Emerson stated, “All life is an experiment…the more experiments the better.” Mixing as eclectic a variety of performance art imaginable into a singular evening at Beauty Bar, 1444 W Chicago, solidified Salonathon as the necessary cultural experiment to watch. As Monday’s continue to be dark and cold, venturing out for this weekly event will not disappoint, particularly if a desire to see original art with a clearly defined voice is a must. Beauty Bar’s late sixties décor provides a fitting backdrop for the pre-show cocktail hour as audience members gather into an intimate mismatched design of chairs, creating a feeling of unique comfort.

The L Stop got the inside look at Salonathon through Jane Beachy, producer.

The L Stop: How long has Salonathon been running?

Jane Beachy : The first Salonathon was July 18th, so about 6 months.

The L Stop: What inspired the beginning of Salonathon?

Jane Beachy: This is a format that’s captivated me for many years. I hosted a monthly salon in my basement in Seattle in the early 2000s and then did the same in Kansas City and Brooklyn when I lived there. Since moving to Chicago, I’ve been experimenting with different environments, and Beauty Bar has been a great home. I’ve really enjoyed seeing some of the folks who put on puppet plays and created ridiculous songs and the like over the years go on to really exciting careers as artists. It’s just so great to be in an environment of unbridled creativity. You never know what might come of the things people are trying out!

The L Stop: Did you begin as a solo producer, or were you always working with a group? If so, who helped you pull this together?

Jane Beachy: I’ve mostly produced solo, but the best thing about producing is that you’re never truly working alone. It’s all about bringing together the most interesting, talented & vibrant people you can find and convince to go along with your crazy plan. Salonathon in particular came about because I do some management & booking for local “queer electro fuck” band DAAN. I got them a spot as the opener for Diamond Rings at The Empty Bottle and they were a tremendous hit. Pete Toalson, one of The Bottle and Beauty Bar’s owners, was kind enough to meet with me at the time and he offered me Monday nights. It really was a wonderful opportunity, and I’m so grateful to all the staff at Beauty Bar for being open to trying it out. That same week, lo and behold, I got an email from a woman named Kelly Kerwin who was interested in getting some more experience curating events, and she came on to help me with the series. I’ll never know how I got so lucky for her to just emerge from the ether at that moment!

The L Stop: The Salonathons I’ve seen have a wide variety of talent. How do you find so many amazing artists for a weekly revue?

Jane Beachy: I love to meet people, so that helps. I’m always on the lookout for interesting work. But more and more I also realize how important it is to be on the lookout for really great “connector” people and people who are involved in scenes with which I might not be as familiar. It’s amazing how fast that expands the possibilities. I realized pretty early on that it would start to get boring if I just programmed every single week with the folks I already know. This is why I put different hosts/curators in place for each week. I curate & program one night a month, Kelly Kerwin curates the Applied Studies Showcase once a month, Chicago Underground Film Festival curates once a month, Trandroid curates Shits & Giggles once every other month, and then there are guest curators like DAAN and Big Dipper.

The L Stop: Why did you choose the Beauty Bar?

Jane Beachy: Really, because Pete suggested it. But what’s funny about that is that I’d long been obsessed with the idea of doing a salon there. The opportunity just arose when I wasn’t expecting it.

The L Stop: What are your goals for Salonathon in 2012?

Jane Beachy: I’d like to continue to expand the horizons of what’s possible in that space. When DAAN guest curated the night, they were so inventive with where and when and how things happened that it really was tremendous.

The L Stop: How would you describe the evolution of Salonathon? Has it changed a great deal over time, or has it simply continued to amass a diverse group of artists in a similar fashion?

Jane Beachy: It’s definitely evolved quite a bit! The basic concept is the same, but the work and the artists are always giving me new ideas for of what’s possible and what might make the series better or more nuanced.

The L Stop: What do you most want readers to know about Salonathon if they haven’t already checked it out?

Jane Beachy: It’s fun! It’s not a pretentious environment. It’s about the simple & pure experience of sharing something for no other reason than to share it. It’s also about never giving up or getting narrow or bored or limited. That’s the energy I hope it conveys, anyhow!

The L Stop: Do you have any particular moments/performers that you’re most proud of? (that might be impossible to pin down, but feel free to share any highlights)

Jane Beachy: It really *is* hard to narrow that down. I’m always proud of anyone with the courage and verve to perform at all!

The L Stop: Many people describe Salonathon as a very queer friendly event. The L Stop caters to trans/queer/bi/lesbian women. Have you consciously reached out to the queer community, or has Salonathon simply addressed great artists first and thereby included all gender identities, expressions, orientations as a by product of that?

Jane Beachy: I was fortunate to be exposed to a lot of amazing queer artists right when I moved to Chicago, as I worked at About Face Theatre for three years. The organization’s mission is to enhance the national dialogue on gender and sexual identity, and the network of talent that surrounds that organization is tremendous. I was just so lucky to drop into the middle of such a brilliant community in this city.

Salonathon continues to support emerging Chicago artists each week with a Monday night event. Cocktails began at 8, and the show starts at 9. Highly recommended.

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