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Book Club Thu Aug 13 2015

Breaking Boundaries at A Month Of...

Storytelling makes people vulnerable. In the context of a stage show where the teller stands in front of blinding lights, they can pretend the audience isn't quite there while the audience pretends that they're watching a performance. At A Month Of, there are blinding stage lights, but the people telling stories sit right next to you or just across the table. All you need to do is lower your own boundaries for a couple hours to listen and tell.

The concept of A Month Of is that the theme changes every month. To give you an idea of how widely themes may range, Kim Campbell talked about a past month's show in an Arts and Culture post from May. A Month Of is task-based, which means that participants/audience members/hosts accept a challenge that is decided during the previous month's show.

The literature from A Month Of describes the show as a "casual, open potluck. There are no features, no set list, and no pressure, just friends getting together to listen, tell and create new stories." Story Luck invites anyone to bring a dish and make some new friends.

As I clutched the straps of my reusable grocery bag containing my Thai quinoa salad to ensure free entry to the show, I had no idea what I was getting into.

A Month Of successfully achieves its mission by creating an event that felt like a group of friends sitting around a cluster of tables, swapping tales, and sharing food. The evening began with the hosts pairing up audience members to share related stories. I talked about a time when someone comforted me, and my partner talked about a time when he comforted someone. Then the evening began in earnest with the theme of "boundaries" serving as the hub around which the conversation spun. Story Luck compatriots completed the task as a group by holding a book club meeting on the CTA thereby defining new boundaries within an established space typically reserved for travel and individual contemplation.

A storytelling gathering focused on boundaries was a particularly intimate experience with conversation ranging from embarrassing accidental boundary crossing to cultural and linguistic boundaries bridged through music and juggling. There was talk about breaking down boundaries to the benefit or detriment of those involved, erecting boundaries to protect personal interests, and even the dreaded 48 hour rule for dating which informally dictates when a person should contact someone after a date.

We even managed to talk about high school cliques which frequently have invisible boundaries against outsiders. One participant observed that art school for college seemed to attract all the wallflowers from high school, so cliques were unlikely to form because everyone was so excited to be included.

Storytelling taps into our roots in oral tradition. Once upon a time, storytelling was our only method of passing along information and cautions to our young. Today, storytelling is just as vital to our existence and possesses the potential to connect us despite our various boundaries, be they geographic, technological, or personal. A Month Of encourages connection, and as an introvert in a room full of eloquent speakers, I couldn't take notes fast enough.

Next month's theme is Dreams: Find the stuff fiction is made of. The gathering is at Stage 773, 1225 W. Belmont Ave., on every second Wednesday of the month with food starting at 7:30pm and stories at 8:00pm. Tickets are $10, but if you bring a dish for the potluck, admission is free. If you complete the task and post on Story Luck's website, admission is also free. Check out the A Month Of Facebook event to stay up to date on group completions of the task, or listen to past shows on their podcast. And don't forget to go out and create a story!

 
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Book Club is the literary section of Gapers Block, covering Chicago's authors, poets and literary events. More...

Editor: Andrew Huff, ah@gapersblock.com
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