Former skateboarding phenom from Lombard shares his story during Fillet of Solo fest
Everybody has a story. And Kurt Naebig gets to share his -- going back to his days as a skateboarding phenom -- in Lifeline Theatre's virtual version of the 24th annual Fillet of Solo Festival, a showcase featuring 97 storytellers from around the country.
An accomplished actor/director and Lombard resident, Naebig had no professional storytelling experience when he invited a few theater artists to a reading last March of his in-development show "Stove Toucher." It was based on his experience as a teenage skateboarder and skateboard shop co-owner.
Longtime Lifeline Theatre ensemble member and former artistic director Dorothy Milne was among the artists who attended Naebig's reading. Recognizing a natural storyteller, she offered him a spot in Fillet of Solo.
"We've all got stories," said Milne, but "we're all afraid our life story is boring."
"It's not," she said.
Naebig got help in turning his story into a solo show from actress/storyteller Julie Ganey, who overheard him relating a tale and suggested he try his hand at storytelling. A member of 2nd Story, which produces storytelling events and workshops, Ganey helped Naebig craft a show from his memories.
It was nearly complete when the coronavirus struck, preventing him from performing live.
Then came the virtual Fillet of Solo, which offered Naebig an opportunity to share his meditation on a man trying to understand himself and keep his dreams and passions alive.
"This was exciting because it was new," he said of the show, whose filmed version will stream during the festival. "It called on me to write, to self-direct and to play multiple characters."
Naebig says it gave him the chance to share something about himself that he never shared with anybody.
"My dream is maybe some theaters will want to do it," said Naebig, a longtime Buffalo Theatre Ensemble member.
Ultimately, he wants the show to remind audiences to "hold dear the things they love" and remember "there is hope in darkness and life is pretty funny."
Former Live Bait artistic director Sharon Evans founded Fillet of Solo in 1995. At the time, she was told audiences would never attend solo shows. She persisted nevertheless.
"My feeling was that if it's entertaining and emotionally satisfying people will come," she said. "I have been proven right over the years."
Live Bait hosted the festival until the theater closed in 2009 and Evans invited Milne and Lifeline to take over as producers. Evans says there's a kind of democracy to festivals such as Fillet of Solo, which are devoted to storytellers sharing personal tales.
"People are curious about people who are not them," she said.
But that's not the only benefit.
"This is a very hard time for people. If presenting some of these stories can bring people entertainment, a distraction or a release, we're happy," Evans said, adding that a COVID-19-related shutdown doesn't mean shutting down intellectually or emotionally.
"That part of our lives is still flowing," she said. "And if you're with one person on the screen telling the story, you're not alone."
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24th Annual Fillet of Solo Festival
When: Feb. 8-28
Where: Performances stream online at lifelinetheatre.com
Tickets: $20 suggested donation includes three-week festival access; $45 all-festival pass includes full access plus livestreamed virtual panel discussions and storytelling workshops