Ian Belknap of Write Club via gofundme.com

Live lit is thriving in Chicago and has been for some time. On any given night, there’s likely to be some sort of page-to-stage event — probably several — going on around town.

Keith Ecker, who helms Guts & Glory and Essay Fiesta, says that lately he has noticed “a whole second wave of storytellers, people who view the [live lit] scene as an established entity they want to ‘break into.’”

Besides that phenomenon and the ongoing proliferation of live lit groups, proof of his art form’s potency in Chicago is also evident by its inclusion in the curriculums of such writing bastions as StoryStudio Chicago and Second City.

More experimentation and branching outside the typical live lit form is happening as well, Ecker says. His “PleasureTown,” which began as a limited theatrical run featuring some of the city’s top storytellers, has evolved into a podcast. Elsewhere in town, live lit veteran Ian Belknap is developing the local chapter of an Atlanta-based live lit show called Scene is Missing. His monthly Chicago version, which is set to launch this month, has writers and comedians commenting on movie trailers.

Also the founder and “Overlord” of Write Club — a popular and charitable live lit gathering that’s been going strong in Chicago since 2010 and has outposts in L.A., San Francisco, Toronto and Atlanta — Belknap is wary of newbies. While Chicago’s scene is burgeoning, he cautions that the “intellectual heavy lifting of creating a show is too often ignored.” In order for new shows to be welcomed into the fold and seen as worthy addition to Chicago’s ever-burgeoning scene, he says, they “must have an existential reason for being. Wanting a monthly showcase for your own work is not enough… A new show must represent an addition [or] expansion of what’s currently happening.”

Interested in exploring the live lit community, either as a spectator or a performer? Here’s a roundup of some prominent and not-so-prominent local groups.

Essay Fiesta


What they are: “Essay Fiesta brings together a cross-section of Chicago’s art and writing communities for a night of first-person, non-fiction essays to benefit 826CHI.”

Where they are: The Book Cellar (Lincoln Square), 4736 N. Lincoln

When they are: Third Monday of each month

Guts & Glory


What they are: Chicago’s boldest, most bad-ass [monthly] storytelling event…features the best and brashest performers the Windy City has to offer. Also, we raise money for children and puppies.”

Where they are: Schuba’s Tavern, 3159 N. Southport (upstairs)

When they are: Third Wednesday of each month at 7 p.m.

Here, Chicago


What they are: “Our mission is to bring people together from Chicago’s various creative, professional and cultural communities, to connect us with one another, to foster the arts of sharing and listening, and to provide a platform of support for the work of known and developing storytellers, monologists, and solo performers.”

Where they are: Theater Wit, 1229 W. Belmont

When they are: First Sunday of each month at 8 p.m. (7:30 p.m. potluck dinner)

The Paper Machete


What they are: “The Paper Machete is a free, weekly “live magazine” covering pop culture, current events and American manners. Part spoken-word show, part vaudeville revue, The Paper Machete features comedians, journalists, storytellers and musical guests performing in the back room of North Side bar. It’s a salon in a saloon.”

Where they are: The Green Mill, 4802 N. Broadway

When they are: Every Saturday at 3 p.m.

Write Club


What they are: “The world’s greatest competitive reading series, featuring only the most audacious and fearsome of writers and performers.”

Where they are: The Hideout, 1354 W. Wabansia

When they are: Third Tuesday of each month at 7 p.m.

The Moth


What they are: “True stories told live.”

Where they are: Martyrs’, 3855 N. Lincoln and Haymarket Pub & Brewery, 737 W. Randolph

When they are: Last Tuesday of each month at Martyrs and second Monday of each month at Haymarket

Story Club Chicago

What they are: “Story Club is a nonfiction storytelling show. The goal of Story Club is to mix the spontaneity of an open mic with the experience of live theater. Each show has both open mic and featured performers.”

Where they are: Story Club North Side, The Holiday Club, 4000 N. Sheridan; Story Club South Side, Co-Prosperity Sphere, 3219 S. Morgan

When they are: SCNS, 1st Thursday of each month at 8 p.m.; SCSS, 3rd Tuesday of each month at 8 p.m.

That’s All She Wrote Chicago

What they are: “A non-competitive live lit venue for storytellers of all stripes… who share the mic each month with a new lineup of readers.”

Where they are: Great Lakes Tattoo, 1148 W. Grand

When they are: The second Sunday of each month at 8 p.m.

Stoop-Style Stories Live — Schooled!

What they are: “Stoop-Style Stories is an off book (no notes/reading) storytelling show. Featured storytellers are given a theme. They take that theme and then share a 7 – 10 minute story related to that theme. Every show has a walk-up open mic where storytellers are given 5 minutes to share a story on any topic of their choice.

Where they are: Rosa’s Lounge, 3420 W. Armitage

When they are: The last Thursday of each month

Story Lab Chicago

What they are: “[N]ew voices telling new stories in the cozy back room of one of the city’s best pubs. Some of our performers will be telling a story on stage for the first time; others will be taking another step in their development as the seasoned storytellers of tomorrow. Each month features an entirely new lineup coming from a wide variety of backgrounds and disciplines – actors, teachers, poets, lawyers, comedians, novelists, painters, etc.”

Where they are: Black Rock Pub & Kitchen, 3614 N. Damen

When they are: Third Wednesday of each month at 7:30 p.m.

Story Sessions

Who they are: “Story Sessions is a monthly show, based in Chicago, featuring six different storytellers each month. Each performer shares a 10-minute non-fiction story that ties back to the theme for the night. The performers range from professional actors, playwrights and comedians to traditional writers and even first time tellers.”

Where they are: Venues vary

When they are: Monthly. Times and dates vary.

Miss Spoken — Live Lady Lit

What they are: “A live lit series featuring female-identified authors.”

Where they are: Gallery Cabaret, 2020 N. Oakley

When they are: Last Wednesday of each month

OUTSpoken LGBTQ Stories

What they are: “A monthly storytelling event… celebrating handcrafted LGBTQ stories.”

Where they are: Sidetrack, 3349 N. Halsted

When they are: Monthly

Scene Missing

What they are: Writers and comics comment on movie trailers.

Where they are: Schuba’s Tavern, 3159 N. Southport

When they are: Last Wednesday of each month


Upcoming Live Lit Events in Chicago

The Paper Machete

When: Saturday, Aug. 30 at 3 p.m.

Where: The Green Mill, 4802 N. Broadway

Tickets: Free

Here, Chicago

When: Sunday, Sept. 7 at 8 p.m. (7:30 p.m. potluck dinner)

Where: Stage 773, 1229 W. Belmont

Tickets: $8 or free with dish to share

Essay Fiesta

When: Monday, Sept. 15 at 7 p.m.

Where: The Book Cellar, 4736 N. Lincoln

Tickets: Free

Write Club

When: Tuesday, Sept. 16 at 7 p.m.

Where: The Hideout, 1354 W. Wabansia

Tickets: $10, available only at the door

Guts & Glory

When: Wednesday, Sept. 17 at 7 p.m.

Where: Schubas Tavern, 3159 N. Southport

Tickets: Free

The Moth

When: Monday, Sept. 8 at 8 p.m. (doors open at 5 p.m.)

Where: Haymarket Pub & Brewery, 737 W. Randolph

Tickets: $8 at the door, $16 pre-sale (limited)