Preview: Story Jam at the Wilmette Theatre

I’m talking on the phone to Chicago based singer songwriter and bandleader Stephanie Rogers. She tells me about her January 23rd Story Jam performance at the Wilmette Theater.

Rogers acts as emcee, songwriter, and bandleader for the monthly event which features a rotating menu of Chicago’s best storytellers. She explains that the show follows in the vein of the incredibly popular radio program and podcast The Moth. She says that there are really only two requirements for a story performed at Story Jam, “it has to be true and it has to be life changing.” This seems like a tall order to me but Rogers explained that they choose “a culturally and racially diverse group of storytellers” which insures that no two stories are alike. Rogers promises “if a story disturbs you or upsets you, something fun is probably coming along next.” Most of the live lit shows I’ve gone to are closer to open mic than theatrical performances, but Story Jam breaks from that mold. Rogers receives the stories in advance of the show and she writes a song for each story that either mocks or highlights aspects of the story. The fluidity of music and the stories is one of her favorite aspects of Story Jam: “it’s really original and creative. It’s a setting where we have a ton of freedom and it’s an artist pursuit” she explains.

The difference between Story Jam and other live lit events is the rehearsed, put-together feel of the show. These are fresh, real stories selected and curated for maximum entertainment value. Rogers reminds me that there’s a “big ass band” as well as the “raw edginess” people expect from live storytelling for adult audiences.

If you’re interested in attending Rogers' monthly Story Jam, you can find out more here. Tickets can be purchased for $25 online or at the Wilmette Theatre Box office. The January 23rd Story Jam includes performances from Elizabeth Gomez, Lynne Jordan, Kevin D’Abrosio, Nestor Gomez, Carol Moss and Julie Saltzman.

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Emma Terhaar