Aug 2012 05


45 Minutes Productions and WNEP Theater are pleased to announce Seven Deadly Plays by Joe Janes, a mini-festival of ten-minute plays written by Second City veteran Joe Janes in seven of the most dangerous places he could imagine opening Thursday, August 23 and running through Sunday, August 26 at Strawdog Theater, 3829 N. Broadway.  Tickets for all shows are $10.00 (online at or at the door).

All seven of the plays will have been written within one week of opening night. The bulk of the writing for each play will be done in a different location with an element of danger to it. For example, the Ferris wheel at Navy Pier, a street corner in Englewood, underground in a sewage treatment plant, next to the shark tank at Shedd Aquarium, the ball pit at the Children’s Museum. This list is subject to change.

“After Joe completed the Herculean tasks of writing 365 comedy sketches and then the writing of 50 ten-minute plays (all 415 pieces being produced at Strawdog Theater), he figured that the only thing more daunting was risking physical danger,” comments producer Don Hall.  “We’ll be shooting the experiences on digital video in case we ‘lose’ Joe along the way.”

The mini-festival will take place on the mainstage of Chicago’s Strawdog Theater, and the location has become a surrogate home for the work of Janes.

Jun 2012 17

This weekend, WNEP Theater held the 13th Annual SKALD Storytelling Competition and it was extraordinary.

First, a bit of history.

The SKALD was conceived of thirteen years ago as a fundraiser.  A one-shot event that would be A) fun and B) profitable.  It was the former and definitely not the latter.  We held the first one in the Bailiwick Studio theater (now Theatre Wit’s north stage) and I comp’d so many people, we ended up losing money on the venture.  But none of cared about the money.  It was SO fun that we determined that we’d do it every year.

For the first 6 years, we rented venues around the city (or used our brief stint in Boys Town with the WNEP space) and held our contest.  It was always amazing and always fun.  Then the fabulous DCA picked us up.  We performed SKALDs 7 – 12 in the Studio Theater at the Chicago Cultural Center and added the MAELSTROM (improvised stories).  We began doing classes during the week for free.  One year, we added a panel discussion from such notable storytellers as Marc Smith.  Then the DCA started to contract.  Money was the issue.  City politics was the issue.

Sadly, the DCA was taken over by the Department of Tourism and we were cut loose.  We didn’t bring in enough revenue.

In the meantime, however, the storytelling community exploded.  The Moth, This Much is True, Essay Fiesta, Story Lab, Story Club, Write Club, The Paper Machete, Grown Folk Tales, Here’s the Story – you couldn’t walk out of your house and not be confronted with passionate people telling stories of love, loss, victories and defeats.  Most are free (or, at least, cost less to attend than a movie).  It will be the monetization of the community that will diminish it.

This year, we decided to go to Strawdog – a sort “home away from home” for many of our latest stuff (including the ongoing Joe Janes series) – and it was like the first.  Lots of fun, lost a few sheckles, incredible stories.

Friday was the MAELSTROM.  A tiny crowd, six incredible improvising storytellers and Deanna Moffitt walked away with $100.00 in cash and the title.

Saturday was the SKALD and it was AWESOME.  Steve Edwards (WBEZ’s The Afternoon Shift) hosted and told the audience about how stories are necessary for humans to exist.  That we can NOT not hear and process stories.  And the stories were funny and heartbreaking and inspiring and beautiful.  Jamie Buell walked away with $150.00 and the title.

From all of us at WNEP Theater – thank you.  Thanks to the judges (Tyler James Greene, Ray Teresi, and the inimitable Vanessa Harris); thanks to the audiences; thanks to the storytellers.  Too much fun.  Cannot wait until next year.

Jun 2012 03

We just finished up our auditions for both the MAELSTROM (improvised storytelling) and SKALD13 and A) it was an absolute blast and B) the talent this year was OFF THE HOOK!  I see storytelling shit all year long and even I was impressed.  Both Rebecca and Lori (who assisted in the auditing) were suitably blown away!

So, without any more fucking hyperbolic fanfare, here they are:

Friday, June 15 at 8PM
Strawdog Theater Mainstage

HOST:  Don Hall

Competing Storytellers:

Deanna Moffitt
Tim Huerlin
Peter Athans
Jamie Buell
Fuzzy Gerdes
Dorrie Ferguson


Saturday, June 16 at 8PM
Strawdog Theater Mainstage 

HOST: WBEZ’s Steve Edwards


Amanda Rountree
Dave Goss
Scott Whitehair
Dennis Frymire
Kevin Gladish
J.H. Palmer
Valentine Soposky
Stephanie Douglas
Regan Davis
Jamie Buell


Congratulations to all of the Skalds this year and many thanks to everyone who auditioned – it was a genuinely enjoyable time to hang out with brilliant, creative, funny people and let them go for it for three hours.

May 2012 16


It’s that time, gang.  WNEP is finally getting up offa our collective ass and getting some quality entertainment flung out to your universe.

I hear you.

“What? You guys are still around?”
“Where the hell have you been?”
“Did you just put the word “fucking” in your title?”

We were busy having babies, paying bills, living in Portage Park and then not living in Portage Park, ditching our shitty, money-sucking condo, losing jobs, getting jobs, telling stories, having sex, and generally living that thing we consider LIFE.
Yes – you gotta problem with the Music of Obscenity?

After our “sabbatical,” we’re planning some things I think you will be geeked to check out.

First – and indicative of the post title – SKALD13.  Yes, you cannot spit in Chicago and not hit a storytelling event anymore.  Hell, I’m the host of The Moth! Well, SKALD13 is “the longest running annual storytelling competition with a cash prize.”  Chew on that 2nd Story!

Later, look forward to the Home Theater Project – three one-act plays written by Dave Goss, Joe Janes, and Rebecca Langguth explicitly for performance in people’s homes.

Then we have another insane Joe Janes project coming.

We’re 20 years old (which in theater terms is, like, 105 years old).

Get off our lawn and get into a theater.

Tickets for SKALD13 will be posted soon.

To schedule an audition, go here.

May 2011 14

And it’s here once again!

The 12th (!!!) Annual SKALD Storytelling Week has arrived.

Monday at 10AM – Amanda Rountree conducts a two-hour storytelling workshop for kids at the Cultural Center (5th Floor, Washington Room)

Tuesday at 6PM – 9PM – Don Hall and Amanda Rountree work with adults to inspire creativity and add structure to your stories and give you a chance to share some with the participants.  We’ll also encourage those that attend to contact and sign up for the various storytelling nights throughout the regular week that have sprouted up throughout the city.

Friday at 7:30PM – DCA Studio Theater – MAELSTROM!  Six improvising SKALDs spin tales based on your suggestions and you vote who walks away with $150.00!

Saturday at 3:00PM – DCA Studio Theater – KidSKALD!!  This one is FREE to the public.


  1. Seth Steinberg – age 11
  2. Annabelle Gross – age 10
  3. Madyson Hersh – age 8
  4. Talia Levy – age 13
  5. Maggie Maher – age 11
  6. Adam Rothschild – age 14
  7. Carly Merdinger – age 10
  8. Kelly Olvany – age 10
  9. Annie Roge – age 17
  10. Elita Ernsteen – age 11
  11. Stephanie Reedy – age 11
  12. Melanie Neilann – age 11

Saturday at 7:30PM – DCA Studio Theater – SKALD 12!  Ten stories, one winner and a spectacular night out!



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