BY SARAH TEREZ ROSENBLUM
In junior high school, the most uncool thing a kid can do is care. Only a dork cares. She cares about her grades, about her family, about her future. When something goes wrong, like she sprains her ankle the day the solo singing role is cast in her school’s Mid-Winter Nondenominational Holiday-Season Pageant, and by the time she’s back at school two week’s later all of her friends are sitting at different lunch tables and then the clay Bette Midler head she spent a month sculpting explodes in the kiln, probably a dork cries. And then, she’s even dorkier. But here’s the other thing about a dork, if she cares enough at twelve to create art and strive for lead roles, likely she’ll carry on caring all the way into adulthood while people like Nicole Whitik don’t care enough to use a condom and end up married to Elden Tanhouse who didn’t care enough to finish high school. Hypothetically speaking, of course.
Now, I don’t know this for certain, but odds are Stacey Smith cared. What’s that Nicole? Who’s Stacey Smith? Well, she’s not one of the real housewives of New Jersey, so likely you haven’t heard of her.
Hailing from Long Island, New York, Smith “grew up a total ham,” the stage “the only place in the world [where she felt] fearless.” Now in Chicago pursuing comedy, she’s shaped “Confessions of a Chubby Tomboy,” a one-woman show dealing in part with her awkward journey to womanhood. Smith says revisiting that time is “therapy. To look at things in retrospect and be able to laugh [is] the best closure.” But while therapy is a satisfying byproduct, her goal remains to reach outward. “Chicago [comedy] is very group work oriented. Everyone has been really eager to be alongside me in this journey because it's such a truthful, personal piece,” says Smith. “The one reoccurring note I keep receiving is "more!" and "longer!" I thought it would be impossible to memorize a 40-minute show, and now I can recite it in my sleep!”
Recently accepted into two festivals. NCCAF (North Carolina Comedy Arts Festival) and Out of the Loop Fringe Festival in Dallas, Smith’s show melds stand-up, monologues and music. Director Jonald Reyes says Smith’s “talent” initially drew him, but “her excitement and dedication” kept him onboard. Himself a writer/performer, Reyes made certain to prioritize Smith’s mental health. “It can put a lot of pressure on a person to memorize and physically perform,” Reyes says, “my rule for Stacey was to slow down the pace and take her time between character sets. Not only will moderating the tempo help her remember lines, but also save energy for the characters that need to go over-the-top.”
Influenced by the likes of Amy Sedaris, Gildna Radner and Carol Burnett, Smith strives for honest comedy. Asked what she hopes audiences learn from “Chubby Tomboy” Smith says “to worry less about what people think about us and focus on becoming the best possible versions of ourselves.”
Hear that, Nicole?
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.