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Paper Machete: A Great Show Continues To Grow

By Mike Fourcher | Thursday, May 19, 2011

Machete regulars Chad (puppeteered by Josh Zagoren) and musician Sad Brad Smith. Credit: The Paper Machete.

Started in the back of Ricochet’s Tavern, 4644 N. Lincoln Ave., in January 2010, The Paper Machete is evolving into Chicago’s most interesting eclectic collection of readings, musical performances and impromptu comedy.

Founded by former magazine editor Christopher Piatt and playwright Ali Weiss, the always free show, kicks off every Saturday at 3 p.m. and runs about 90 minutes. As an added bonus, you can grab a beer and watch the game on TV out of the corner of your eye.

“It’s pretty important to Christopher and Ali to maintain that divey feel and to really keep the vibe casual and intimate,” Machete’s Managing Editor Anna Weber told Center Square Journal. “One of the things that differentiates Machete is that you can kick back and have a beer.”

Usually about 40-50 people show up for a show creating a frothy mix of show-goers and bar regulars who would be there anyway. Some weeks it’s less than that, some weeks it’s double that, says Weber.

Piatt, “works pretty much full time, booking the show and preparing it,” according to Weber. With most of the funding coming from a Driehaus Foundation grant and a few dollars here and there that show-goers give.

The Machete team has been struggling with growing audiences and more technically demanding music acts. “We McGyver the sound at every show,” says Weber. But even though the attendance is growing and the performances are getting more attention, the team wants to keep the show free.

“We are looking to move to possibly bigger space. We’re in negotiations now. [Christopher's] dream venue would be like the Green Mill…Something with a pure Chicago quality to it. Possibly the Horseshoe Tavern,” said Weber.

This Saturday the show brings its usual diverse offering:

There’s much more scheduled for this summer, including next weekend Academy Award Nominee and new Superman villain Michael Shannon as well as Pulitzer Prize winning journalist and author Achy Obejas. In June Machete will welcome social activist author Alex Kotlowitz, Paul Brittain, WBEZ’s Allison Cuddy and JC Brooks and the Uptown Sound.

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