BY SARAH TEREZ ROSENBLUM
Reading Series aren’t new to Chicago, but lately some innovative additions, events like live magazine Paper Machete and adrenaline-fueled Nerves of Steel have joined drunken standby Reading Under the Influence, making Chicago as vital as it’s coastal brothers.
Intended to spur performers to produce sometimes text-based, always challenging work, Nerves of Steel usually presents a mixed lineup including writers, comedians, puppeteers, musicians and actors. Though NOS was The2ndhand editor CT Ballentine’s brainchild, (which is really the grossest word in English if you think about it), writer, editor, and photographer Jacob S. Knabb has taken custody of the event, using it not only to promote innovative performers, but to explore his peculiar alter ego, Harold Ray. An “Appalachian transplant who works as a janitor and is somewhat baffled [to] host this variety show,” Ray, says Knabb, is only one of NOS’s high points. Past performances have boasted everything from musical short stories to tall tales about lovelorn dentists.
Knabb describes Chicago’s writing/performance scene as “dynamic and also fairly exhausting.” Says Knabb, “I'm just finishing [editing] a two-volume issue of “Another Chicago Magazine” dedicated to Chicago writers and was overwhelmed with the strength of the work we received. The reading and performance scene is equally robust and peopled with some talented folks who can do just as well behind a mic or in front of a crowd as they can holding a pencil or clacking away at the keyboard.”
As for NOS in particular, the next installment of this free monthly series will be presented December 7th at The Hungry Brain. Those participating include “Matt Bell and Michael Czyzniejewski as well as Brandon Will. Knabb says Will plans to present a puppet show and “the trifecta of Mary Hamilton, Lindsay Hunter, and Natalie Edwards has promised to create something that will melt your face. Plus, you never know what Harold Ray will do, though rumor has it he might [sing] a Waylon Jennings song he claims to have written.”
A freelance writer with an MFA in Creative Writing from The School of the Art Institute of Chicago, Sarah Terez Rosenblum, when not writing, supports herself as a figure model, Spinning instructor and teacher at Chicago's Story Studio. Inevitably one day she will find herself lecturing naked on a spinning bike. She’s kind of looking forward to it actually.