It was 4AM and the sun was far from up. But there I was. Awake and gulping down coffee with excitement and purpose. I grabbed my backpack, slipped into my uber, and prepared to spend the next sixteen hours working as an Election Coordinator. I was assigned outside of my ward, (which I was a little bitter about, as my apartment building is my official polling place) so it was a bit of a trek to the northwest part of town.
I was so excited. I had never been a part of such an historic political event. I’d never really been part of any political event, other than visiting the Hall of Presidents at Disney World. Up until the past few years, I had never considered myself to be very political or civically engaged at all. I had grown up in fairly conservative part of the country in a fairly conservative family with a limited perspective on the world. I learned that getting along with everyone was the highest priority. If something uncomfortable came up in conversation, you changed the subject. If someone hated a certain group of people, it was just “part of their belief system” and you should pay little attention. Don’t rock the boat, don’t care too much, it’s only politics.
I arrived at my polling venue an hour before voting would open up. I won’t reveal too many secrets about the Illinois Electoral Process, only that it is long, hard, harrowing work. Thank your poll workers. As my shift tiptoed forward, I was on social media lockdown. I was unable to keep tabs on how the election was going. I was busy checking people in or registering first time voters, many of them non-white young people or newly-minted citizens. I processed over a thousand people in my assigned district when all was said and done. For the first time, I felt like I actually making a difference for my country. Helping people access their right to vote, to share their voice, and work towards a bright and wonderful future for all Americans. I am nothing if not wildly idealistic, like the protagonist of a Frank Capra movie.
The hate and vitriol and divisiveness of the preceding months revealed that our country is in a deep state of disarray and chaos. That we are so unfathomably divided. There were safety pins, which came and went. There were marches and protests, there will be more marches and protests. And Inauguration Day is coming.
“What can I do now?” I thought my civic duty would be fulfilled through all of my Election Day work. But I had such a need to do something more. But what? How can I contribute? My skill set is built out of my theatre background, my penchant for telling stories, and my desire to foster empathy through the arts. Luckily, Tanya Taylor Rubinstein, a storytelling coach in Santa Fe, was feeling the same way. Just a handful of weeks ago, she announced the launch of “The Election Monologues,” an event that would take place the evening of Inauguration Day in cities across the country. It’s a simple premise really: people sharing their stories. People sharing their real life experiences about the election and what it means for them. I immediately jumped onboard to help facilitate the Chicago chapter.
So on January 20th, we will gather at Catalyst Ranch to hear a diverse lineup of talented and passionate people tell their stories about election night, about tenuous relationships with family members, about their increased activism, and about fear and hope and everything in between.
Eileen Tull is a storyteller, performance artist, poet, comedian, and one-woman-show person. She has performed throughout the country, from San Francisco to New York City, including in the SF Fringe, Dallas Solo Festival, United Solo, the Cincy Fringe, and the Minnesota Fringe Festival. Her work has been seen all over Chicago including at Chicago Dramatists, Steppenwolf, Loose Chicks, You’re Being Ridiculous, Salonathon, Second City, and Beast Women. Eileen co-curates Sappho’s Salon at Women and Children First bookstore, a monthly performance series for female-identifying artists exploring gender, sexuality, and feminism.