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'Serving The Sentence' Proves Constraints Can Drive Creativity

By Allison Kelley in Arts & Entertainment on Oct 14, 2014 7:10PM

2014_10_serving_the_sentence.jpg There’s a reason reality competition shows like Project Runway are so popular. There’s something so thrilling about watching contestants, all faced with the same challenge, produce wildly different end results. That was the fun of Sunday night’s Serving the Sentence, a monthly storytelling show that prompts each reader with the same opening sentence. On Sunday night, every story began with the funny but incredibly hard to write from, “I was texting in the bathroom stall…”

Impressively, all the stories were non-fiction. While Serving the Sentence, co-produced by Kendra Stevens and Maggie Jenkins, does not mandate stories be real or made up, Sunday night’s readers all told true tales that began with an incident of bathroom stall texting. Performer Jim Sweeney kicked off the night with his harrowing tale of a Mexican bar, a beautiful olive skinned woman and her testosterone jacked, pony-tailed ex-boyfriend.

Eileen Tull’s bathroom text alerted her she was going to be an aunt for the first time. From inside The Chicago History Museum’s Lincoln Room, the elation over her hour-old nephew, Tommy, set in and she sobbed hysterically at the foot of Lincoln’s deathbed.

Amy Sumpter, A third of the all-female Beastie Boys tribute (along with Stevens and Jenkins), She’s Crafty, let it be known: texting in the bathroom is gross. Presenting her story in a set of firm bathroom beliefs, “I hate cheap toilet paper,” “Don’t bring food into the bathroom,” Sumpter expertly relayed the spectrum of bathroom emotions: disgust, shame and vulnerability. She brought the audience through a heartbreaking breakup and a gut-wrenching run-in with her ex, celebrating his new anniversary with his new girlfriend at the Signature Room at the 95th.

Closing out the night was co-host Kendra Stevens who told a story about a haunted hometown road and those early friendships you form where you just get each other, and you never have to explain a thing.

Proceeds from the show went to East Village Youth Program, a nonprofit that provides college resources and support to low-income, primarily Latino youth. Every Serving the Sentence benefits a different Chicago charity. Stories at next month’s show, on Nov. 9 will all start with the line, “It felt like I had just run a marathon…” The show runs the second Sunday of every month at 7 p.m. at Towbar, located at 1500 W. Jarvis Avenue.