Sidetrack's monthly OUTspoken storytelling makes people 'laugh and cry'

Fri. March 8, 2019 12:23 PM by Ross Forman

photo credit // sidetrack
The March edition of OUTspoken – which is Chicago's monthly storytelling event, held at Sidetrack to celebrate unique, personal stories from across the LGBT community – features daring and brave stories, along with experienced performers from the theater and literary world who are making their OUTspoken debut.

OUTspoken is normally held on the first Tuesday of every month, but due to Mardi Gras/Fat Tuesday falling on that date this year, OUTspoken will be Tuesday, March 12.

Doors to Sidetrack's MainBar open at 6 p.m., and the stories begin at 7 p.m.

Typically, there are six storytellers and one intermission. The March OUTspoken features the stories of Liza Ann Acosta, Michael Van Kerchhove, Richard Marshall McKinney, Ken Mejia Beal, Jaime Rodriguez and PJ Gray.

"I think the coolest thing about OUTspoken is that it has become its own community. People really look forward to sharing and seeing each other every month. At the same time, there are always new people to meet," said Archy Jamjun, the event curator. "The format hasn't changed much and we still strive to keep it diverse and represent all parts of our community."

Take, for instance, OUTspoken in April, which will feature a female rabbi and a fresh newlywed.

"We have a couple OUTspoken team members (scheduled to tell their stories later this year), including (host) Kim L. Hunt and Jackie Kaplan-Perkins, as well as a couple activists, but otherwise it's just everyday people, which is what makes OUTspoken so great," Jamjun said. "I like to make sure I'm featuring people of all generations because I think hearing stories from different points in our history is important. I don't know if that means keeping it fresh, but that way I always feel like I'm learning something new."

OUTspoken has been a Sidetrack staple for almost six years.

Jamjun said he is focused on creating awesome OUTspoken shows for the summer. "I think people need to laugh these days, but I also love when people pour their hearts out on that stage and you can feel the audience truly embrace those stories. I want to make people laugh and cry," Jamjun said.

"People like hearing stories they find they can relate to, or learn something from. I think the concept of a safe space to share our LGBTQ stories and lives is a relatively new thing and it feels great to not only hear them, but so many people in our audience get the bug to share and it's a really rewarding experience to get up and share. It can be terrifying, but worth it."

Chicago mayoral candidate Lori Lightfoot participated in OUTspoken last year.

The second-ever show featured Angelica Ross, renowned transgender actress.

"I pick some storytellers by going to different storytelling shows and finding (candidates), but, for the most part, people email their interest or a story. If they have a story, I might help them reshape it, but I rarely reject anyone and if I do, it's usually because they've recently (participated)," Jamjun said. "I have helped some tellers craft their stories from scratch, but usually I just give them a few notes or help them fit it into our time-limit. Then every month I look at the stories and try to create the most effective running order in terms of building up to the most emotional stories."

Jamjun said his OUTspoken "wish-list" includes stars from RuPaul's Drag Race, as well as Roxanne Gay, Samantha Irby, David Sedaris and John Waters.

"I'm surrounded by people (on the OUTspoken team) who have some major accomplishments under their belts and really care about providing an event for people to not only listen and share, but get to know one another," Jamjun said. "It's an honor and incredible learning opportunity for me. It's also the most I've ever felt part of and accepted in our community, and also like I'm contributing something."