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July 2011 Archives


If you’re a Chicagoan who likes to shop than no doubt you’ve heard of the Randolph Street Market. Created in 2004 by former party planner Sally Schwartz, the event has even attracted the likes of Oprah darling Nate Berkus. Our Town spoke with Schwartz about the Market’s inception, current incarnation, and because we here at Our Town are fashion impaired, snagged some style tips as well.

Our Town When you started what was originally known as Chicago Antique Market, did you have any inkling of what it would become?
Sally Schwartz I knew it was a big idea but I didn't actually think I'd still be doing it eight years later, thought I would be on my yacht having cornered the market in some rare item I'd stumbled across. Honestly, it's so much fun I can't imagine doing anything else and feel very blessed that it's been so well received.

OT Randolph Street Market has been described as an urban street party rather than a traditional flea market. What goes into cultivating that atmosphere?
SS I always wanted this event to feel safe and be a safe place to transact business so the vendors are hand picked and screened. Because it's a two-day show, everyone gets to relax and have fun. Throw in the alcohol and people are loose and enjoying life. It's our cool vendors, many of whom camp out onsite, that make the event such a joy for the customers. We also have lots of big cops, Chicago's finest, as bouncers making sure everyone behaves. Chicago is such a unique place, even in the world of big cities, and the Randolph Street Market reflects it, a little wacky, a lot of quality.

OT Haggling at RSM, distasteful or necessary?
SS Haggling is just part of the game and the fun! Though many of our vendors report that they love our market so much because lots of the customers never beat them down in price at all. They think our Chicago customers are so fun and polite and appreciative. And apparently, that's unusual in the world of flea marketing!

OT What was it like to receive a mention from Oprah darling Nate Berkus?
SS I was totally thrilled the first time I saw Nate wandering about. I knew he would shout it from the rooftops. It's incredibly validating to have people with the means to travel anywhere and buy anything tell you how much they love what they see and buy at the Randolph Street Market.

OT This weekend you’re hosting pool parties and a photography competition.
SS The pool party is part of the high jinx, we fill kiddie pools and put lawn chairs around them and VOILA! Pool party! It keeps everyone cool in spirit and gives the pups a place to drink and romp. The first annual Vintage Vernacular & Street Style photo contest is another way for us to get our audience participating and using the market as a backdrop. There are so many fabulous photo ops and we just can't capture them all so we invite our attendees to try their hands at creating permanent memories.


Long before storytelling events bloomed like dandelions across the US, Chicago’s Fillet of Solo Festival was on the scene. Now in its fifteenth year, the festival is, according to Lifeline Theatre artistic director Dorothy Milne “a treasure trove of talent.” This year’s three-week event, running July 21st through August 7th features performers like Jenny Allen, Jimmy Doyle, Julie Ganey and even New York artist James Braly. Our Town spoke with Milne about her work on Fillet of Sole as well as her own storytelling group, The Sweat Girls.

Our Town How has FOS changed over time?
Dorothy Milne It started small and got really big. Live Bait was running the thing all summer in two spaces with twenty-four participating storytellers by the time it closed in 2008. Sharon [Evans, Live Bait's Artistic Director] wanted the Festival to continue and approached me with the idea that Lifeline take over production. As a long-time fan of the festival and a regular storyteller there with my solo collective, Sweat Girls, and with Lifeline being a new work theater, as Live Bait had been, it seemed a perfect fit. After a year of hiatus, Live Bait and Lifeline Theatre co-produced the 2010 Festival and, with that experiment a success, Lifeline has taken over production of the Festival, while Sharon remains a guiding artistic force in the event.

OT To what do you attribute its longevity?
DM If you put together a great storytelling festival, it's only going to grow. The start-up may be challenging -- it's hard to describe to newbies what they're going to see. Just yesterday I heard someone in our box office reading a description of a show to someone, and the caller was like "But it sounds like you're describing the performer rather than their character.” And the box office staffer was explaining that the performer IS the character. This idea often baffles the uninitiated. But anyone who comes to see a good storyteller becomes an immediate convert. They not only return, they bring friends. It's a form you want to share with other people.

OT What goes into coordinating the fest?
DM Sharon and I read dozens of submissions and took several weeks to decide on the eleven shows in the Fest. It’s important to us to bring in established artists who already have a following and to provide opportunities for debut performances by as-yet-unknown artists who excite us. There are twenty-four participating artists; some of the one-hour shows have one performer in them and others have multiple performers, each doing a short piece. And this year, the Fest features four artists with national exposure as well. The logistics are a lot to juggle. And we're producing the Fest in two spaces, so our staff is running back and forth between the venues for these shows that are starting at the same time!

OT You’re a director and a performer. How does each inform the other?
DM Starting as an actor helps me in how I communicate with actors. I speak their language, as much as anyone can speak anyone's language. Figuring out best communication with other humans is a life-long struggle. As far as the reverse, the most important thing is to take the director hat OFF when acting. There's a joke about it being a mistake to cast actors who also direct.


Weird flattery will get you everywhere, or at least a mention in this blog. But maybe only when the temperature is such that I am forced to dress like Sookie Stackhouse in order to leave the house.

Let me clarify.

Melancholy-voiced Matt Campbell, a self-declared troubadour, wrote me another e-mail yesterday, and because he opened by calling my surname the “best of any press person yet,” I decided to write about him. I tolerate my last name, but cumbersome and easily mispronounced, on my worst days, it even makes me feel fat. (These are obviously different from the days on which I dress like Sookie Stackhouse.)

I get stupid-hundred e-mails a day, but Campbell’s comment caught my attention. Having educated myself about his nimble, ruminative music and subsequently interviewed the guy, I’m glad it did.

Now if someone can please turn the weather down, on my honor, I’ll blog about you too.

Our Town What does it mean to be a troubadour?
Matt Campbell Outside of the romantic notion of a wandering bard singing stories of life and love, it does require leading an examined life; attempting to tap into something inherent in our human experience, and reflecting it for others to hear. Growing up, I found great comfort and enjoyment in music. My mom would listen to the classic country station and on Sundays they played the country gospel stuff from the 40's and 50's. She knew all the words. My Dad played the guitar and banjo, and had a great collection of records heavy on 50's rock n' roll, songwriters and country music. The covers of those albums were amazing, those guys were always in suits and hats. When they showed up to play, they were dressed up, like they were paying respect to their music and to the audience. Always gracious.

OT You’ve lived and performed on both coasts. Why Chicago?
MC I came to Chicago for love, first and foremost, prompted by a feeling that if I didn't I would regret it. [Also] I am always drawn in by a challenge. Chicago is the one of the few great American cities. This is a tough town to live in and to make it through is going to take some backbone. But there is a spirit of opportunity for theatre and music here that may not exist anywhere else. It's almost like the ultimate "put-up or shut-up" place. What a great environment to build something from the ground up. I suppose the short answer is, I'm always looking for more, and Chicago was more.

OT What prompted you to form The Chicago Talking Machine Co.?
MC A "production" company, CTMCo. is the entity I created as a platform for anything I do creatively. The name is a throwback to early recording on "talking machines." In one year The CTMCo. has produced two short films, two recording projects, and through shows and residencies has helped to produce opportunities for others. Not bad, so far.

OT You call “Miles Apart” a musical short story.
MC A narrative unfolds throughout all the songs; they are all related. Because recording and distribution have changed so much, the LP idea is in a state of flux. Singles and EP's are really prevalent now. I have always been into concept albums, but instead of using ten songs to get there, I used five. I still wanted to give the listener a complete picture. It's the perfect recording for fans of concept albums who ride the train; it's only about fifteen minutes long.


Outspoken, seems the word to describe artist Nikki Patin. Every inch the activist, Patin has taught hundreds of workshops on performance poetry, body image, sexual assault prevention and LGBT issues. She has worked as a sexual assault prevention educator for Rape Victim Advocates and as a case manager/program coordinator for Center on Halsted’s youth program. On the art front, Patin is a spoken word performer and vocalist. She’s released a book and an album. In 2004, she was featured on HBO’s Def Poetry Jam and in 2006 made The Windy City Times’ 30 under 30 most influential LGBTQ people list. Yet despite Patin’s undeniable list of accomplishments, she recently found her artistic plans thwarted by the New Zealand government. Patin spoke with Our Town about the legislation of sizeism, her work with young women and even her recent audition for NBC’s The Voice.

Our Town What inspired your Vitruvian Woman Project?
Nikki Patin The Vitruvian Woman is my ideal, inspired by Vitruvius' theory on architecture. The idea that function creating form, and the function is what renders the form beautiful. I didn't know Leonardo Da Vinci drew "The Vitruvian Man,” but I loved the image of the person inside the square and the circle. I googled "The Vitruvian Woman" and couldn't find anything that matched what I imagined. I began thinking about how long it would take to get to my ideal: muscular, strong to do multiple pull-ups, to walk, run, jump, bike, swim, to be healthy and feel good inside my skin. I didn't look forward to weighing myself, so I came up with the idea of doing weekly outlines to show progress. I'm starting the project on August 1st. For me, this is the ultimate in evolution: apply science to heal my body and make it strong and use art to document it across different disciplines. I see my body as my tool for art and expression. If the tool used to make the art changes, how does that affect the art? If the tool is the artist, how will that change the artist? And how will the audience respond to the changed art and artist?

OT What are the implications of a woman using her own body as art?
NP Women and their art are inextricably linked. That's why female musicians have to worry more about their image than male musicians. Also, so much of our confidence is tied up in how we look. One thing about art is it reveals. If you aren’t confident in yourself, on some level, your art will not be honest and will suffer. I've had two major turning points in my life through art. The first was when I began running in place as choreography for a poem called "Sweat.” Sweating and being out of breath were incredibly embarrassing to me, as if I was living up to the stereotype of being unhealthy. Lots of internalized sizeism. However, choosing to run and speak at the same time pushed me into an emotional place that made the performance much more honest. That poem cracked my chest open and made me realize that vulnerability is what connects an artist to an audience. The second turning point came when, using Mos Def's "The Boogieman Song" as a vocal anchor, I weaved spoken word, song and stripping into a burlesque piece about feeling like a monster inside my skin. If sweating and being out of breath were uncomfortable, then being naked, on stage, under the brightest of lights, was the ultimate nightmare. I was terrified. Then I found out that I wouldn't die if I went on stage naked, that no one would throw things or yell mean things or laugh. If anything, people appreciate the bravery, though I realize that compliment is somewhat backhanded, like I'm brave for showing my body? Because it's so ugly, right?

Originally, you’d planned to work on the project in New Zealand. Why?
NP I toured there in 2009 and fell in love with a whole country. I feel that healing and strength are sown into the mountains of that land, into your everyday path through the world. There's a freedom to create and express there that I've never felt here.

OT You’ve since found your entry will be delayed.
NP Instead of the 7-10 days that it usually takes to process a student visa for someone with a normal BMI, it's going to take at least six weeks for me. My medical history has to be sent to a panel of doctors in New Zealand who determine whether or not my high BMI will place a burden on their healthcare system. Their level is 35. Mine is 45. I definitely need to lose some weight and have started to, about 20 pounds over the last few months. However, I'm also muscular; my weight isn't all fat and I think BMI, only a measure of height and weight, doesn't tell the full story. To be clear, I'm not mad they have a standard for health to obtain a visa to study, work and live in their country. I'm mad that their standard seems to only apply to people with chronic illnesses and fat people. If I were a thin cigarette smoker, no problem. If drinkers, smokers and extreme sports enthusiasts can get visas, then how the standard is being applied is discriminatory. One thing about social engineering is that it's effective. If you tie people's ability to study, work and live to legislation aimed at controlling their behavior, they will fall in line.


Early this morning I dreamed I was having an affair with my girlfriend’s sister’s boyfriend (You get all that?). I awoke askance, before falling back to sleep and dreaming I was having an affair with my sister’s boyfriend. This time, I woke up tangled in sheets and hanging precariously from the side of the bed. I bring this up for two reasons. 1) When something incredibly embarrassing happens, I feel it best to tell as many people as possible. 2) Waking up suspended in sheets is the closest I hope to come to aerial ballet.

Not so for former gymnast and current Aerial Dance Chicago artistic director Chloe Jensen. Though I know nothing about Jensen’s subconscious, talking with her, it’s clear air-borne dance is her natural calling. In addition to teaching classes, Jensen choreographed Unearth, an aerial dance meant to depict the beauty and fragility of life, and the role we play as citizens of the planet. Performed through July 23 at the Ruth Page Center for the Arts, the environmentally friendly show promises a sweeping score and awe-inspiring choreography. No inter-family affairs though, as far as I know.

Our Town How does choreographing aerial dances differ from choreographing one that takes place on the ground?
Chloe Jensen The possibilities are what make it exciting. You have to think in three-dimensional space and consider things such as height, pendulum, different relationships with gravity, weight shifting and using your entire body, including your upper body to a greater degree. You can turn, leap and jump, but you can also spin, swing and fly! You can move upward along what we call our "vertical dance floor" or you can experiment with a whole new relationship with gravity, for instance with a bungee, your weight becomes closer to what it is like to move through water than it is like when you dance on the ground.

OT What’s your process like, from inspiration to final product?
CJ My process utilizes experimentation right up until the final product is set. I like to start with a few ideas and set those on the dancers and then use their energy and emotions to help drive the substance of the piece.

OT Your dancers seem more muscular than ballet skinny. Is this something you consciously chose when casting?
CJ In Aerial Dance, we don't feel restricted by the standards that might exist within the innermost circles of ballet, we are reaching outside the traditional boundaries of the art of dance, and in doing so, I think we are able to let go of some of the ideals that damage the body image. You can't be too scrawny doing this type of work because it requires great athleticism and whole-body strength and control.


A blogging bonus: meeting interesting people through artists I already admire. Take Lauren Levato. An insect obsessed visual artist with a background in journalism and women’s studies, Levato’s current exhibition, “Lantern Fly Sex Cure: New Insect Drawings,” is now on display at Firecat Projects. Although I initially knew Levato only as Tony Fitzpatrick’s publicist, as I learned more about her, I felt a growing kinship. When I read on her website that she was raised by wolves, I knew we had to talk.

Our Town When I was eleven, my best friend and I communicated by howling at each other (in public). What’s your proof you were raised by wolves?
Lauren Levato My family. No really, we used to say that a lot when I was a kid and one day, when our family was in a particularly destructive era, I was like “actually…yes.” It’s used as an implication of lack of manners or refinement, but when taken in terms of a fairy tale it means you have something other – an intelligence that goes beyond human capacity or understanding. There are examples in literature and mythology of the feral child having a preternatural intelligence. I identify with [that]. It’s one of the reasons I can walk into a room and tell you where the insects are in seconds.

OT Why the insect obsession?
LL My grandmother [collected] Monarchs and their mimics and I remember collecting with her. I found a jar of her specimens in my studio one day in 2005 and since I’ve focused on insects almost exclusively. [Also], I grew up in Indiana and that place is lousy with insects, especially cicadas. Everyone was horrified to walk through hundreds of them on the sidewalk but I remember clearing a space and sitting down in this massive pile of them with their orange-red eyes.

OT You call insects stand-ins for humans. Why?
LL We share many behaviors and sometimes their anatomy reminds me of ours. People can call it anthropomorphizing, but here’s a great example: When faced with fire the scorpion will sting itself. We all know people who self-destruct when faced with a threat.

OT How has your background in women’s studies played into your art?
LL My best friend and I [ran] a non-profit organization that helped survivors of sexual abuse, rape, and domestic violence use art and writing as a way to process through stages of healing. Rewarding, but it took a lot out of me. [Women’s Studies’ influence] is much more subtle now, [but] those concerns that take a person into a women’s studies program and that are generated in such a course of thought are always there.

OT Take us through how you create a drawing from inspiration to completion.
LL Having an obsession helps, that’s for sure. I read a lot of scientific writing, biology books, and mythology. Read them all together and you start learning and combining really different ideas. Or you stumble across some interesting tidbit that stays with you forever. For example, the poster image for “Lantern Fly Sex Cure” is the piece “From the Bodies of Dead Horses” and that title and idea come from the old belief that wasps sprung from the bodies of dead horses. Now this was an observable fact – some wasps are carrion insects and their young hatch from a dead body. Or they swarm and take nutrients they need. Whatever the case, people saw wasps emerging from horse carcasses, and the folktale stuck. Pair that myth with my imagination. When my dad was having quintuple bypass ten years ago, I got through the surgery by imagining when they cracked open his chest, the doctors would get hit in the face with a field of Gerber daisies. Or bats would fly out and circle the room. I laughed at these ideas, especially because dad was a real cranky dude. When it was time for the show, I started drawing an anatomical heart and the wasps made their way in and there you have it. Years worth of research and mental imagery came together into one piece.



Hey Chicago! Wanna get fit? Yeah, me neither. Actually, that’s a lie, I totally do. But here’s the thing, I lose interest quickly. One general solution I’ve found for my capricious nature is to dress the dog up as a different author everyday. This maintains my interest and gives the dog something to do. But when it comes to fitness, it turns out my short attention span actually benefits me. Bodies are smart, efficient. They find shortcuts, ways to do the same moves yet expend less effort; hence the dread plateau effect. Nothing to do with a landmass, exercise plateaus occur when your workout becomes routinized; you’re plodding away on the treadmill each day, wondering why your practice has lost its effect. So what’s the key to fitness? Make like your workout is (are?) the Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, and mix it up. (Dorkiest reference ever!)

One possible option this summer? Camp David, the David Barton Gym boot camp. Running Wednesdays and Saturdays from June 1st to September 1st, Camp David features
cardio drills, agility training and core strengthening, all performed outdoors. Our Town spoke with David Barton himself about the program and his own routine.

Our Town
What can a gym-goer expect from your boot camp?
David Barton Camp David workouts are designed to focus on High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) as a means of melting fat fast. In order to do this without cardio equipment or weights we selected ‘whole body’ type movements such as sprinting, jump squats, and pushups to maximize the rate of fat oxidation. These movements utilize multiple joints and recruit a large amount of skeletal muscle fibers. Combine that with the appropriate intensity and you’ve got the perfect formula to “Look Better Naked.”

OT By the way, how’d you come up with your ‘Look Better Naked’ slogan?
DB ‘Look Better Naked’ came to me in a dream

OT Some dream. So, why is interval training effective?
DB Interval training has a greater fat burning effect during the twenty-four to forty eight hours following the workout. It’s also better for heart health than a steady run on the treadmill.

OT How long does a session last?
DB One hour. [Chicago groups] meet at the gym and then run to Erie park as a group.

OT Is the boot camp suitable for newbies?
DB All of my classes designed for everyone. The trainers [ensure that] everyone can work out with the appropriate intensity for their fitness level.

OT How are David Barton trainers selected?
DB At DavidBartonGym, exercise is an art form with human flesh as the medium, dumbbell as the tool, and trainer as the sculptor. Each recruit must be able to perceive a body’s underlying potential, what the muscle looks like under the skin. These skills must be so internalized that a trainer can visualize and predict anyone’s results. Finally, each trainer must pass the test of training David Barton himself. Some make it. Some don’t.


I had an urge to title this blog “Look Who’s Funny,” despite the fact that comedienne and poet Elizabeth Wylder has no connection whatsoever to talking babies or Kirstie Alley circa 1989. I don’t think she'd mind though. Wylder’s comedic sensibility is delightfully haphazard, combining humor both razor sharp and wide-ranging. Last weekend, her sketch show, Bea's Knees - A Second City Writing 6 Sketch Revue, opened at Donny’s Skybox. Our Town spoke with Wylder about Chicago comedy, the literary world and her goldfish, but not about John Travolta.

Our Town What’s a comedian doing writing poetry or what’s a poet doing in comedy?
Elizabeth Wylder I wanted to be the female Dave Barry, and I had a brief career writing humor articles for the student newspaper, covering things like the annual Turkey Testicle Festival in Byron, Illinois. I stumbled into poetry in my last year of undergrad [with a] poetry workshop. Free verse seemed like the most logical next step after turkey balls.

OT Say something funny.
EW I’m pretty sure my pet fish, Tommy Hotdog Fingers, is immortal. And miserable. Converting fish years to human years, he’s roughly 425 years old. I mean, I can’t prove anything, but all he wants to do is watch Highlander and listen to old Queen LPs with the lights off.

OT Now say something poetic.
EW Tommy keeps the pH levels in his algae-ridden prison stabilized with his tiny fish tears.

OT What inspired you to start Pure Francis?
EW I was asked to co-edit another journal with two of my classmates from grad school. It followed a format very similar to Pure Francis; a focus on one story, poem, photo per week. Unfortunately, that journal [only lasted] long enough for me to get the editing bug, so I started Pure Francis with my former co-editors’ blessings. It’s named after an abandoned Robbie Williams side project from several years ago. Williams, who is a massive success pretty much everywhere in the world except for the States, was going to start recording experimental electronica under the pseudonym Pure Francis, who he said would be like “Neil Diamond, but with a bit of Kraftwerk or Depeche Mode, and not afraid to do a big chorus.” That seemed like an excellent goal for a literary journal to me.

OT How did you get involved with Second City?
EW Taking writing classes at Second City was something I had wanted to do ever since I moved to Chicago in 2006. Last year, the timing was finally right, and I lucked out by ending up with the particular group of writers that I did. Second City encourages writers to stay together throughout the entire six-part writing program, which is more difficult than it might sound, and there are ten of us who have been working together for close to a year now. Having that shared history benefits all of our work, especially with regard to trust and a sense of comfort—knowing you’re in a comfortable environment makes it a lot easier to put yourself (and your taste) out there and bring in five pages worth of something you think is hilarious, but realize might be absolute crap.


My journalistic credo is borrowed from the theater world: don’t steal focus. As an interviewer, I’m a supporting player, my subject, the star. To this end, I strip questions to the bone, cut most personal asides, and shy away from quoting those capricious compliments the average interviewee pays.

Enter artist Tony Fitzpatrick; generous, insightful and endearingly loquacious—not your average interviewee.

I worry that including my end of our discussion appears self-indulgent. However, in the interest of accurately rendering Tony, I’ve put my usual reticence aside. As personable as he is talented, Tony has plenty to say about his politics, his travels, his inspirations, but he’s also genuinely curious about others. To interview Tony is to step into an ongoing conversation, one he carries on through his visual art, poetry and acting; one he has with neighbors and hobos and strangers who quickly become friends. Here's my contribution.

Our Town What inspired your new play, Stations Lost?
Tony Fitzpatrick I went to Istanbul to meet Muslims. I realized I didn’t know any. I had some a**hole at a dinner party tell me that the world wouldn’t be a peaceful place until we dealt with the Islamic problem. I said, “what do you mean by that,” and he said, “well, till we get rid of all the Muslims.” I said, “jihadists are like two percent, you understand that, right?” He goes, “name me one place in the world where Islamic people live in peace.” I said, “Istanbul, since 1927.” So, then he slides his glasses down his nose and he goes “have you beeeeen to Istanbul?” I said “no, but I’ll tell you what, the next time we speak I will have been.” And I went. And I’ll tell you, I found more brotherhood and kindness and generosity among a culture of Muslims than I did driving across America. So much for who we fear.

OT This is your second show with Ann Filmer. To what do you attribute the success of your collaborations?
TF Her laser sharp ability to adapt. We carved away a lot of great pieces and went down to the most muscular ones. Just as with [first collaboration]This Train, she very gently told me where the lines were, let me know what was germane, helped prune what didn’t belong and shape it into a really dynamic piece. Were it up to me she would have taken a co-writing credit for Stations Lost, but she said, “every word is yours.” I showed her my diaries and told her, I think there’s a show in here about fear and faith and the folly of wanting faith. I worked in radio for ten years. When I hear O’Reilly and Limbaugh, these are the guys who chased me out of radio. They’re the reason I didn’t want to work there anymore; it became this culture of hate. They wrap it up in fear and they kite tail it with faith, like if you’re a Christian you believe this or that; well, thank God I’m an atheist. So, the show is about the aural wallpaper that surrounds us as Americans and how they attempted to teach me faith as a kid. Now look, this all sounds really heavy, but it’s really funny. You’ve seen my shows; I’m a funny motherf**ker. So what’s going on with you?

OT Me? I have a book coming out next spring.
TF It’s about time, goddamnit.

OT I don’t know what to expect-
TF Expect to spend no small amount of time promoting it and let me know what I can do to help.

OT That’s really generous, but you don’t have to do that.
TF I’d like to. You want to do a book signing at the gallery? My gallery is a cool place; people come there.

OT Tell me a little about your gallery.
TF Firecat? It was my studio for seventeen years and I closed it as a studio and turned it into a gallery where we show artists who I think deserve to be better known. You know, Stan [Klein] and me made a list of artists, and everyone on the list it was like, why aren’t these men and women a bigger part of the conversation? I said to Stan, “what could we afford to lose between us,” and he said, “comfortably, maybe $3000 a month.” We figured that was enough to budget the gallery. We take no percentage of the artists’ sales. We print a poster, do a mailing and invite all our collectors. Our friends from 3Floyds supply the beer, and then we usually throw a little after-party at my house.

Bio Pic Sun-Times.JPG
Photo by Charles Leslie

I’m the best girlfriend ever. Sure, from one moment to the next no one (including me) can predict whether I’ll shoot sunbeams from my fingertips or throw a fit because the dog looked at me wrong. Yeah, I skim Cosmo but judge my Significant Other for reading Five People You Meet in Heaven rather than something “worthwhile.” I am constantly lost, never want to carry anything, need to pee approximately every five minutes, object violently to abbreviations like veggies and Rom Com, check my e-mail incessantly, and make my SO apologize if I have a dream she’s done something wrong.

But none of that matters, because this month, I’m devoting the crush blog to my girlfriend’s crush. I know, how unflappable and Dan Savage-approved am I? It’s not quite what you think though; my SO is in love with…. pasta, specifically the local, organic kind handmade by Pasta Puttana owner, Jessica Volpe. But here’s the thing, Volpe has red hair, and if there’s anything my SO loves as much as pasta, it’s…. a redhead.

So, here I am, relentlessly brunette and confused by kitchen appliances watching my SO practically build a nest inside a heaping plate of Golden Egg Papparadelle, and what do I do? I decide to make fantastic chef and intrepid entrepreneur Jessica Volpe July’s Crush of the Month. And you know what? Now I’ve heard her thoughts on grammar and her way with a pop culture reference, I’m genuinely smitten myself.

Name: Jessica Volpe
Hometown: Cleveland, OH
Profession: Pasta Maker; Owner of Pasta Puttana
Hobbies: Pre-Puttana I had lots of hobbies. Now I just take pleasure in little things like tap dancing while I work; reading biographies of Golden Age film stars; experimenting with crazy old pasta-making techniques and eating olives.

Our Town Why homemade pasta?
Jessica Volpe It's a beautiful food, sorely under-represented in this country. Restaurants serve it but most cover it with heavy cream sauces, butter, globs of cheese--it defeats the point. My whole thing is letting the pasta itself shine with seasonal produce or just little morsels people find in their fridge. Come to Green City Market and you'll find me in a constant dialogue with customers about what's in season and which ingredients go best with which pasta. So much more fun than, "Go buy that jar of sauce."

OT How did you come up with your company name?
JV Puttana was something my dad used to say a lot, but in a funny, non-sexist way. Once I said Pasta Puttana out loud I knew it was right. Not just because it's irreverent and alliterative (both good for a company name) but because I truly am a pasta whore.

OT What did you do to convince places like Whole Foods to stock your product?
JV Oh, I stalked; wore them down with my emails and annoying presence until they finally just gave in (kind of like how Sandra Bullock won her Oscar).

OT Originally you weren't interested in retail space, why make the leap?
JV It wasn't in the original business plan, no, but I'm so inspired and excited by the possibilities of a shop devoted entirely to my pasta. The space is tiny so I'm going for a minimal-but-warm aesthetic. In the spirit of letting the pasta shine, I'll also offer seasonal staples like braised beans, sun-kissed tomatoes, and finishing oils. The Pasta Puttana shop opens July 8th at 1407 W. Grand Avenue in Noble Square.

OT Any advice for people wanting to start a small business?
JV Think carefully because it's a life-changer.

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