Do you think that some of the best stories you’ve ever heard are the ones shared around a dinner table? Well, Second Story (2ndstory.com) does, as Chicago’s personal-narrative storytelling group prepares to hold its next event at Chalkboard Restaurant, 4343 North Lincoln. “This will be part of our series called Stories and Chefs,” says Bobby Biedrzycki, the curator of Second Story. “Chefs will create four-course meals around four stories.”
Five weeks prior to the event, Biedrzycki, Megan Stielstra and Eric May are seated around a dark wooden table in a small classroom at Columbia College, while a largely ignored thunderstorm taps at the windows. No one at this story-development meeting seems nervous. Compared to their well-attended performances at Webster’s Wine Bar and Red Kiva Lounge, “this event will be much more intimate,” says Megan, with an excited lilt, but this feels intimate. Andrew Reilly, the event curator, and Thrisa Hodits, the director, are the only other people in the room, because storyteller Byron Flitsch (the fourth slice of the narrative pie) can’t make it.
Megan, Bobby and Eric are here because their own stories, some old and some new, need to change dramatically for the venue. “We have all done stories multiple times that have been killer in different ways,” says Megan. But it’s not just the venue that they’re considering in this workshop—it’s the passing of time too. “Time paints everything with that thin layer of gold,” says Andrew, and Bobby admits that his story, which includes references to past drug abuse, has “an implied ending. Because I’m there telling it, it implies that everything is going to be okay.”
“Stories and Chefs” falls four days before Memorial Day, on May 26. “So,” explains Bobby to the group, “this really feels like Americana.” At least, that’s the plan: to share stories that represent different parts of American life—themes include drugs, birth, jazz, luck, cancer, fortunetellers, race, drunken girls and faith, among others. They’re different, funny and hysterical at times, but the stories can also draw you into a stillness that’s hard to shake, making you want to give the teller a hug. A huge one.
Bobby smiles. “I’m thinking about these three voices and Byron’s in the same room,” he says, while laughing about who gets to tell their story during the salad course. Not Megan, they agree. But there’s no denying it—something great is going to be cooking at Chalkboard that night, and it won’t just be the food. (Lauren Kelly-Jones)