Story festival in Libertyville
Paul Whitehouse | Popio Stumpf Photography
‘A Night of Storytelling’
Improv Playhouse, 735 N. Milwaukee Ave., Libertyville
9 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 4, over 18 is strongly encouraged; Improv Playhouse House Team family show at 7:30 p.m.
$10 per show, or $15 for both. Improv Playhouse is a BYOB venue
Reserve tickets at (847) 875-8578 and available at the door
Updated: July 31, 2012 5:30PM
Storytellers won’t be reciting tired bedtime stories of the “happily ever after” variety at Improv Playhouse’s “A Night of Storytelling” on Saturday in Libertyville.
Audiences should expect a bit more edge.
“They’re going to be getting a feast of some of the best storytellers in the Chicago market on that particular evening,” said Libertyville’s David Brian Stuart, owner and executive producer of Improv Playhouse.
The evening kicks off with a family-friendly performance resembling “Whose Line Is It Anyway?” by Improv Playhouse’s House Team, Still Too Soon. Although the main event at “A Night of Storytelling” will lack gutter-worthy material, it’s going to push into PG-13 territory, so Stuart strongly suggests that anyone attending the 9 p.m. show be over 18.
This is the first year for “A Night of Storytelling,” but the cast members are seasoned performance and storytelling veterans. The lineup includes Chicago’s first Moth Grand Slam winner Shannon Cason, Moth Story Slam winner and producer Scott Whitehair, 2nd Story’s Earliana “Earl” McLaurin, Jeremy Schaefer, teacher and actor, and Paul Whitehouse, Goodman Theatre teaching artist, who co-created the event.
“Storytelling is a very defined art form that is structured, that is rehearsed, it is not stand-up,” said Stuart. “These are folks who have developed their stories through time and they’re renowned for their storytelling ability, and it’s a craft that I think resonates with the culture. The cast is absolutely terrific. These folks are not one-trick ponies, they’ve been doing this for a while and they’ve really refined their craft.”
For this “hip, urban poetry slam, but it’s storytelling,” said Stuart, performers were not restricted by a given theme or story criteria. Each performer will recount real, first-person stories.
Paul Whitehouse teaches the Improv Playhouse storytelling class and is a touring company member and a veteran storyteller.
“For me it’s the most exhilarating of performances because it’s just you on stage with your either successes or dirty laundry,” he said. “It’s something that you present and there’s no shield there between you and the audience. You’re laying it all on the line, but then with greater sacrifice like that comes greater gain. There’s no better feeling than being able to tell one of your stories to the audience and have them think about the world differently.”
In the upcoming show, he’ll share his first experience leaving a small religious community in Wisconsin to attend a liberal arts college — a dramatically different scene with different people.
“I want to make something that’s a little light and that’s fun and kind of makes me the fool, but still there’s some kind of transformation to the character,” he says of his narrative. “I’m the sheltered fool at certain points, so the laughter is both not quite at me, I’m in on the joke now, but back then I wouldn’t have been in on the joke.”
Buffalo Grove native Jeremy Schaefer got one of his first jobs out of college with Improv Playhouse. He now performs improv and stand-up at a number of venues, but may be best known for his work with Storybox Theater’s touring company.
He’s found storytelling liberating.
“I tend to be a very shy, socially awkward person,” he said. “So when you put me in a circumstance where it’s just me, a mic and nobody’s going to jump in and interrupt me, it’s very easy to pour my soul out. I can say a lot that I probably wouldn’t say in a conversation.”
Storytelling creates a special relationship that he enjoys. “The interaction between a performer and an audience, there’s something that feels borderline sacred about that and it becomes really very easy,” he said. “I’ve said very embarrassing things about myself and there’s just a trust created by this storytelling environment.”
Storytelling material, he says, is always developing from real life experiences. He considers it a way to see into others’ lives, how they experience things and who they essentially are.
“It’s sort of a fascinating, intimate way to meet your neighbors, to really walk in somebody else’s shoes for a little while and see how they think, how they tick and where they’ve been,” he said. “That can be a very powerful and beautiful thing.”