On a chilly November night, Co-Prosperity Sphere barely seems to be heated, but this matters little to the small crowd that has gathered for South Side Story Club. Kept warm by scarves and excitement, people mingle as they add their names to the list from which a few will be randomly picked to present. The theme for the night is “Since Last Time.” What has happened in the last thirty days? The answers are surprising, entertaining, interesting. All are delivered in the intimate setting of this eclectically-furnished space, within a time limit of eight minutes.
Host Andrew Marikis explains, afterward, that the South Side Story Club began in October 2012 as an extension of Story Club Chicago, which is hosted on the North Side by Dana Norris. The operation occupies an interesting (and increasingly popular) space between the classic open mic and a stand-up comedy show, though the stories featured don’t necessarily have to be funny (in fact, the show as a whole is better when some are not). Marikis opened with a sassy plea for presenters to keep poetry, guitar riffs, and interpretive dances to themselves; this show is for stories and stories alone. It’s two friends shooting the breeze at a bar, except in this case one of the friends is an audience. It’s interactive, and the energies of the teller and the listeners combine. Some people drink (it’s BYOB) and everyone is merry. All things considered, it’s a support group for humanity.
The content of the show this month spanned a large breadth of experience. Dan, an older gentleman snug in a poncho and Soviet-style hat, read from a notebook about a dream he had in which machines surpassed mankind in intelligence. (“Relax,” he ended the story. “That will never happen.”) Tanise regaled listeners with a tale of her free trip to Hong Kong, courtesy of a college friend who paid for her to attend his wedding. (She waxed contemplative about her weeklong encounter with staggering wealth.) Kristin Clifford, a comic on the rise, told of her recent major life choice to move to L.A.—the first thing she thought, she said, was that her therapist would be so excited. And among other excellent storytellers, the show’s open-mic closer was dynamite: a dude named Patrick told about his recent fiasco involving dating and irritable bowel syndrome. (It’s as bad and as funny as you can probably imagine.)
Most of the brave souls who share, Marikis said, are either performers by trade—actors, comedians—or writers—those are the ones who read “pieces” from a sheet of paper. Yet all the storytellers hold a similar belief in the power of their tales, an ethos which Marikis called a “thirst” and a “nerve.” As if to underscore this common motivation, the crowd lingered, chatting, after the show. They trickled out at last, group by group, to head down the street to Maria’s Packaged Goods and Community Bar. And after that they parted and went out into the world, until next month, gathering and composing more stories to tell.