Jeremy Ashley Owens is showing the funny side of life with his popular Chicago series You're Being Ridiculous. In the show, a different topic is featured each run. Currently, family is front and center, with games, choices and lightbulbs all planned for the future. Sounds ridiculous? It is all part of the fun.
Founded in 2010 by Owens, the cast rotates to include locals that tell a humorous or touching story about themselves keeping with the theme.
YBR has joined forces with Steppenwolf's new LookOut Series at the 1700 Theatre throughout January. During the Fillet of Solo Festival the storytelling continues this month with the gang on Fridays at Lifeline Theatre on Glenwood Avenue.
Owens met up for a chat about the where he sees his vision heading in the future.
Windy City Times: Start off with where you are from originally.
Jeremy Ashley Owens: I am from Stuttgart, Arkansas. It is the rice and duck capital of the world!
WCT: Did you study theater there?
JAO: Yes. I went to the University of Arkansas and studied theater. I moved to Chicago for graduate school in 2000.
WCT: We worked together at Weber Grill Downtown. Were you doing theater while you were there?
JAO: Sort of. I thought I would wait tables but wound up working as a host. I became the office manager there.
WCT: You met your husband, Andy Fine, when we all worked together.
JAO: I did, and we have been together over 10 years.
WCT: How did You're Being Ridiculous begin?
JAO: I had the idea for a while. When I was at Weber I was still in grad school. When I got out of school the stress of being an actor was too much for me at the time.
In 2010, when I was laid off from Weber after the economy tanked, I felt Oprah and the universe was trying to tell me something. I loved theater and wanted to be onstage talking about what I wanted to talk about. I didn't want it to be memorized because that scared me. I wanted a safe, happy place where I could talk and be in charge of it. I didn't want to do it alone. I wanted other people with me.
I decided on a monologue show where I will set the theme. I could write the story and read it to the audience. I begged a lot of people to do it with me. It was right around my 35th birthday so it felt like a coming out of sorts.
I thought it might only happen one time and was happy if that was all that happened. It worked!
The next show didn't happen until over six months later. Now we do about four a year. I do the Fillet of Solo Festival and a gay-Pride show at Women & Children First bookstore in addition to that.
WCT: So it is growing?
JAO: Yes. We are at Steppenwolf right now.
WCT: How did you become involved with that iconic theater group?
JAO: We were at the Mayne Stage in Rogers Park and my friend encouraged some producers to see the show. They enjoyed it and invited us to work with them in their new cabaret space the 1700 Theatre.
WCT: That is right behind the new bar?
JAO: Yes. The bar has some delicious drinks and is very cool.
WCT: People can bring their drinks into the space where you perform?
JAO: Sure. It is very chill and relaxed.
WCT: I reviewed your show at Hamburger Mary's in the past so you were there, also.
JAO: We might still go back there. Their space is awesome. They are nice to work with also.
WCT: If you could pick a celebrity guest to be in the show, who would it be?
JAO: Samantha Irby, but she has already done the show.
WCT: So you have already had your dream guest?
JAO: Yes, but who else? I read Jennifer Weiner's new book so I would love her, too. I would die to have Roxane Gay in my show.
WCT: So you are looking for people that write their own material?
JAO: They don't have to. They don't have to be a performer. They just have to want to tell a story that fits our theme. I'm confident that they will make it work if they have a story to tell.
The show is submission-based. Sometimes it is hard because we get more submissions than we can take. Having to say no is the worst part of all of it.
WCT: David Cerda, from Hell in a Handbag, did your show in the past.
JAO: He did. I wanted to connect with theater people that I already knew. He knows a slew of people that might want to do it also. I want to continue branching out.
WCT: Talk about Fillet of Solo Festival.
JAO: It is at Lifeline Theatre for three weeks. There have 15 acts brought together. It is in its 20th year being with Live Bait Theater before Lifeline. There are also shows at the Heartland Studio Theatre.
There are tons of good people featured, like Nestor Gomez, who has a solo show.
WCT: Where would you like You're Being Ridiculous to go in the future?
JAO: It would be a dream to make a living at it.
I threw it out on Facebook to ask if people had wanted to try this. We started classes with people that had little or no writing experience. That was new and different.
I had never taught before, but really enjoyed helping people put something together.
A bigger dream would be if it went to Broadway.
WCT: Love, Loss, and What I Wore would be similar to what you are doing.
JAO: My original idea came from that. You were at that show when it came to Chicago. I couldn't speak to Nora Ephron at the show I was so nervous.
WCT: How was meeting Cher?
JAO: I went to meet her at the Hillary Clinton event here in Chicago. When I went to take a picture with her, she could see that it was too much for me. She grabbed my jacket saying, "I love your jacket, but I'm Cher and, of course, I love velvet!" She then turned me towards the camera for the picture. I felt like I had crazy eyes and was biting my lip. I might have had a mild stroke. Afterward, I got in a fetal position in the other room on the floor!
Get Ridiculous at YoureBeingRidiculous.com, submit a story and become part of the act.
Follow the Fillet at LifelineTheatre.com to find out times and dates for YBR performances along with GayCo, OUTspoken!, and many others. Fillet of Solo runs through Sunday, Jan. 29.