The Frunchroom is a quarterly South Side reading series brought to you by Scott Smith – a resident of Beverly/Morgan Park – and The Beverly Area Arts Alliance.
Our next show is Thursday, April 13th at 730pm at the Beverly Arts Center (2407 W. 111th, St., Chicago).
Each evening of The Frunchroom features five stories about the South Side of Chicago, often from South Siders, but also from those throughout Chicago who’ve experienced all that this part of the city has to offer.
In short, we try to represent all of the South Side, the stories that don’t often make headlines but represent the point of view of people who live here. We want to contribute to Chicago’s live lit scene by featuring writers, readers, artists and performers who are from the South Side or have something to say about it through personal stories, sharp commentary or historical perspective.
Hosted and co-produced by Morgan Park resident Scott Smith, The Frunchroom has played to packed houses since it began in April 2015. Previous readers run the gamut from reporters and writers (Lolly Bowean, Peter Nickeas, Natalie Y. Moore, Jen Sabella) to local residents (Frank Williams, Lendon Sadler, Tim Baffoe, Troy LaRaviere), business owners (John Brand of Open Outcry, Lisa Wilberding of The Quilter’s Trunk, Carly Carney of Beverly Yoga Studio) and community builders (Chicago Beyond’s Nneka Jones Tapia, MBMHMC’s Jamal Cole).
We’ve had radio and TV personalities like Sound Opinions’ Jim DeRogatis and WGN-TV’s Robin Baumgarten. We also host authors and poets like Kevin Coval (“A People’s History of Chicago”), Eve Ewing (“Electric Arches”), Nate Marshall (“Wild Hundreds”), Angela Jackson, Dennis Foley (“The Blue Circus”) and Clare Hartfield (“A Few Red Drops”) as well as politicians like Illinois State Rep. Celina Villanueva, Cook County Commissioner Bridget Gainer and 10th ward alderwoman Susan Sadlowski Garza.
For a good overview of what we’re all about, read this review from South Side Weekly or this article from the Daily Southtown about our 2nd anniversary shows.
Previous shows can be found on The Frunchroom podcast available via iTunes, Stitcher, Google Play and TuneIn.
We’ve been around for a little more than four years and have grown a bit bigger each year. We started out at O’Rourke’s Office then moved to Beverly Woods. Our current shows are at the Beverly Arts Center. We’re proud to call the neighborhood of Morgan Park home.
The “frunchroom” is a colloquialism formed when the words “front room” collide with the glorious Chicago accent. When your living room is the first thing your guests see when they walk in your house, that’s your front room.
We wanted a name that evoked the sense of community found in Chicago, particularly the diversity of its South Side neighborhoods. We wanted people to think of a place where family and friends gather to tell stories, have a drink, crack jokes, argue about politics, discuss art and otherwise enjoy the pleasure of each other’s company.
That’s what we want The Frunchroom to be. But unlike other frunchrooms, you won’t need to take your shoes off first.
Selected coverage of The Frunchroom:
Beverly Review: “The Frunchroom set for first event of 2018”
Crain’s Chicago Business: “Beverly sees big increase in home sales”
Meanwhile, new arts and social groups and new businesses have “brought a new energy into Beverly” in the past few years, said Francine Benson Garaffo, an @properties agent who has lived in next door Morgan Park for 29 years.
The neighborhood now has two breweries and a meadery (a meadery makes honey drinks, or mead), the three-year-old Beverly Area Arts Alliance, which hosts an early October Art Walk through the neighborhood, and the Frunchroom series of spoken-word performances.
DNA Info Chicago: “The Frunchroom moves to Beverly Arts Center”
Daily Southtown: “Frunchroom event showcases South Side stories”
What began as a small gathering grew to a quarterly event of about 150 people who come to hear speakers read stories, share insights, and entertain around a theme of South Side places and perspectives. Those speakers have included reporters, writers, local business owners, college professors and poets.
Beverly Review: “The Frunchroom set for third anniversary readings”
DNA Info: “The Frunchroom set to make Beverly Woods debut”
Southtown Star, “Variety marks group’s events”
“We’ve had painters and artists who’ve told stories about everything from hanging out at Evergreen Plaza to exploring the South Side by bike. There’s something special about the experience of being on the South Side, but in many cases the media shows a negative side to our area.
“We have people come from a variety of backgrounds and creative endeavors. Sometimes we have serious talks — we had someone speak about segregation on the South Side — and humorous ‘fish-out-of-water’ tales from people who moved here from elsewhere. It’s just really important that we develop something for the neighborhood.”
“This is a little bit like gathering the funniest, smartest people in your family and sitting down with drinks and telling stories.
DNA Info Chicago: “The Frunchroom draws standing-room crowd for inaugural reading series”
South Side Weekly (review): “New reading series The Frunchroom comes to the South Side”
Yet Smith’s goals for The Frunchroom also include diversity, not just in the types of stories told and who’s telling them, but also in the neighborhoods the audience hails from. The Frunchroom is a reading series by and about the South Side, but also seeks to attract an audience from other parts of Chicago. Smith wants, he said, “to show people all the different parts of the South Side, what it really is beyond what they may have heard in headlines or on television news. I think the idea that the South Side is of one particular type or one particular spirit is just silly.”
Beverly Review: “Arts Alliance events to thrill local eyes, ears”
For inquiries about The Frunchroom, email producer Scott Smith at ourmaninchicago at gmail.com.
All photos courtesy of Holly Evanchik Donovan.
Former Frunchroom readers
Natalie Y. Moore
Evan F. Moore
Erin J. Shea
James Finn Garner
Mario D. Parker
April 2016 (1st Anniversary Show)
Elaine Hegwood Bowen
July 2016 – First Beverly Woods show
Kelly Norman Ellis
Jamie Nesbitt Golden
Eric Charles May
April 2017 – 2nd Anniversary Shows
Comm. Bridget Gainer
Ald. Susan Sadlowski Garza
Daniel Kay Hertz
September 2017 – First Beverly Arts Center show
Tina Jenkins Bell
Kelly Wickham Hurst
Audrey Peeples and Ronne Hartfield
April 2018 – 3rd Anniversary Show
Rebeca Nieves Huffman
Nneka Jones Tapia
Kambium Buckner (rescheduled)
The Frunchroom Summertime Staying Home Sessions featuring past storytellers on Zoom
Hey Scott, sounds great. So just a little more about the phrase Reading Series. As in book club-esk or reading from….or theme of the month regarding topics. Just wondering. Or is it for communal hanging out. All good, just getting clarity. Pam Holt
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Hi Pamela. I’m envisioning a quarterly (we won’t be monthly yet) theme with all the readers performing pieces with their interpretation of it. And then some communal hanging out before, during and after.
Can you please provide more information about the podcast when it is ready?
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Kathleen: I sure will! It got a little delayed but hope to have it out very soon.
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Please add me to your email list. As a native of the Southside (West Chesterfield) and a connoisseur of our unique culture, I am quite interested in attending your programs. Thank you.
Will do, Graham.