I was honored and excited (now I'm mostly nervous!) when Evanston resident Tammy Job asked me if I'd be willing to do a live lit piece about Dear Evanston in the next Evanston Live variety show, which happens on Saturday, February 3 at 7:15 p.m.
Evanston Live, which Tammy describes as "a bi-monthly, community based retro-cool talk show featuring Evanston artists, musicians, chefs, local notables, and historians," started in the Fall of 2016 and calls the American Legion, Post 42 (1030 Central Street) home.
For each show, doors open at 7:15 p.m. for cocktails, culture, and conversation, with music by DJ Pound. The show runs from 8:00 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. followed by a set from a local band.
January's show will feature:
Tammy (who's from St. Louis) and her husband Ed moved to Evanston in 2006. They have three kids, Truman, 20; Caroline, 17; and Maggie, 15.
Like Dear Evanston, Evanston Live's goal is to build bridges and create community. I asked Tammy how the show started, what inspired it, and about her take on Evanston.
DE: What do you do for your day job?
TJ: I am the Director of School and Community Resources for Young Chicago Authors, a literary-arts nonprofit in Wicker Park, best known for our Louder Than A Bomb: The Chicago Youth Poetry Festival. I am also a booking manager for A People’s History of Chicago and The BreakBeat Poets.
DE: Why did you start Evanston Live?
TJ: I love people and I am amazed by their talent. Since I was a kid, I was organizing talent shows in my back yard and it's been my hobby for very long time. Evanston is filled with so many incredible people and I wanted to create a space for all of them to share their talent and for folks to meet who wouldn’t otherwise.
DE: Do you work alone on it or do you have help?
TJ: A group of so many fantastic Evanstonians make Evanston Live work. As I began thinking about the show in the summer of 2016 I reached out to a number of folks for advice on format, structure, and talent scouting.
From there I realized I knew a little and would need a lot of help. From graphic and set design, to marketing, sound, production and talent, a lot of folks worked and continue to work to make the show successful. These folks include, Noah Eisfelder, DJ Edwards, Susan Belzer Fitzgerald, Jeff Hubbard, Elizabeth Solomon Hubbard, Resa Ivey, Ed Job, Paul Lawless, Mary O'Brien, Max Shapiro, Bonnie O'Malley Shapiro, and Howard Tenner.
Our team from the set includes, DJ Pound, Mark Collins, who conducts interviews, and this year we brought on Dave Ivey to host our game-show segment. For each show, we also ask local restaurants and individuals to bake a dessert for up to 200 audience members.
I'm also forever grateful to Brett Hallongren and his team at American Legion Post 42 - Evanston for hosting us, and for their ongoing support.
And then there's the talent. Since the show began, we've welcomed more than 70 Evanstonians to share their stories, music, and art.
DE: How did you pick the location?
TJ: I wanted a place that had a long history in Evanston and that felt good. Many folks in my family and my husband's family are veterans, so the place felt like a home for me. I also wanted to avoid places of worship and theatre spaces that might feel non-inclusive. The Legion is the perfect place for this show.
DE: How often do you host the show?
TJ: I haven’t quite figured out the exact schedule for the show. Currently, we host a show every other month October through February. I wanted to let it saturate a bit before we expanded, and as a long-time Evanstonian, I don’t want to be inside during any good weather, so we avoid the spring and summer.
DE: Who shows up—who’s your audience?
TJ: The audience is fairly representative of Evanston and it's diverse. That was my goal, and I think we are hitting it. It's open to everyone 21 and up. Our largest audience was 220-- that was a lot of people in the space, but a good problem to have. Our smallest audience was 80. Our average lands at about 110.
DE: What do you love most about Evanston?
TJ: I love it all. I am long-winded, so I’ll do my best to keep it short. The schools, community activities, beaches, locally owned businesses, restaurants, music, festivals, and parks. It’s cliché of course, but it’s the people that make the community, and what an amazing community of people we have – generous, kind, active, smart, talented, and filled with great passion and spirit!
DE: What do you like least, and what would you change if you could?
TJ: Like any community, we still face the challenge of working together, but I think so many folks work tirelessly to unite us as a community.
There were countless times just in the past year when I thought about how proud I was to be an Evanstonian. A few examples include, The annual Race Against Hate, Dr. Witherspoon’s message after the presidential election to the community regarding Evanston Township High School being a welcoming and safe community for all, every FAN - Family Action Network event I attend, and the crazy generosity and community service found at the core of Evanston in the people and organizations.
DE: How does your show contribute to creating community in Evanston?
TJ: Each month I have the privilege of sitting in the audience as an observer following my opening monologue thinking, “This is real. All of these amazing and talented folks willing to share of themselves in a trusting, fun and safe environment are here because we created this.”
The show has exceeded my goals in terms of community. It unites us from a very basic level of humanity and the willingness of folks to both share and listen in a room filled with folks, many of whom have never met, is so inspirational.
DE: Do you have a moment from any of the shows that stands out—either funny, sad, surprising, a big success, a wardrobe malfunction?
TJ: So many it's hard to answer. Marty Behm shared a live lit piece following the election about “The Bubble” and in the same show Jeff Libman sang an original song, “Alien” both so important and topical. An impromptu duet by Jude Laude and his wife Kim was truly breathtaking.
Interviews are a big hit in the show. We've featured amazing community organizers, athletes, journalists, authors, artists, and coaches. Many of the folks who are interviewed during the show I have never met. When I call them or they reach out to me, that initial call or meeting learning about a person for the first time and knowing the audience will get to do the same is so great.
The music from local bands and soloists is incredible. I always leave wanting more of the music. Always.
Folks have shared a lot of inspiring moments from the stage, most recently Jason Keyser, a conflict journalist, said something--I can't recall the direct quote--but something like, 'in moments of conflict and war, there is beauty.' That really stuck with me.
DE: What are your future plans for the show?
TJ: At my core, I believe in community collaboration. I think we do this best when we listen and trust one another and we are able to be vulnerable. I hope to take all of the successes from 2016-2017 shows and keep doing what we have been doing even better, and expanding our reach.
Hope to see you there! Tickets are $15 each.
Past guests have included:
Susan Abraham, musician
Raul D Amezquita , artist, musician
Marty Behm, Evanston middle school teacher, LTAB coach, Mudlark board member
Marcus Brown, founder of D.I.M.E (Dance Is My Everything)
Jeff Burke, musician and bluegrass instructor
Erika Carey, participated in Lip Sync Battle
Pamela Cook, life and health coach, public speaker, performer
Carolyn Crimi, author
William Scott Eason, founder, Art of Evolution Theatre
Katie Greenberg, musician
Steven Godfrey, musician
Tom Herman, writer, musician
Jeff Hubbard, musician
Jason Keyser, reporter / editor for the Associated Press
Andrea Knohl, Keith Knohl, Kim Krumholz, participated in Taboo
Steve Krupkin, comedy
Kim Mahal Laude, founder, Kuumba Youth Program Inc., interdisciplinary artist / educator, musician
Jude Laude, founder, Kuumba Youth Program Inc., District 202 Board Member
Jeff Libman, musician, author
Michael Kett, entertainer
Tony McGuire, musican, Farkus
Antoine McKay, actor, founder of McKay Arts
Nina Uziel-Miller, psychologist, writer
Ixchel Muhlberger, Evanston LatinX Business Alliance board member
Renee Phillips, human resources advocate
Chip Ratliff, producer, songwriter, president of Shorefront Legacy Center
Jeremy Riley, winner of 2016 Chicago Triathlon, coach
Dino Robinson, founder, Shorefront Legacy Center
Tom Schneider, actor
Spiro Tsaggaris, actor, Art of Evolution Theatre
Ana Vela, founder, Evanston LatinX Business Alliance Founder, CEO, Amanecer Taco Shop
Lashun Williams, coach, author, consultant
Zoe Zolbrod, author