What is Story Sessions?

whatisstorysessionsStory 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.

Each show begins with a live set of music as the audience arrives, finds their seats and gets comfortable with food and beverages. During the show, the audience is encouraged to anonymously write a line or two on Story Sessions stationery with their own thoughts related to the show theme. Some of the responses are read aloud by the host between stories.

While the stories are performed, an artist sketches an interpretation of each tale. At the end of the show, we distribute a bookmark with some of our favorite lines from the show as well as the next show date. After the show, we share the recording through our podcast, which now has more than 35,000 downloads.

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Meet resident artist, Betsy Frymire

BetsyDrawingAt every show, Betsy Frymire sketches the stories as they are being told. Every drawing is an incredible visual interpretation of the performer’s work. And believe it or not- each drawing is completed in the length of the performance – just ten minutes! We sat down with her for an interview to find out what’s behind the magic of her work.

SS: What first drew you to be a visual artist?
BF: Artistic tendencies run in my family. My maternal grandfather was an artist (he worked in pastels and oils), my mom and aunt are both creative and artistic. My dad dabbled in photography, and there was a lot of art in our home when I grew up. I guess I always knew I had the potential to be creative, but it took me a long time before I believed I could make a career of it. I went to Columbia College in Chicago to be an illustrator, then switched to advertising because I like conceptual design thinking and I wanted to work in lots of different media.

SS: What’s your artistic background? Influences? Favorite medium?
BF: I absolutely love book illustration – some of my favorite artists were/are illustrators, and I’m sure it’s how I first fell in love with art in general. Chris Van Allsberg, Howard Pyle, the Wyeth family and Greg Mort are some of my all-time favorite 2D artists. I have a bit of a fascination with interaction and impermanence of art, and I love the work of Andy Goldsworthy (and outdoor sculptor using elements of the environment only) and Felix Gonzales-Torres, both of whom I think explore this idea well. Felix G-T has that wonderful installation in the Art Institute that’s just a pile of candy under a spotlight. Patrons are encouraged to take a piece with them, and I think it’s a beautiful work- it’s always stayed with me. My favorite media are watercolors and pen and ink. I’ve tried so many things, but I keep coming back to these.

SS: How did you become the artist-in-residence at Story Sessions?
BF: Well, it’s a funny story! My then-boyfriend (now husband) was telling a story at one of the first Story Sessions ever. I knew we were going to chat about it afterwards, but I have a horrible memory for audio. I have to listen to things more than once just to get the gist! To help myself remember more details, I sketched out little images that stood out to me as I listened. At the end of the night, Jill and Rachael saw my drawings, liked them and the rest is history! I’ve been sketching along with stories at almost every Story Session since.

SS: What jumps out at you in a story?
BF: Visual cues and metaphors; people usually use these to describe the most important parts of their story. I’m not sure why, but it’s almost always the case! If a storyteller mentions their life being like a road in a forest at the start of their story, I know that’s an image that’s going to be revisited throughout the rest, or at least that it’s important. It’s good storytelling and it makes for good illustration too.

SS: Is it challenging to draw the stories in real time at the show?
BF: Always! Sometimes there are visual cues that I haven’t drawn much from memory (I had to quick search what an iguana looked like once), and sometimes there just aren’t a lot of cues. Stories that are more about emotion or abstract concepts are the most challenging, but can also be the most satisfying.

SS: What do you do when you’re not at Story Sessions?
BF: When I’m not at Story Sessions, I enjoy working as a graphic designer at a promotional products manufacturer (Toddy Gear) based in the West Loop. I do freelance design as well, and it’s always exciting seeing my designs find happy homes. I enjoy yoga, reading, watching way too much Netflix, and drawing just for fun. I love to spend time with my wonderful husband, Dennis, which usually means seeing lots of great theater shows, watching too much Netflix and planning our next big adventure.

We also asked Betsy what her personal favorite show drawings have been. Here are her top six:
2014 Oct 25 KittensApril 27 PauletteintroRailroad0922_07jasonimg

Recap: “Love is…” Show

On February 22, we embraced the spirit of Valentines Day for our 2nd annual “Love is…” show. And what says “love is…” better than opening the show with a bluegrass set of murder ballads? Today’s musical guests were Chelsea Burns, … Continue reading 

Love Illustrated

Love Illustrated

On February 22, resident artist, Betsy Frymire, dazzled our storytellers and audience with her illustrated depictions of each tale. Betsy kicked off our inaugural brunch show with a drawing devoted to this month’s theme, “Love is…” Tom Wolferman: “I am … Continue reading 

Love is…Our February 22 Brunch

Sessions FEB22_POSTER
Oh brunch, how I have longed for thee. And now, the wait is over.

On Sunday, February 22, Story Sessions is having a brunch show! Six performers will grace your benedict and bacon with true stories on the theme of “Love is…”

But it’s not what you think. It’s not a couples show. It doesn’t get all wrapped up in the end. Love is messy. Love is complicated. Love is weird. And that’s how we like it. Join us for this epic event and get your tickets today!

Story Sessions, “Love is…”
Date: Sunday, February 22
Location: City Winery, 1200 W Randolph
Doors open: 10:30am
Show begins: 11:00am
Tickets: City Winery website

Featured performers: MT Cozzola, Marty McConnell, Danielle Pinnock, James Sweeney, Ted Wesenburg and Tom Wolferman

Music by: Chelsea Burns, Dan Fuchs and Andy Miller

Produced by: Jill Howe and Rachael Smith

Recap: Fillet of Solo, January 24

Our final night of the Fillet of Solo festival began with the heavenly voices of the Bacon Sisters. Hosts Greg Poljacik and Denise Santomauro were up to their usual crazy antics, pointing out their color coordinated wardrobe for the evening. … Continue reading 

Recap: Fillet of Solo, January 17

Recap: Fillet of Solo, January 17

Our second performance at Fillet of Solo was ushered in by the musical musings of Brakes on the Highway. Host, Tamale Sepp, kicked off the show with a tale of a scientific study aided by “78 horses.”Our first featured performer, … Continue reading 

Recap: Fillet of Solo, January 10

Story Sessions welcomed a full house for our first of three nights at Fillet of Solo, a three-week story festival at Lifeline Theatre. Folk duo, (and newly engaged!) River Rising opened the show. Host, Tamale Sepp kicked off the night … Continue reading 

Three shows in January at Fillet of Solo

Sessions JAN10_17_24_cover-01Story Sessions is prime time! We are featured not once, not twice but three times in Chicago’s acclaimed Fillet of Solo festival at Lifeline Theatre. The festival features 16 story productions for a month of live shows.

Here’s what you need to know:
1.Saturday nights in January are going to be amazing. We are performing alongside Story Sessions amazing alumni/favorite producers-The Kates (Kelsie Huff), You’re Being Ridiculous (Jeremy Owens) and Story Club (Dana Norris and Andrew Marikis).

2. Special offer! Get a HALF PRICE discount to these shows- $5 for one show and $25* for the ENTIRE MONTH of shows. HOLY MOSES.

3. The festival is the coziest place to be in January. The seats come with blankets (WOAH.) We will be serving warm beverages. We will have music and merriment. And there’s a bar next door for our post show after-party!

What should you do right now?
Take advantage of this VIP discount! There is a limited supply- don’t miss out! Seriously. It’s big. And there’s a rumor that festival ticket holders get their own butler during the show.

More details about the festival can be found on the Fillet of Solo site. And connect with us on Facebook to read about the featured performers and other nifty updates.

We can’t wait to see you soon. Happy New Year!
Jill & Rachael