Preview: Lifeline’s Fillet of Solo Festival Celebrates Personal—and Virtual—Storytelling

Lifeline Theatre has launched its 25th annual Fillet of Solo Festival for a three-week run of virtual storytelling by some of the most vibrant and creative storytellers from Chicago and all over the country. It’s all available via digital magic and a $45 (or name-your-price) ticket that entitles you to watch as many tales as you wish over the festival’s run.

Lifeline’s lineup brings 28 solo storytellers and performers from 10 storytelling collectives—a total of 78 performers—for an online gallery of powerful, personal stories. We watched a few and can’t wait to go back for more.

Among the 10 collectives are Sweat Girls (“the graying edge of Chicago live lit”), AAPI Stories (from Asian American and Pacific Islanders), Around the World in 80 Minutes (stories of immigrants and refugees), and Back Room Stories, which transformed itself into Back Yard Stories during the pandemic. Individual stories usually run 10-20 minutes and group performances an hour or more.

Connie Shirakawa. Screenshot from online festival.

For the Sweat Girls, Caroline Andres tells “The Reason for Everything,” which involves the trials of a grade school teacher and her students during on-again, off-again in-person teaching. “Stop Don’t Touch Me There” is a chilling recital of sexual abuse and abortion rights by Pamela Webster, who describes herself as a 60-year-old feminist.

Back Room Stories brings four performers together to tell stories with the theme of resilience. Moderator Margaret Burk introduces Megan Wells, who tells a story of how a dream gave her a way to help people; Peter LeGrand, who built a boat and gave it away; and Alton Chung, who tells a very personal story about caring for his elderly father. Burk’s own story reflects on a grand old Dutch elm tree named Gloria, whose death and removal left her Oak Park backyard a desert.

Harrison Ornelas. Screenshot from online festival.

Among solo performers, Archy Jamjun’s story of love and jealousy, “A Boy & a Diva,” reflects on how he came to break up with his fiancé. Kim Morris’ story, “Peace of Pi,” tells of her personal retreat to a mountaintop cabin in the Rockies with her border collie, Pi. A war with mice ensued, with little help from Pi. In “Zen and the Art of Cable Coiling,” Harrison Ornelas tells why there can be pleasure in menial tasks. And “Connie’s Covid Adventure,” by Connie Shirakawa, is a longer, multipart story where we hear of her experience with a rice cooker and Roger Ebert’s favorite chicken recipe; her parents, who were incarcerated with other Japanese Americans during World War II; and how she survived Covid-time. “I learned to be with myself and by myself.”

Fillet of Solo also offers four live events—workshops and panels—at specific dates and times from February 2 to 12. If you’re a festival ticket holder, you can register for these live events. Make your reservation by clicking on Live Eventson the website, scroll down to select the event you want to attend, and click Learn More to register. You’ll receive an email reminder and event link in advance.

Screenshot from online festival.

The 2022 Fillet of Solo Festival will stream through February 13 online via a password-protected website where ticket holders will have access to the full lineup of stories throughout the festival. Tickets are name-your-price (suggested $45) for access to the gallery for the full three weeks plus live virtual extras, including panel discussions and storytelling workshops with festival artists. Get tickets by calling the Lifeline box office, 773.761.4477, or by visiting www.lifelinetheatre.com.

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Nancy S Bishop

Nancy S. Bishop is publisher and Stages editor of Third Coast Review. She’s a member of the American Theatre Critics Association and a 2014 Fellow of the National Critics Institute at the Eugene O’Neill Theater Center. You can read her personal writing on pop culture at nancybishopsjournal.com, and follow her on Twitter @nsbishop. She also writes about film, books, art, architecture and design.

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