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This Much Is True Storytelling Series Continues To Shine

By Allison Kelley in Arts & Entertainment on Jul 10, 2014 3:00PM

Last week I fell prey to BuzzFeed’s linkbait yet again when I clicked, “This is the Most Important Photo from the Chicago Pride Parade.” If you’re as susceptible as I am, you’ve probably seen it. There’s a guy dressed like Jesus holding a sign that reads, “I’m not with these guys.” Jesus is standing in front of a group of anti-gay protesters at this year’s Chicago Pride Parade. A cop looks on with a smile that says it all.

The man at the center of the viral photo is Scott Whitehair, veteran storyteller and co-host of This Much is True storytelling series. There was no mention of the photo at last night’s show, but themes of religion, sexuality, and inequality were central to all of the reader’s stories.

Kicking off the night was Karen O’Donnell sharing her off-book, high-energy story of public speaking and fighting for legitimacy in a male-dominated country club. Acclaimed novelist Achy Obejas told a haunting story of first love and how time can make people we once knew intimately, become strangers. Co-host Stephanie Douglass told a ‘Stand By You’ style story of heroic adventure in the hours before you have to go to Hebrew school.

Mike Maimone, the show’s sole musician, rocked the crowd with his jangly vocals and his full-bodied keyboard playing. At one point he stood on a chair and played the keyboard with his feet. He sang about touring with his band Mutts, bible-thumping hypocrites and leaving the first guy he ever loved. It was impressive and a great way to transition into the second half of the night.

For act two, co-host Scott Whitehair told a story about Jesus that began long before the Pride Parade photo was taken. He told us about his younger brother’s love of Santa Claus and his Flanders-esque holy neighbor Tim who broke the news: there is no Santa Claus. Christmas is about Christ. And the swift kick Scott gave to Tim that sent him flying off his swing and made his brother forget all about the man in the red suit. Reader Art Johnston met his soon-to-be-husband at a gay bar in 1973 and has been a gay rights activist ever since. His story followed Chicago politics in the late 1980s and the events that led up to the passing of the 1988 ordinance that made it illegal to fire or not provide housing to Chicagoans based on sexual orientation. Closing out the night was writer and teaching artist, Khanisha Foster. In her moving piece she talked about the struggles she’s faced being a mixed race, working actress, in an industry and world that only speaks in stereotypes.

Around 10 p.m., when the crowd began to file out, Scott left us with these words, “There are tons of places in Chicago to see live storytelling and opportunities for you to perform. But if you do nothing else, just share more stories with each other.”

This Much is True is a monthly showcase every second Tuesday at 7:30 PM in the upstairs room at Mrs. Murphy & Sons Irish Bistro.