LitCity312 Review: Essay Fiesta!

Location + Time:
On October 21, 2013, I attended The Book Cellar’s monthly literary reading of Essay Fiesta! –the third Monday of the month event that hosts about seven local readers to read their first-person original stories.

Atmosphere + Feel:
The stage area was stationed in the general seating area by the magazines and adjacent to the bar/café with purple and red pumpkins hanging from the lights above, respectively. Since I attended about an hour earlier than the start time (7 P.M.), I was able to witness a few of the staff members move the chairs aside to set up a proper stage and seating area, which was quite efficient as they made it into a good use of limited space. As the clock approached 7, more and more people started to enter, the store becoming livelier and louder by the minute, a stark contrast to the much quieter appeal earlier on. While people munched on cupcakes and scones and cookies and slowly sipped on coffee and hot tea, the main readers began to set up their podium, microphone and stage area. Generally, I was impressed by the incredible energy situated in the room as well as by how quickly the seats filled up (luckily, I was able to snag a seat right in the middle!). I enjoyed the fact that some parents brought their small children with them to experience these readings, the diversity of the listenership to be quite different and vast, something you typically don’t get to see throughout live literary adult readings, such as this.

Performers + Quality
While the event did not start at exactly the said time, once it did, the two main hosts, Willy Nast and Karen Shimmin, began playing their theme song for Essay Fiesta! – the only live literary show, in which they claim, that has an original theme song. While Nast played his accordion, Shimmin sang in a flurry of funny and exuberance that made the entire audience laugh. From there, readers, such as Satirist James Finn Garner, Actor Jane deLaubenfels, Comedian Mary Lorenz, Writer/Poet/Playwright Chris Bower, and YA Author Molly Backes, spilled their hearts and voices into real-life first-person narratives and we were invited. This event is a must for anyone interested in a light-hearted, unpretentious approach to literary readings within the city of Chicago. You’ll leave with a smile on your face; I know I sure did!

For more about Essay Fiesta, check out their website.

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Amanda Hanna

Amanda Hanna earned her Bachelor's Degree in English, with a concentration in Creative Writing, from DePaul University in June 2014. She plans to pursue her MA in Writing & Publishing, from DePaul, beginning in the fall of 2015. She was born in Chicago, but has lived in a variety of places throughout Southern California, such as Riverside, Orange County, and San Diego. Post high school, she attended a nineteen-day trip to Europe and visited Germany, Italy, Switzerland, Austria, England, and France. On her free time, Amanda loves to draw and paint, attend symphonies and plays, peruse museums, visit farmers' markets, and, of course, read and write. One of her favorite collections of short stories is J.D. Salinger’s, 'Nine Stories'.

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