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Events Thu Aug 01 2013

2nd Story's "Cruel Summer" Ends Up Sweet

IMG_0454.JPGThe night's theme may have been "Cruel Summer: Stories of Learning the Hard Way," but 2nd Story's first-ever appearance at City Winery last Monday gave audience members the giddy feeling of a summer fling. Combining storytelling and live music against the backdrop of the gorgeous City Winery stage, the event was perhaps one of the most carefully crafted storytelling soirees of the season. Director and curator Jess Kadish turned a mundane Monday evening into one hell of a summer bash.

"Cruel Summer" started off with a bang as the first storyteller, Sarah Zematis, regaled us with the tale of losing her virginity at the local Renaissance Faire (pardon the pun). Any piece containing the phrase, "I had been carrying this burden, otherwise known as my hymen, for far too long," will be received with great cheer by an attentive crowd. The joyous ruckus continued as Zematis owned up to any fake British accent, ridiculous madrigal or Medieval pick-up line that her performance required. Mike Przygaod and The Przmatics, who provided original material between each set, added a rich layer to the story by accompanying the action with a precise soundtrack. In fact, these two elements were what stood out the most to a 2nd Story newbie like myself: the performer's commitment to the theatricality of their work and the use of music as a storytelling device.

Take the second storyteller, Khanisha Foster. Her heartbreaking (and often laugh-out-loud funny) account of trying to make it as an actor despite her ethnically ambiguous looks showcased her chameleon-like ability to imitate everyone from a shady theater director to Gilda Radner. Foster's performance was easily the most bittersweet of the night. Her vulnerability was palpable as she described the struggles of wanting to be seen as a talented thespian while being obscured by her "Latina" looks. (Foster's mother is white and her father is black.) Her versatility as an actor allowed her to easily transition from one character to another, making the piece even more poignant.

Bobby Biedrzycki was the last storyteller to take the stage. At that point, the evening had taken a melancholy turn and Biedrzycki delivered a performance to match the mood. His exploration of love as defined by moments, interspersed with reflections about his drug-addiction, was a satisfying though slightly subdued end to the evening.

2nd Story has been part of Chicago's Live Lit scene since 2002, making it one of the longest running storytelling events in the city. Ozzie Totten, company member and the night's MC, repeated 2nd Story's mission statement a few times during the show: "We share the first story so you can share the second story." It is, of course, impossible to gauge how many audience members will do that. However, as I saw the enraptured and oftentimes interactive audience, I have little doubt that the stories heard that evening demonstrated "the power to educate, connect, and inspire."

Photo by Ines Bellina

 
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