Smile Politely

Peep a preview of PechaKucha v.21

For the past 7 years, CUDO has been bringing the passions of creative Chambanians to the public’s attention with free evenings of available booze and short talks accompanied by slides. Presentations can be about personal experiences, local happenings, global concerns, exciting hobbies, the act of creating, short fiction — basically anything and everything. Each one I’ve attended has left me in high spirits, slightly smarter, and more excited about what’s going on in my community. This Saturday’s event will be hosted by Kelly White of 40N, herself a repeat presenter, and from what I gathered from the slate of speakers, will fulfill my expectations of greatness. Seems even more likely since there have been promises of a DJ (Mertz), a photo booth (fun), and the usual warning about mature content (no kids!). 

For those unfamiliar, PechaKucha Nights (PKNs) have a very structured format: each presenter can speak for only 6 minutes, 40 seconds, coordinating with 20 slides that the speaker provides. That works out to about 20 seconds per slide, which may seem like they would all have to talk like the MicroMachines guy, but really, it’s longer than you think. I noticed that a very obvious mechanic has been overlooked in previewing the PKNs: limiting the answers to 20 words per question. Brilliant? Torturous? Perhaps, but it will also be brief, so there’s that. 

For each of the 11 presenters, I asked three questions and I requested that they keep their responses to 20 words each. It could be poetic, word lists, free association, or just concise, whatever worked.

1) Can you summarize the content of your presentation? 

2) What would you hope an audience member would take away from hearing you speak? 

3) What made you decide to present at PK? 

Lisa Cerezo: Random Acts of Kindness and Creativity

Summary: It is absolutely true that random acts of kindness can change the world. Just wait and see.

Takeaway: I want to inspire people to feel compelled to put kindness out into the world, as creatively as possible!

Why PK? Believe it or not, a random actor changed how I see the world. This is how I pay it forward.


Austin Cyphersmith: Making New Friends

Summary: Making friends after college, new experiences, new hobbies, saying goodbye, expanding social circles, ,small talk, seeking connection. New in town?

Takeaway: Seek out new friends, experiences and perspectives, try to avoid cliques, be inclusive not exclusive, yes to invitations, go outside!

Why PK? New experience, promotion for my meetup group, good story to tell, subject close to my heart, proud of my work.


Jared Fritz: Driver’s Re-education

Summary: Bad drivers surround us. My presentation explores what we—the good drivers, of course—can do to make them better.

Takeaway: A more positive view of our society’s shared driving experience.

Why PK? PK is a blast. It provides a fantastically thought-provoking amalgam of education and entertainment. I’m honored to be presenting again.


Darrell Hoemann: Creative Logistics

Summary: There is a creative approach to anything, even logistics, if you are willing to embrace a unique approach.

Takeaway: Use all of your life experiences when you have a difficult problem, involve people you don’t know and take risks.

Why PK? I’ve been to PKNs and enjoyed them. 40 years of journalism adventures should give me at least one good story.


Cara Maurizi: Fine Arts Is So Much More Than the Fun Class

Summary: Arts in schools is essential for learning. Arts+ Projects+Inquiry (engagement & retention) fun = lifelong learners.

Takeaway: I would bet everyone will wish that I was their music teacher. This isn’t your parents’ fine arts education.

Why PK? PK combines everything I love: education, entertainment, performance, emotion, storytelling, community, friends, art, and beer.


Molly M. McLay: Karaoke Saved My Life 

Summary: Karaoke is therapy. Karaoke is heartbreak. Karaoke is confidence. Karaoke is joy. Karaoke is community. Karaoke is all of us.

Takeaway: Push back on karaoke hate! Appreciate those who sing it! Try it! And come sing with us after the event!

Why PK? I presented in Vol. 17: one of the greatest moments of my adult life. Last time professional; this time personal.


Benjamin Moy: One Company’s Community Kindling

Summary: One part charm, two parts hope, four parts personal experience, and the rest of the slides

Takeaway: That you can do just about anything you put your mind to, with time and effort

Why PK? I was invited by a friend and I have a hard time telling him no so…


Erin Tarr: Girls…Choose Your Thoughts

Summary: Encouraging young girls to choose their thoughts makes a difference in their confidence and ultimately their impact on the world.

Takeaway: The importance of mentoring, encouraging young women to choose their thoughts, build confidence, create a life that changes the world.

Why PK? I decided to walk the walk — everyone should do things that scare them in order to grow!


Deke Weaver: BEAR

Summary: I’ll be talking about BEAR, the 4th performance from The Unreliable Bestiary.

Takeaway: An unsettling combination of creeping malaise, unbridled joy, and the early signs of gout.  And happiness.  And glee.

Why PK? This will be the third PK in Champaign-Urbana that I’ve done.  It’s a great venue to talk about the projects.


Anthony Burkert, presenter of Love Should Be Benevolent 


Tom Layman, presenter of 4th of July Lamb Cakes: A Mother’s Folk Art Legacy

were unavailable for comment. 

Seems like that might just be the perfect amount to tease without spoiling. Head to the Krannert Center’s lobby on Saturday night, July 30th, to discover the low-word-count, high-interest-content of the 21st PechaKucha in Champaign-Urbana. Stage 5 Bar will be open to sell drinks, but admission is free. Doors open at 7:45 and the show begins at 8:20, I recommend getting there early for seats. 

All photographs by Scott Wells…

Scott is a U.S. Navy veteran and a graduate of the University of Illinois. He has been a photographer and writer for Smile Politely since March of 2015.

About the author…

rebecca knaur is the Arts Editor for Smile Politely. 

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