Guest Blogger: Jake Cowan on Breaking into Live Lit

JakeCowanAs many of you know, Live Lit is booming in this city. Interested in telling your stories on stage? Don’t know where to start? Jake Cowan, our guest blogger, understands. He too was once an overwhelmed newbie. These days, however, Jake has not only performed in Story Lab and open mics around Chicago, but he also co-produces Is this a thing?, a monthly Live Lit event. Read below to find out how he went from being a spectator to a confident storyteller.

I am about a year into my experience with storytelling in Chicago. I’ve been going to shows for years. Last year I finally decided to act on that voice in my head that said “I can do this too.” But I didn’t know how to get started. I wanted to learn from others, I wanted to practice, and frankly, I wanted something to force me to do the work. And I wondered, how do these clever bastards write their stories?What’s their approach?

So I decided to go to school. I signed up for a class – Introduction to Live Lit. It was the perfect kick-start. 

During class, students performed short pieces based on prompts from instructor Ian Belknap. I got invaluable feedback from Ian, and also from others in the class. Our class was a mix of newbies (like me), experienced storytellers looking to improve their craft, and writers expanding from the written to the spoken word. The combination of different levels of experience in the class created an excellent learning environment. 

Most of us left the class wanting to do more – to continue writing and telling stories – and so we continued to meet and work together as a group over several months. During that time, some of us got booked in live lit shows, and others got on stage at various open mic nights. We still used each other as a practice and rehearsal community.

Storytelling, to me, is about connecting with other people. I love hearing stories that I can relate to, that help me understand something in my own life, and make the world feel smaller. I love hearing stories about the crazy and interesting things people experience, and stories that open my mind to new ideas. And I love sharing my own stories and trying to create that experience for someone else.

While it was (and still is) fun for our group to practice our craft in the comfort of my small living room, it lacked a key element of the experience – an audience. So we decided to start a show, something that would provide us with a regular opportunity to collaborate and perform. We weren’t quite sure what our niche would be, we weren’t quite sure how to describe it. We were also new to basic event organization. “Is this a thing?” we wondered.

And thus a show was born. Is this a thing? is now a monthly Live Lit show taking place the second Monday of every month at O’Shaughnessy’s Public House at Ravenswood & Wilson. Every member of our group does something to help organize each show –booking storytellers, marketing and promoting, and telling stories.   

Our goals still include collaborating and performing together, and we also try to build and grow the storytelling community. We want to create an opportunity for others to share their stories – especially people like us that are new. Our lineups have a mix of familiar faces and new storytellers. Storytellers are supported for every performance through a pre-show workshop where story ideas can be tested and practiced.    

We want to continue improving as storytellers, and help others do the same. Do you want to perform? Get in touch!

Jake is from Missouri and many of his stories reference life in the Show Me State. Today, he calls Chicago, pork-loving capital of the world, home. This in spite of years spent as a vegetarian. You can follow him on twitter @BaconJedi.

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