Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Top 6 TCM Showcases from Past Readings

Two Cookie has always been an un-formatted show. I never ask guests to read to a theme or write something for the night. Instead, I’ve always tried to create showcases as an underlying way to tie the show together. Even building showcases around a topic, readers were never asked to have their performance fit it. In preparation for our sixth year, I wanted to remember the 6 of the different showcases TCM hosted over the years.

1)    All Zinester Reading
This has been one of my favorite readings to hold. I started the series as a showcase for zinesters. The first TCM was very zinester heavy. When I began booking readings after that, I made sure there was a least one zinester, comics artist or self-publisher in the lineup. As the years went on, I tried to align TCM zinester readings as fundraisers for Chicago Zine Fest. It was always great to have readers share new work that would be debuting at the fest. And once even, I was able to encourage a zinester that was in town for the fest to be part of that month’s reading.  The biggest challenge though with booking zinesters is that eventually you cycle through those that read in public. That was a challenge that made work hard to keep an eye out for new faces, finding new zines and contacting the writers, and making sure the zine community has an outlet at TCM.
2)      Spectacular All Female Showcase
I started thinking about those really lame bar promotions offered as Ladies Night. I didn’t want the reading to ever have to play to some cheap ploy to get people to the reading (well, other than that we already give out cookies). It wasn’t that all TCM readings had no women or self-identifying as women on stage. I simply used this type of showcase to book readers that were already part of the community. These readings were always packed and provided a great show. I remember on our second all female showcase, Megan McGrath read a story about her love of accordions and then finished the reading by giving one away to an audience member. I doubt any other reading series in Chicago can say that happened during a reading.
3)    Cookies and Cake
Much like the all zinester readings, this was our nod to the Chicago Alternative Comics Expo. These readings showcased only comics artists and illustrators while doubling as a fundraiser for CAKE. It really opened up the series to the comics community. Almost immediately after the first Cookies and Cake reading, I had comics artists interested in reading at the series.  I know Dan the bartender at the Hungry Brain used to get a chuckle out of many comics readers. I think the audience really enjoyed these readings, if not for the lineup, for the cake on hand to go along with the free cookies.
4)     Industry Night 
This lineup consisted of those who supported Chicago literary, arts and entertainment through their writing jobs or organizations. The readers worked as journalists, editors or bloggers for their job. But their job never allowed them to present their personal/private writing. The balance of writing for someone else and writing for yourself seems a tough line to tow. This night proved that both can be done without a lack of quality and creativity.
5)    Writers in Teaching 
Much like Industry Night, this reading showcased those writers that have a dual role, being writers as well as educators. The role of teachers is vital to society. And as we know here in Chicago, teachers haven’t gotten much respect from the city government these past few years. Like all of the other specialty TCM showcases, I simply asked upon writers that were already in the community. It was pretty easy then to gather teachers to share their talent. I invited a variety of teachers ranging from higher ed institutions, CPS and private school. I only did this once because as easy as it was to find readers, the event was held on a school night.
6)      Polish reading
This one was a little self indulgent (actually all these shows are for me as host and curator booking readings I love to see). I have a Polish heritage, one that I didn’t grow up embracing. I took the stage name Johnny Misfit as a way to make pronouncing my name easier. I started noticing that there were quite a few writers of Polish decent reading around the city or that were friends of the series. I contacted about a dozen readers to be part of this event knowing I wasn’t going to get them all to participate. The end result was one that went down in TCM history. We had homemade kolache cookies, a song about the White Sox and the south-side, and some poetry read in Polish. Dziękuję!

Well thanks for reading. If you had been part of any of these readings, feel free to leave a comment or email us at twocookieminimumATgmail with your thoughts. Or, if you would want to be part of one of these showcases in the future let me know! We can work on seeing if any should be scheduled this year.

Leading up to the first TCM of 2016, I’ll be posting some more lists, memories, and insights on our past and what has made the series stand on its own. Until then, stay warm.

Johnny Misfit 

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