Meet Our Readers

New year new us, or something. At least one part of this show is new – these fresh-faced babes below, kicking off 2016 with what got them Fucked Up. See you tomorrow night at Gallery Cabaret for everyone’s take on January’s theme. They’re gonna do some damage.

Leah Pickett

leahpickettLeah Pickett is a Chicago-based journalist and essayist. She currently writes dining reviews for the Chicago Tribune and film reviews for the Chicago Reader and Consequence of Sound, in addition to co-hosting The Marrow, a live, nonfiction reading series produced by Curbside Splendor Press. Leah has contributed to WBEZ, the Baltimore Sun, Seventeen magazine, TIME.com, and ABC World News with Diane Sawyer, among others.

 

 

Lily Be

IMG_1567Lily be started storytelling at Grown Folks Stories on the north side of Chicago, Illinois. She is from the neighborhood of Humboldt Park, and in her six years of storytelling she has featured at nearly every show in the city. Her stories are featured on the RISK and Moth podcasts, is the first Latina to have won a Moth grand Slam, and has won storytelling and live-lit competitions at Here’s Chicago, Write Club, and more. Her methods in storytelling are completely internal, as in, she very rarely uses paper during a performance or throughout her creative process. This style is brought to Stoop Style Stories inc., a story telling community Lily be founded three years ago which is devoted to bringing unique stories to all who are willing to listen, no matter what their background. She hosts and produces The Stoop once a month at Rosa’s Lounge with her best friend Clarence Browley. She is also a creative contributor to the show Psychotic Break and an Artist in Residence at Free Street Theater. She will also be teaching a storytelling class at Second City in March 2016. Lily Be is a little Mexican force of nature that won’t be stopped.

Keidra Chaney

Keidra Chaney is a writer, publisher of pop culture website The Learned Fangirl, and occasional rock musician.

Catharine Savage

f06c17bc-b0b9-4ad5-b8e8-7fb0f8a7637aCatharine Savage is a writer, actor, improviser, and east coast transplant. She has told stories with Loose Chicks, Is This a Thing?, and You’re Being Ridiculous. Catharine is an ensemble member at Under the Gun Theater, a member of the ComedySportz house team, Atomic, and a member of 99 Problemz, Chicago’s improvised 90s sitcom, which can be seen at The Playground Theater the last Sunday of every month at 6pm. And coming this May, you can see her sharing more stories in The Arrow with The Neo-Futurists. Catharine lives with three lovely roommates and is a big fan of brie cheese.

 

-Rose

Online Dating

Here’s a recording of our last show of 2015. The November theme was Online Dating, with special guest host Alicia Swiz! Readers included Beth Spencer, Gina Watters, Gina Wynbrandt, Brittany Meyer, and Nancy Hightower.

-Rose

Peace on Earth, Live Lit for All

Miss Spoken is billed as “lady live lit”. This is not entirely true, in that it’s true but it’s not all. When we started this series, it was never the intent to be exclusive. However, we do choose to highlight stories by those whose work we know is underrepresented. Women definitely fall into this category, but this not where it ends: queer, non-white, trans, poor, and non-cis experiences are still woefully underrepresented in the live lit world and beyond. We are not the exception. We’re working on it.

A big part of our series is not only featuring readers who don’t get that exposure, but giving their feelings and history weight. The themes we cover are often dismissed as frivolous at best, lies at worst. We want to hear about your everyday, your personal, your feelings, because it’s real and that’s vital. Equally important is having a space where you can comfortably talk about that, get the audience talking and thinking, and maybe make a little money in the process.

Jesus Rose, stop with the PSA and get to the point.

Recently, we reached out to a reader who identifies as non-binary. It made me stop and realize: Miss Spoken welcomes non-cis readers. If your voice doesn’t get a lot of play, we want to hear you. No, this doesn’t mean we’re going to start having male readers. If you’re a man, especially a straight, white, able-bodied man, you are well-represented in the world and can seek out the multitude of options currently available. You will find there are many. The atmosphere we’re trying to create is one where tales that don’t get top societal billing can be center stage – a safe space to perform and listen. We also like if you’re funny, but like falling somewhere traditional on the gender spectrum, that’s not a requirement.

But but but Rose, you just said “lady live lit”, right there at the top of this post.

I did. It’s catchier than “genders less-represented in the artistic canon live lit”. Also, it’s our show and we can do what we want.  Readers are chosen at our discretion. We think that makes the show great, and hope you agree.

Happy Holidays,

-Rose

Why This Non-Christian Loves Christmas

grinchWhile I sit in the lobby of my office building stealing Starbucks’ WiFi, I thought I’d tell you about my relationship with Christmas.

It probably doesn’t make a whole lot of sense that someone as non-religious and Agnostic as me would even celebrate this holiday.

But we were raised with it, albeit minus Santa Claus. Maybe my parents figured if we weren’t going to acknowledge baby Jesus, there was no reason to bring Santa into the mix either.

I was fine with this set up, having no idea that Christmas for many people involved church or the spirit of giving and the birth of Jesus CHRIST.

Instead, we had a tree and presents and got together with extended family to eat ham off of t.v. trays in someone’s small apartment.

Since there was no Santa, our gifts would often sit under the tree a week or two before the actual day, and my brother and I would sit and try to guess what they were by shape and weight. Maybe this seems unexciting, but I loved the built up anticipation.

I like Christmas music. Today I sat in my cubicle listening to oldies versions of carols on Spotify. Did you know they have a dozen or so different channels just for Christmas songs??

If it wasn’t offensive, I would decorate my space with red and green and maybe even wear a pair of reindeer antlers on Christmas Eve Day (because I’ll be here…)

My building has a huge tree and wreaths in the lobby. They’re adorned in blue, white and silver, as if to say “This is SORT OF Christmas because a tree is involved”.

It’s enough for me.

*Update* There was a quartet of cellos (high schoolers) in the lobby playing Christmas music and I sat and listened like a weirdo for fifteen minutes.

I get that in a time of increasing sensitivity to other cultures, religions and practices, maybe it wouldn’t be such a bad idea to tone down on all of the Christmas mania that consumes everything once the hangover of Thanksgiving wears off.

In most cases, I would gladly support this sort of political correctness.

But I love holiday inspired drinks, Christmas cookies, candy canes, and lights.

You guys, I sang in the madrigals in high school, dressing up in rented renaissance clothes singing carols a capella at nursing homes.

Voluntarily.

I also REALLY like giving presents. I’ve been financially strapped for awhile now, so this year I hope to at least get my immediate family gifts.

I LOVE THE MOVIE ELF. And A Christmas Story, A Christmas Carol, A Charlie Brown Christmas, Love Actually and Miracle on 34th Street.

Christmas makes me happy. It’s a sense memory of excitement and joy and yeah, I suppose being spoiled, not going to school, and wearing a dress to dinner.

I cling to those memories. Perhaps like The Grinch, my heart slowly shrinks and shrivels throughout the year, but grows and swells from the warmth of Christmas past.

I think gift giving has been watered down a lot because of online shopping and the ability for anyone to get anything at anytime. And in general, growing up and being able to buy myself things. Also, nothing seems all that special or unique unless it’s handmade. And sometimes it just feels gross to get more things. Things that take up space, that we don’t need, that seem excessive and unnecessary.

Christmas has toned down a lot at our house. One year we didn’t have a tree and I was surprised at how disappointed I was.

My mom bought a tiny one so there would be some sort of decoration. I want to put it up this year, but she’s afraid my kid will tear it down (which is a very valid fear.)

We stopped celebrating with my extended family after my grandmother died several years ago.

Some years it’s just been me and my parents. My brother and his fiancee don’t live in the state and I didn’t have a boyfriend for many years.

It felt really quiet and un-holiday like.

I hope we can resurrect some of the past now that my son is around to potentially take joy in the small transformation the house takes because of Christmas. I think he’ll get a kick out of tearing up wrapping paper and hopefully enjoying what’s inside (though it’s OK if he doesn’t.)

I suppose I want him to have experiences that turn into happy memories, so he’ll always have a little bit of nostalgia this time of year once he’s an adult. Even if I’m remembering things with rose tinted glasses, that’s OK with me.

-Carly

Sex Ed

Here’s a recording of our October 2015 show. The very spooky theme was Sex Ed. Readers included Kristin Mount, Kelly Connell, Julie Marchiano, and Kimberly Duncan.

-Rose

Online Mating

I’m bummed to be missing tonight’s show, particularly because the theme is “Online Dating”.

YOU NEED TO GO TO THIS SHOW. TONIGHT. THE GALLERY CABARET. 7 PM. $5 SUGGESTED DONATION.

Then again, when I decided to write this post to try and contribute something, I was sort of at a loss.

I’ve had a lot of experience with online dating. But the further you get away from it, the less you feel as strongly. That’s an obvious statement, but I was surprised at how indifferent I felt when trying to recollect my experiences.

Though, the truth is, they were just unmemorable. Back then I could rattle off first names and occupations, places met for first “dates”, what the last correspondence was like, if there was any at all.

And finally the mounting disbelief from not hearing from someone after having what I perceived as, A Great Time.

I went on one streak where I would plan dates back to back in one night, trying to tackle the dating scene like a bad math problem. But mounting misses over hits start to take their toll. Not to mention the exhaustion from hopping around the city.

None of us are really built for this kind of thing. I don’t know what percentage of luck to assign to those who’ve met their forever mates online, but it’s significant. In fact, I truly believe it’s the difference between those that succeed and those that fail. Unless you did something way out of character to mess up a potential relationship, it’s all a roll of the dice whether you’ll be presented with someone you could hit it off with.

I rolled the dice A LOT. I had a few short term things come out of it, including a fairly disastrous on and off non-relationship with a guy I’d messaged through the OkCupid app while drinking wine at home.

I will accept my part in why things went wrong, but at the end of the day, we just weren’t a match.

The reason it’s hard to tear yourself away from online dating even after it’s chewed you up and spit you out is because of the potential. You just need ONE chance to connect with ONE person and then stop online dating for eternity (or several years.)

It’s also hard not to enjoy the constant tiny ego boosts and small thrills at the feeling of “what if”. Sure, you can go a few weeks or months, content in not getting a text that makes your heart race, or anticipating your drink date with that super cute person you’ve been messaging for the last day or two or the bliss in recollecting an awesome date.

That’s why you should have a strategy. Mine was to not be super active and to immediately dismiss anyone who was flakey.

I can’t tell you if this worked out because shortly after initiating this plan, I met my now partner.

And it wasn’t online.

But I do think the second part is important and useful. If someone doesn’t respond or make plans or seem truly interested in the way of taking action, then they are not your person. Period.

There’s nothing to analyze or over think.

Online dating is voluntary. If it seems and feels like your only option, the least you can do is approach it by putting yourself first. I know radio silence after platitudes and overtures of genuine interest hurt. Constant rejection isn’t good for anyone. It’s almost equally disheartening when there’s mutual disinterest over and over. So the only way to take control of the situation is by creating the mindset: You are doing this for fun and will stop doing it once it’s no longer fun. Or at the very least, take a break from it.

In the meantime, try to spend your time with friends, traveling, and just doing things you enjoy.

Because once you meet your person, you might get pregnant and move in with your parents and stop doing all of the above.

-Carly

Meet Our Readers

For our last show of the year, we’re tackling Online Dating with Beth Spencer, Nancy Hightower, Brittany Meyer, Gina Wynbrandt, Gina Watters, and Special Guest Co-host Alicia Swiz. Unlike some (but not all!) attempts to find love through the Internet, it’s gonna be awesome. Come see this talent-packed lineup before you go into a pie coma. It’ll give you something new to talk about with your aunt.

Alicia Swiz

SWIZ_eqHeadshotAlicia Swiz is a Jersey Girl In Chicago by way of North Carolina. A professor and a performer, Alicia uses humor and candid observation to provide insight and awareness about gender, feminism and media. A pop culture lover with a critical eye and an activist heart, Alicia draws from her personal experience and academic training to facilitate conversations about what it means to be a feminist in 2015. Find her at popgoesalicia.com or watching Bob’s Burgers.

Gina Waters

Gina WattersGina Watters is a writer originally from Michigan, but has lived in Chicago long enough to remember the Washington Red Line stop and a city without a single H&M store. She has previously read her work at “Story Sessions’ Campfire Show”, “Essay Fiesta”, “That’s All She Wrote” and “Write Club”. She hates the phrase “bucket list”, but if she were to have one, it would only include two things: to ride a Segway and to hold a baby goat. Not necessarily at the same time.

Brittany Meyer

DSC_7437Escaping Florida only three years ago, Brittany moved to Chicago in hopes of finding a career and romance. After giving up on that, she turned her attention to stand up comedy and a cat named Lil’ Rue McClanahan. Brittany has written for ‘The Women in Comedy Festival’ and her own office newsletter that she mostly keep to herself. You can see her every month as producer and host of ‘Strip Joker,’ a new, body positive, comedy showcase at Gorilla Tango Theatre, tickets available now for February 11th, March 10th and April 14th through GTT’s website. See everything Brittany does on her website, brittanymeyerdoesthat.com

Beth Spencer

spencer.headshotBeth Spencer is a wastewater engineering librarian who spends her days researching biosolids and dewatered sludge, but she likes to cut loose at night by dabbling in comedy, crochet, and music trivia. Beth occasionally puts her undergraduate degree in creative writing to use by blogging about gum she’s purchased on clearance, sending greeting cards to celebrities, and sporadic live lit performances.

 

 

Gina Wynbrandt

tumblr_n6o0i1SKzy1qashb7o1_1280Self-described as “the Carrie Bradshaw of comics,” Gina Wynbrandt is an artist living in Chicago. Her work focuses on romantic humiliation, personal insecurities, and pop culture. She was featured in Best American Comics 2015 and nominated for an Ignatz Award. She loves sitcoms, teen pop stars, makeup, the Internet, and being the center of attention. http://www.ginawynbrandt.com

 

Nancy Hightower

photo by April O BergelerNancy Hightower has published weird fiction and even weirder poetry (possibly the result of having grown up in the South and her dad working for three televangelists). She tried to get a PhD studying Henry James, but then realized she would never get invited to another party. She switched to creative writing and got the PhD, which meant that while there were parties, there were no jobs. So she taught a very cool class on the grotesque in art and lit at the University of Colorado until she finally published a novel, then moved to NYC three years ago, where all the weird people live. http://www.nancyhightower.com

Asians On T.V.

I’m two episodes away from finishing “Master of None” and it has been one of the most refreshing television experiences I’ve ever had.

Sure, some of the acting is stiff. But overall, it’s a groundbreaking show.

Anyone who is a minority gets that, especially Asians.

And if you don’t know by now, I Am Asian.

Another show that I watched last season and have DVR’d this season is “Fresh Off The Boat”. It too has made a huge impact on mainstream television. It too is a show that features Asians as its main characters.

I know there’s always going to be criticism when programs like this air (Americans on the Internet are really good at this, ahem). One, because maybe there are actual flaws in acting, writing, directing, etc. In other words, valid arguments or complaints.

Two, there are all of the counterpoint views, some of them legit, that want to pick a part why a show isn’t doing everything it could or isn’t being sensitive enough to the community who needs it.

The latter is what’s been bothering me.

Both “Master of None” and “Fresh Off The Boat” are based on real life people. However loosely that’s interpreted, someone’s subjective story is being shared.

“Subjective” is the key word.

I actually want to start off by mentioning the movie “Better Luck Tomorrow“. For those of you who’ve never heard of it, BLT was a film that featured an all Asian American cast dealing with everyday high school life. It was distributed by MTV, which was huge at the time.

Back then, I was hanging out with people who were really into films, one of whom ran the Chicago Asian American Film Festival, unique for only showing movies that were made with the “American” part in mind. No foreign films, like all other Asian film festivals include.

So I was more dialed in than the average person. I don’t mean that I had great access or knowledge, just that my interest was piqued because of my social life.

Anyway, the director and cast of “Better Luck Tomorrow” were at the Sundance Film Festival doing a Q&A with critics. One of them asked why they would choose to make the main characters behave so amorally when finally given the opportunity to make a movie for the big screen. Roger Ebert stood up and defended them by saying Asian Americans can tell whatever kind of story they want just like anyone else.

AMEN, ROGER.

(I watched the clip of this exchange at least three times. It’s important when one of the most well respected film critics of all times defends us. And sure, the irony isn’t lost on me that he was a white man.)

I’ve never watched “The Mindy Project”, but Mindy Kaling has caught flak because her character only dates white men. In an interview where she was asked about this, she responded with irritation by asking if it was up to her to be the UN.

A similar argument is being made about “Master of None”. Why is Dev’s girlfriend white? Why are the girls he’s interested in, white? (Save for the one Asian girl who went out with him for the free food and had only a couple of lines.) He devoted an entire episode about how there can only ever be one minority in a show, never two, otherwise that makes it a “minority show”. So, isn’t he being a hypocrite?

My argument is: No, he’s not. First, the cast of his show is made up of many minorities, including his two close friends (played by a black woman and an Asian guy.) Second, Dev is the minority in his relationship. I’m not sure why it’s up to Ansari to make sure the character of Dev dates people of all colors. If the show is based on his life, that would most likely be inaccurate, as his girlfriend in real life is a white girl.

Should Dev date a variety of minorities because we need to show more interracial relationships that don’t include white people? Or is the critic’s complaint that Ansari is doing a disservice to minorities on the casting side?

The reality for him and for many of us is that we were raised in predominantly white areas. White neighborhoods. White Schools. It’s not that we find white people “hotter” or more “desirable”. It’s all we had to choose from sometimes. Even when presented with other options, are we supposed to filter out all of the white people?

I’ve always wondered what my life would have been like if I’d grown up in California, where people who look like me are everywhere.

But I didn’t. And I sincerely doubt Aziz Ansari was around a crapload of Indian Americans in South Carolina. Perhaps if he had grown up in a large, tight knit group of other Indian Americans, the story he would be telling would be a different one.

Even if your argument is that by not showing Dev dating people of all races it implies he’s racist, that’s also not something that needs to be changed or “fixed”. Is the answer to all race relation problems that everyone should date minorities, especially other minorities but not necessarily someone of the same minority?

Shouldn’t we just date who we want? I guess my point is, if some guy came up to me and said “I don’t date Asian girls”, sure, I’d be offended. But very shortly after, I’d think “cool, I wouldn’t want to date you anyway because you sound like an asshole.”

Is it wrong if most of the guys I’ve dated are white? If I get offered a television show based on my life, do I need to change the ethnicity of the people I dated to non-white just to make sure I’m not reinforcing the belief that “white=hot”?

Also, it’s worth noting that we are still minorities. So by the very definition, there are fewer of us. If dating is math (which it kind of is), the less minorities we come into contact with on a daily basis, the less we’ll have as friends and lovers.

This is where I want to go back to the whole idea of “subjective”. This is one story. Not everyone is going to see themselves in any one character or plot line. But plenty of it may be relatable. And that’s the most important part. I’m just happy to see an Indian American guy playing an Indian American guy living, working and dating in New York. NONE OF THOSE THINGS APPLY TO ME. I am not doing anything he’s doing and yet, it’s still monumental. One of my favorite episodes is “Parents”, which features Ansari’s real life parents, and gives back stories to his and his best friend’s immigrant fathers. My parents aren’t immigrants, but this still meant something to me.

I don’t need fourteen shows about Asian Americans on mainstream t.v. But one or two would be great. I don’t need people to question shows like Seinfeld or Girls so long as there are shows featuring minorities in leading roles. Seriously, they can keep those minority sidekick/best friend/ancillary characters.

Which leads me back to “Fresh Off The Boat”. For those of you watch, you know that Eddie Huang, the story for which the show is based off of and whose book inspired it, is no longer a part of it. He took to Twitter to say he didn’t watch the show and it doesn’t look anything like his life.

He points out that an Indian American woman is directing a show about a Chinese American family.

While it’s true that her life experiences were different, there were also presumably a lot of similarities. This is also true of her audience.

In many ways, it’s enough that the Huangs look like me. My parents don’t speak a second language. I have no surviving grandparents. I’ve never lived in Florida. Culturally, Japanese and Chinese people are NOT the same.

But the show is still great and important and needs to be on the air.

We all need to see that we can relate to anyone at any time because we’re all living a life with identical basic issues, day in and day out. Funny is funny. Sad is sad. Beyond that, we need to be able to share our individual struggles, many of which are created because of the color of our skin. If television is the vehicle for understanding our fellow human more, then there needs to be more balanced representation.

I understand Huang’s issue with the direction his show took. That it feels like a lie. That at best, it’s a very watered down version of his life and that that is doing a disservice to the people watching it. But that’s where I disagree. I don’t need to know Huang’s reality to appreciate Asians on t.v. I wish he could separate himself out of the issue, though I realize that’s a lot, and possibly unfair, to ask of him.

I’m glad there’s been critique on these shows. But at the end of the day, if your issue is with the storytelling, we can’t demand changes be made to reflect our individual realities.

The reason “Master of None” and “Fresh Off The Boat” resonate with me is simply seeing an Asian doing, saying, thinking and feeling things I can relate to and knowing that all audiences might realize we have more in common than they think.

-Carly

Working Girl

I haven’t had a 9-5 in over six years.

Now that I’m back in the “legitimate” working world, I have some observations.

  • I forgot how many people smoke. Most, if not all, of the people I hang out with don’t. I don’t know why, but it’s always funny to me when I see people speed walking with a cigarette in hand. It’s also sort of sad/funny to me that businesses will make having a designated smoking area a priority, but won’t think about accommodating nursing mothers. (My job has a room, which I thought was pretty awesome.)
  • It’s impossible not to want to eat out for lunch. There is somewhere to go on every block, at least two or three places. It’s also nearly impossible to eat for less than $10. A co-worker pointed out the Subway sandwich of the day, but also conceded you can only do this so much. Plus, it’s an excuse to get out of the office, which is a must when it’s 70 degrees in November.
  • Speaking of food, I’m always trying to figure out where the skinny girls go to lunch. I assume it’s salad in their to go bags.
  • Still on the topic of food, I try hard to eat at places I can’t find in the suburbs. This means I do my best to avoid Chipotle and Panera, even though they do serve things I like.
  • Why are there so many Potbelly’s and when did this happen?
  • Time becomes far too important. Not that it wasn’t before, but everything is about minutes and hours and schedules and deadlines. The train is late. Traffic is bad. Three people are ahead of you to use the microwave. The elevator is stopping at every floor. Someone on the street is walking too slow. Someone behind you gets into the same revolving door as you because they don’t want to miss their train (actually happened to me on the way home from my first day.) Everyone wants to stand on the escalator. Which, I mean, is fine, but my understanding of a moving staircase is that it goes faster when you keep moving and if you didn’t want to actually do any work you’d take the elevator. (I DON’T ALWAYS WALK UP THE ESCALATOR, YOU GUYS.)
  • The dress code at my job is casual. This is great, but I still fret over what I should wear. I used to have a job where the only person who really saw me was a baby. Then I spent over a year in maternity clothes. (Yes, I know pregnancy is only ten months.) Now I’m working downtown and can’t really show up in yoga pants. Though that would actually be OK according to policy. Anyway, the point I’m trying to make is that I care way too much about it and no one notices or cares. It’s true! A cute outfit is still cute even if it’s worn more than once a month.
  • The last cubicle I had was actually pretty big and nice and I never thought I would mourn it until I saw how small my new one is. As the only girl in my training group, I of course asked if we could decorate them.
  • Because at the end of the day, working is just like high school. Who smokes, what you eat, what you wear and how you bedazzle your personal spaces matter. Not to mention, everyone looks like they’re ten years younger than me.

Mean Girls

Here’s a recording of our September 2015 show. The theme was Mean Girls. Featured readers included Ines Bellina, Mary Runkle, Julie Jurgens, and Molly Harris.

-Rose

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