Long before I worked at a library or was a librarian, I was creating programs. My background is in theater, and creating shows that travel is something very common for theater folks!
Throughout Chicagoland, there are many open mics and performance spaces, but they often have a specific focus like music, poetry, comedy, dance, or genre writing. Events take place at bars, clubs, or cafes, which can be loud, overwhelming, and require a purchase or cover charge. Bar and club venues are not accessible to everyone, and drink minimums can be barriers for people who struggle with alcohol or just don’t want to drink. I wanted to provide a space that offered no-cost admission and was inclusive, where all different creative types could come together and share talents with a kind audience.
The predecessor of the No Shush Salon was an open mic at a small used-book store in Chicago where I worked, Kate the Great’s Book Emporium. My co-manager Claire Cooney and I hosted an event that was open to anyone and any type of creative outpouring. We charged nothing and accepted everything.
The open mic program I started at the Clarendon Hills Public Library met in the attic program room on Halloween night a decade ago. Some of the performers were even dressed in costumes. Along with the open mic, the performers, audience, and I had snacks and discussed what we would call this program. The idea of it being the opposite of the stereotypical librarian shushing was brought up. Then “No Shush” was put together with “Salon” since what we wanted to create was more than an open mic, but a salon where creative types could come together and inspire one another.
While it isn’t necessarily common for open mic venues to follow their creators, the No Shush Salon followed me to the Oak Park Public Library, where we were once joined by improv troupe Outtaspace! During the pandemic, No Shush Salon met online with appearances by musical performer Jenny Bienemann and authors Michael Allen Rose, Zig Zag Claybourne, John Wayne Comunale, B. Sharise Moore, and Shveta Thakrar. Today, No Shush Salon is an open mic for every type of expression—writing, music, comedy, dance—anything. At each location, we have hosted performers sharing their talent and creativity for the first time as well as veterans who have performed in sundry venues.
In moving No Shush Salon to new venues, I have learned to be open and flexible, yet clear on our intention—be supportive and be kind. Anyone looking for an open mic with unexpected variety and delightful comradery is welcome to join us on the 2nd floor of the library by the round window. We offer free snacks, and our featured performers often have items for sale. This October, for its tenth anniversary, No Shush Salon will have the regular open mic – and cake! Please visit calendar.gepl.org for dates and times.