I lap up the last drops of existence
and wipe my mouth of essence
Since childhood I
Nauseous in the clothing department
Now I’m in a big city
and everyone is walking by overflowing
with their present selves
The saber-toothed tiger
as a species
its teeth were sharpest
just before going extinct
I think it sad how
the simple senses
of sound and light
smell and taste
go passing by unappreciated
The most useless phenomena are the most significant
to the dying man and his seconds of pleasure.
(what would Walt Whitman do?)
What makes Live Lit so intriguing from a performer’s standpoint is that- because it’s a young art-form- there aren’t any rules yet.
Be funny. Be sad. Be serious. Be thoughtful. Be absurd… the list goes on and on. Unlike a comedian you don’t have to make people laugh. Unlike a story-teller, you don’t have to tell a story.
Live Lit also avails a wide birth to be either conversational or highly literary. Different shows have different expectations. Guts & Glory, arguably Chicago’s best Live Lit show, has performers read directly off the script. Other shows allow you to speak off the top of your head/directly from the heart.
Each method has its own (dis)advantages. On the one hand, having things scripted leads to a more concise, non-bullshit performance. On the other hand, not having everything written down allows more room for inspiration and the ability to feed off the audience. Most of us land somewhere in-between, depending.
Here’s my crack at the conversational variety at a small show hosted by Metropolis Coffee known as ‘Live Lunar Lit’. OK I host the damn thing too. Everyone’s welcome, every full moon.
Nearly every day of the year you can walk down State St. in the loop and find tourists, shoppers, corporate employees on their smoke break, and a “preacher” who shouts non-stop into his microphone about how we’re all going to hell unless we give up “fornication, weed-smoking, homosexuality and accept Jesus Christ”. Jesus.
Many stop, amazed. Others stop and shout back, challenging his message, but it never seems to work. I took out my recorder and held it up to his amplifier thinking maybe he’d get self-conscious and stop. Nope. But one of the challengers did come up to me and share his opinion.
Also on State St. is a drummer, a street performer. Mixing it all together to make this week’s sound collage.
Hare Krishna, Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare
Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare
Thank you to the young devotees of Krishna for allowing me to record their chant. Cheers to all the lost souls disappointed by the spiritual menu of the West.
why are we alive?
you’re what happens when two substances collide
and by all accounts you really should’ve died
The Dao is plainly spoken;
it’s so ordinary, people
don’t even hear it.
This spring I took a class on Live Lit at the Story Studio. The Story Studio is a place where writers can go to take classes and workshops, or just hang out and write.
The concept of the class was writing for the page versus writing for the stage. What you’re reading right now is the page. You can start reading and stop, go back and read something or skip ahead. Reading on stage isn’t like that. Time is an arrow and it moves in one direction. Clicking above brings you to the stage.
It’s a different kind of attention.
Our first assignment was to write something one minute long, then two, etc., working our way up to five. The biggest lesson was that an audience never actively wants to see you fail but actually hates seeing you fail because they’re (usually) empathetic and it makes them feel uncomfortable to see you bomb. Their empathy and attention, however, are finite resources. So use your time wisely, and don’t abuse the fact that you have their attention.
I try not to. Here’s me performing my final piece. I went long. Sorry.
Is it female?
Or is it male?
The questions themselves are false.
German scientists have recently proved plants actually have orgasms. The result?
These plants were photographed at Longwood Gardens, the premier botanical garden of the continent of North America.
Photos by J. Napolitano
Last week I went to my cousin’s Wedding in Wisconsin. Incidentally, during the mass there was a carnival outside, and as the bread and wine was being consecrated the screaming of girls spinning on the Tilt-a-Whirl and the lyrics of Ricky Martin’s Livin La Vida Loca bleed through the stained glass windows and into the old church.
I forgot my camera, but was able to document the weekend thru sound, instead. Here is a collage of a father speaking at his daughter’s wedding reception, three men turning a sailboat on the choppy waters of Lake Michigan, the ambient sounds of a New Age gift shop on Brady St., Milwaukee and the singing of a church choir, and a young couple hashing out their differences. And a man with a message, pounding away at an upright piano.
Live Lit is a uniquely Chicago artform. Somewhere between storytelling, standup, essay and improv. There’s a Live Lit show every night somewhere in the city either at a bar, cafe or theater. Because we’re not New York or LA, many of the performers are non-professional, and the audiences are super-empathetic, in search of deeper human connection.
Here, Chicago is one such event that takes place on the first Sunday of every month at Stage 773. It’s led by Janna Sobel and is modeled after a pot-luck, wherein you show up with food and a story and munch on other people’s food and stories.
Anyone and everyone can have a chance to perform. Here’s a recording of my attempt in April. You can hear how generous the crowd is.