memory.