Leah is a native of Pennsylvania who arrived in Chicago (via Indianapolis) 2.5 years ago in a rash attempt to escape monotony and pursue her previously successful acting career. Here in Chicago she feverishly fills her time biking around the city attending as many theatre, storytelling, and queer-focused performance events as time allows, tirelessly attending auditions around the Midwest, and enjoying her daytime work of keeping a roomful of privileged toddlers alive and maybe, just maybe, teaching them a thing or two about consent. Gotta start early.
Forty-something year old former engineering who is now a consultant and still trying to figure out what he wants to be when he grows up (sadly, trust fund baby is not a job you can apply for). As an engineering student at U of I in Champaign and an MBA candidate at University of Chicago, I got to see fun die twice. I've completed the Second City Improv training A-E and have been playing with my group, Standing Backwards, for the past several months. I started improv as a way to deal with my anxiety over public speaking, and I'm doing this story telling to push myself even further. I enjoy biking, running, and swimming and sometimes I even do them back to back to back. (though not in that order)
Beatriz Jamaica is from Chicago. She became a mother at the ripe old age of 16. Her daughter, Lisa, became her inspiration as she persevered in her endeavors. She took Lisa with her to Cornell University and pursued her Linguistics degree (she secretly wanted to major in theater). From there the naïve pair ventured to Santa Barbara as Mom pursued her MA in Education and daughter began first grade. They returned to Chicago to be with extended family a few years later. Beatriz was an academic advisor at UIC for over fourteen years. She is now pursuing her passion in acting as she has made appearances in Chicago Fire, Chicago PD as well as a few films, Unexpected, On the Downlow and Sunday in the Middle of Nowhere. Beatriz is now a proud grandma of three and babysits often as Lisa pursues her career as a bilingual education teacher.
Debi Lewis is a website designer and writer living in Evanston with her husband, two daughters, and an apathetic lizard. She’s new to storytelling on stage but not to storytelling on the page, having published stories and essays in fits and starts over the last two decades, making dozens of dollars to justify the two degrees in creative writing she so wisely earned. When she’s not working or writing, she’s perfecting a recipe, playing the fiddle, or laughing with her family.
After a 10 year stint as a human tumbleweed, Katie has returned to the shores of Lake Michigan, where people appreciate ending a sentence with a good preposition. She currently works at a medical association, helping medical students ("zygotes") figure out what kind of doctors they'd like to become, but, also, collating. (So very much collating.) In her free time, Katie enjoys leading knitting club at the local library (living proof that there is a gang for every gangster), takes stupidly long bike rides, and frequently laughs til she cries over her 4 brothers' combined shenanigans.
Jessy Lauren Smith
Jessy Lauren Smith is a Chicago-based writer, educator, producer, and claymation enthusiast whose plays have been performed in Chicago, Colorado, Massachusetts, and Texas. She has been an artist-in-residence at Ragdale and Blast Theory, and has told stories with 2nd Story, Story Lab, and That Maxwell Bitch, among others. She is also a founding member of Living Room Playmakers, a playwright-driven collective that writes plays for unusual spaces. She holds an MFA from Northwestern, in the palm of her hand, for an hour each day. jessylaurensmith.com
Lesley is a world explorer, nature lover and founder of BonViage, a local travel company. From her first solo adventure gutting fish in Alaska to breaking free from the corporate jungle of Chicago and finding personal peace in Portugal, Lesley believes life is best lived and learned outside your comfort zone. She has traveled to over 30 countries and has a life-changing story to share for every one. When not planning her next adventure, she enjoys long walks along Lake Michigan with her miniature schnauzer Stanley, sitting at street side cafes and turning strangers into new friends.
Reed Evans is a sustainability consultant and educator and the Founder of Scale it Up! Sustainability Training for Women Entrepreneurs, a non profit program focused on providing triple-bottom-line business training for entrepreneurs. Many years ago, she was a double threat actor/dancer. Currently, she's writing a single book with the working title: Inspiring Entrepreneurial Women: Creating Healthy, Resilient Planet. And, making ends meet includes work as a teacher of university seminars and PIlates. She recently took a standup comedy class and learned that she has no idea how to write a one-liner, but that she does have some strange and fun stories to tell.
Chris Forte, born and raised in suburban Clarendon Hills, grew up in an artistic, creative family. Obsessed as a youth with baseball, wood sculpture, antique repair, cars and some shenanigans we can’t talk about, he went on to earn a degree in dentistry and raise two boys. His latest interests include yearly trips to Scotland, Crossfit, watercolor painting, cooking, creative writing, and storytelling.
Hi! I'm Camille King and I work as a Freelance Costume Production Assistant for film. I love reading and writing in my spare time, and when I'm not choosing a bomb ass outfit, you can find me daydreaming my next great fictional love story.
30 year veteran of sales and marketing, and nationally recognized expert in the field of consumer promotions, Caroline has traveled from sea to shining sea calling on the top 200 consumer packaged goods companies. Thankfully no longer a road warrior, she now develops retail marketing campaigns for her former clients and thinks about telling stories of her sales adventures.
Onyi grew up on the East Coast but is now on his 2nd stint in Chicago. Over the years, he's learned a lot from exploring the intersection of his Nigerian heritage and American upbringing. He enjoys getting to learn about people through their stories and is trying to become a better listener (you can ask his partner how he's doing!). Onyi believes in the power of being comfortable being uncomfortable and enjoys storytelling events as an opportunity to share and learn.
Tom Besore delivers sailboats across the ocean. He joins volunteer delivery crews taking small sailboats from the Chesapeake to the Caribbean, a journey of 1500 miles and ten days offshore. These journeys provide great material for adventuresome stories of life at sea. As a lifelong resident of the Chicago area, he's passionate about the city's history. He started a neighborhood walking group called the Windy City Explorers which after eight years has grown to eight thousand members. They meet at neighborhood train stops and wander around discovering the best hidden gems throughout the city. Tom loves to share his city with others and will enjoy telling us a few stories he's collected along the way.
After growing up in a small Iowa town, I migrated to the University of Wisconsin just in time for the riotous sixties. Then it was onto New York City to work as a waitress (what else do you do with an English degree?) before breaking into educational publishing and children's book writing. Last year I discovered the vibrant community of Chicago storytelling -- and now I can relive some of those exciting, tumultuous and crazy old days.
Matthew J. Lipman
Matthew J. Lipman is a Chicago based actor – writer – storyteller and philosopher (with a degree to prove the last one). Life is about gathering stories and its meaning can be found in the sharing of them. Matthew believes that walking a beat won’t give you a story unless you can learn to listen to your own footsteps on the pavement in the dark of night. That which defines us need not pay the bills.
Jon is a graduate of the McGyver School of Excellence where he studied knife throwing, duct-tape construction and wilderness survival. He has been an exterminator, a women's shoe salesman, a meat packing plant security officer, Presbyterian youth minister, a videographer for an Aurora Mayoral attack ad, a Field Museum beetle collections volunteer and an after-school teacher in the Chicago projects of Cabrini-Green and Altgeld Gardens. He is not a expert in anything, but marginally competent at many things. He hopes that is the case with his story telling.
Sara is the Director of Organizing for a community organization committed to racial, social and economic justice. She likes interrupting people during dinner to talk about politics, whiskey soda and bitters, and all things inappropriate.
Jeff Suskin and his twin brother Hart are best friends. They were adopted from a Russian orphanage and age two, and grew up in Evanston. Jeff currently lives in a group home in Wilmette. He has been a fan of Storylab since his mother brought him to an event several years ago. He was inspired by the fact that everyone has a story to share. Plus, his mom says, he has had an interesting life.
Steven Ashby was born and raised in sunny southern California, but for reasons he can never convincingly explain to Chicagoans, he moved here more than thirty years ago and is utterly happy that he did. He is a professor of Labor Studies at the University of Illinois, and a life-long labor and social justice activist. This is his first time presenting a story.
Rachel Fernandez is a clueless recent college grad, a dedicated millennial and a vegetable enthusiast. Up until a few weeks ago, she studied Communication and Media, Journalism and Documentary Studies at DePaul, but now she's just trying to survive. Peak Rachel is when she's chopping vegetables for soup while listening to a podcast and thinking about the latest memes. Rachel's a Pisces-Aries cusp, a Taurus moon and a Cancer rising. Show her pictures of your pets and talk to her about your junior high emo phase.
Art Garwin is a lifetime resident of Chicago. He retired from the practice of law in 2016, having spent the last 27 years of his career working in the field of legal ethics, so you know all his stories are true. While practicing, he also wrote for and performed in an annual gridiron revue and, for a few years, was a member of a very amateur improv group. Now, he’s working on his golf game.
Born and educated primarily in Southern California, Elain’s early art training began in neighborhood art schools and community colleges. She focused on art history, drawing, painting, sculpture and later ceramics. Her portfolio was accepted by Otis Art Institute in Los Angeles 1965 but decided to build her own Ceramic Studio instead. In the late 1970’s, Elain apprenticed with the renowned ceramic artist, Ruth Duckworth in Chicago for three years. For the past 36 plus years, Elain has maintained a working art studio in Chicago creating art for corporate and private clients. In her art practice: Drawing, Sculpture and Photography she has come to recognize that her artworks are unconventional enigmatic self-portraits.
Teresa is a native Nebraskan. She made it to Chicago after a decade in Memphis--where she once met a man on a plane who told her she looked like Elvis, then asked her if she'd like to go to Graceland. She’s been a project manager at a women's research center, a violence against women educator, and now works at a visual note-taking firm. She’s written and performed in two one woman shows and is now delving into storytelling. One of her favorite memories is getting a surprise bump up to first class on a flight from Berlin to Chicago. She found the bathrooms to be roomy and well lit.
Jon Spiegel has been fascinated with storytelling since he was a small boy. His Pop was a confirmed long-form joke teller, and Jon grew up telling all kinds of stories from the stage as a musician (his primary career). He moved to Chicago from the East Coast after graduating from Harvard thirty years ago and has worked with The Old Town School, the Goodman Theatre, Blue Man Group, the Lyric Opera, the Northlight and many other others. He is a songwriter and a playwright and most recently rediscovered storytelling. He has told stories in Chicago at Story Jam, Do Not Submit, Illinois Storytellers, TenX9, and is now delighted to make his Story Lab debut!
Amy is a middle school teacher from the Boston area. She has lived in New Orleans, New Mexico, and now Chicago. When she’s not grading papers at Dunkin’ Donuts or scheming ways to make 7th grade more interesting, she can be spotted watching sports, heckling the New York Yankees, playing board games, dancing, running, cooking, and pretending to be a weight lifter at Planet Fitness. She looks forward to hearing and sharing stories through Story Lab.
As a quiet kid in rural Iowa, Steph Fowler spent hours reading Choose Your Own Adventure books from the local library. As an adult, she’s learned to use a similar "do over" approach when she doesn’t find the happy ending she had hoped for. She's now an entrepreneur and mental health professional who uses narrative therapy to help clients discover new stories and create lives they love. When she's not working long hours, she can be found writing or doing cross-stitch in late night establishments or enjoying the therapeutic benefits of boxing, cosplay karaoke, and cat cafes.
Dr. Ray Lauk has been a school superintendent and business manager since 1993 in suburban Cook County, downstate Illinois, and overseas at the American School of Brasilia, Brazil. Ray also teaches School Finance at Concordia University in Chicago and at The College of New Jersey’s international master’s program in Bangkok, Thailand. Ray has been transitioning from school leadership to being an entrepreneur. In 2014, he created Dr. Ray’s Toffee, a gourmet toffee candy business that was built on his 38 years of toffee making. Ray is also professional speaker who speaks across the country on a variety of business topics. A marathon runner, Ray is running his eighth Chicago Marathon in October, 2018.
Kate is a high school English teacher who is committed to social justice education, equity, and inclusion. When she’s not working, she’s bound to be at the gym or curled up with a good book for a short reprieve; if she’s got a bit more time on her hands, she’s likely getting out of town and into nature . Kate got interested in the storytelling scene about five years ago but has only told a handful of times. She’s thrilled (and a tad a bit nervous, too) about her first appearance on the Story Lab stage!
Michael Sanchez is a filmmaker, songwriter and recovering stand-up comedian. A co-founder of Comedians You Should Know and the storytelling show I SHIT YOU NOT, Michael would give it all up in a heart beat to "make it" with his band The Electric Dylan Controversy. lifejazzfilms.com electricdylan.com
Gillian is Irish, and grew up in Liverpool, where everybody inherited the 'gift of the gab'! She is a recently retired R.N., who has lived in Australia, California, Hawaii, Oregon and now, more recently, Chicago. Realizing she may have more stories than she has years left to tell them, her New Year's resolution is to die trying!
Julia Brownfield made her acting debut in comedy short film festival in 2012 with a submission that she wrote and starred in, A Girls Dream. Did she win? Heck no, but her movie was funny and she won $50 bucks for shouting out Two Gingers Whiskey in an unrelated scene. Does she still act? Heck no, but she loves telling stories, and when she’s not telling stories, she can be found naked and afraid in the shower before work.
Bonnie Cortez is the mother of two strapping young man who are making their way with finesse that makes a mother proud. She is a Life-Cycle Celebrant which means she delights in writing and officiating wedding ceremonies. She is also a Montessori 1st through 3rd grade teacher and a lover of the written word. She will try her best to make those written words sing in tonight‘s performance.
Louis Greenwald, storytelling addict. Louis was dragged to his first storytelling festival 25 years ago by his wife Susie who was a sixth grade teacher. He has promoted storytelling venues and now steals techniques from the best tellers.
Born and raised in Honolulu Hawaii, John Hahm is a relative newcomer to the storytelling community. He recently retired from Northside College Preparatory High School, where he taught English, coached the Academic Decathlon Team, and led educational tours of the UK and EU during spring breaks. He is eternally grateful to Sheri Reda, Ellen Blum Barish, Jill Howe, Scott Whitehair and other virtuoso writers and storytellers who opened the world of storytelling to him. They have taught him so much. Much more, they have given him the community of writers he has so wanted so long! Most recently, John has performed his stories at First Person Personal, The Asian Diaspora, and Mrs. Murphy’s Irish Pub, and Do Not Submit in Lincoln Square.
I'm a native of Chicago, born and raised mostly on the South Side, but lived for 12 years in New Orleans, where I acquired a love of good food, good music and good people. I graduated from the University of AZ with a B.A. in psychology, and did some graduate work at Tulane. After realizing that a life in academia wasn't for me, I moved to the French Quarter and worked at some awesome hotels and restaurants. I still cherish my 4 year stint at K-Paul's Louisiana Kitchen where I was taught commitment, dedication and teamwork from a culinary genius -- while eating fabulous food, having an enormous amount of fun working with a talented bunch of people and meeting interesting (and sometimes famous) people from all over the world! But I missed home and came back to Chicago where I pursued a variety of different vocations among them being stock options trader, backyard nature store manager, product designer for a Chicago manufacturer of metal products, and genealogist. I was blessed to have met and married a great guy, who unfortunately died of lymphoma at way too young an age. Since 2016 I have rekindled my childhood love of performing, and have immersed myself in singing, improv, acting, voice over, and storytelling. I am currently performing with JarFar, an improv team, over at Second City, where we all completed their improv program, and I am also in their Musical Improv program.
Gili Sherman is an art teacher for grades 5 - 8 at a small school in the Lakeview neighborhood of Chicago. When asked where she is from, the answer is never short, because she grew up in Israel, the US and the UK and has lived all over this country. For her writing, she draws from a deep well of inspiration from her Iraqi and British grandparents, her immigrant parents, and the colorful stories they have shared. She also draws from her friendships; her rich connection with her husband and four kids; travel; and the serendipity of meaningful conversations with people she encounters along the way.
Patrick Curtin is a Chicago native that incorporates storytelling as a celebrant for weddings, memorials and other moments in life that should be celebrated. Patrick has shared stories at the Irish American Heritage Center, Steppenwolf, Second City and the Goodman Theater.
Alison first discovered This Much Is True a year ago and fell in love with hearing other people's stories! A teacher, traveler, and musician, Alison has taught English in Korea and France, and she is planning to be a high school history teacher in Chicago. She also loves the flute; she grew up playing mostly classical music, and she has enjoyed playing Jethro Tull, Led Zeppelin, and Ibrahim Maalouf with friends.
Raised in small-town Oklahoma, Audrey fulfilled a lifelong dream of transitioning to city limits after taking the midnight train going anywhere and ended up in Chicago. Her background is in film and video production, but she now works as the Operations Manager for a finance company. She enjoys collaborating on projects that empower women and will soon be publishing a book with friends featuring interviews with women from all over the world. She is currently on her fourth time through watching The Office.
30 year veteran of sales and marketing, and nationally recognized expert in the field of consumer promotions, Caroline has traveled from sea to shining sea calling on the top 200 consumer packaged goods companies. Thankfully no longer a road warrior, she now develops retail marketing campaigns for her former clients and thinks about telling stories of her sales adventures.
Karen Purze is in the middle of a transformation. She is using twenty years of software product development experience to launch a career as a business consultant (and independent writer.) She is the author of Life In Motion: A Guide for Gathering Life’s Vital Details, a workbook to help people get their affairs in order. She blogs about better preparing for emergencies and her personal experiences with serious illness and loss at lifeinmotionguide.com. In addition to writing, Karen teaches people at corporate and community based organizations to prepare for (and manage through) major life transitions.
Nancy Wai was first exposed to the magic of the performing arts by her mother via Andrew Lloyd Webber. Immediately spellbound, she consumed all that she could find on cassettes and VHS tapes at the library and daydreamed about being on "the stage." But there was one problem: she was extremely shy. In fact, the jury was still out in terms of whether or not she could actually speak. Fast forward to freshman year of high school when her Enriched Patterns teacher asked her to do a staged reading of Antigone (major props to teachers that see and call forth the potential in kids). It was through Antigone she found her voice but never considered storytelling until late last year when one of her improv classmates asked, "Nancy, have you ever considered storytelling? I think you'd be good at it!" Even though she was an avid listener of Radiolab, This American Life, and The Moth, the thought had never occurred to her. But since she was failing miserably at improv, she decided, "What the hey." Thanks to Mr. Google she discovered Story Lab and now history is being made. Ask her about her coffee shop, which should be open by the time she shares her story.
Eva moved to Chicago from the D.C. suburbs. She studies Radio and Creative Nonfiction at Columbia College Chicago, where she takes her dog Blue to class. She hopes when they graduate that she can find a cap and gown that fit him too.
Gender fluid trans woman. Life and labels can be complicated. I have found storytelling in recent years and now tell stories often and try to advocate for transgender awareness though storytelling.
Liz Klein is a sassy hairdresser here in Chicagoland. She is Chicago born, Denver raised and returned to Chicago thirteen years ago after earning a BA in costume design. Chicago has almost completely killed her filter so don't be surprised when she throws a few "f" bombs. When she is not troubleshooting hair problems or finding new ways to use the "f" word she can be found chasing after her two small humans and hubby.
Victoria Reeves is a Writer, Career/Life Coach and Storyteller. Some call her “brassy and intrepid” while others call her a “Pragmatic Mystic.” She is passionate about cultivating authentic expression as a means to clarify, quantify and actualize one’s path in life. In her coaching practice, she works with clients from all over the world on Vocational Integration, which is the process of incorporating who you are with your Soul’s Work. Throughout this journey, she has heard 1000’s of stories of transformation, epiphany, synthesis and resulting joy! As such, she deeply understands the power of words to affect change. A Memoir Writer and Blogger, she began intensively chronicling her own tales 6 years ago after immersing herself in Personal Narrative classes at The Hugo House in Seattle. Here in Chicago, her Storytelling career began 4 months ago in Scott Whitehair’s class. Through workshopping snapshot vignettes with her classmates, she discovered this new (to her) genre where she could integrate her love of writing, performing, endless pontificating and connecting the dots. Since then, she has unearthed funny and reflective stories called “Comfortable in My Skin”, “The Muse is Calling” and “Communication Skills”, performing them at: Louder than a Mom Storytelling at Martyrs’, OLLIE Inter-generational Storytelling at Northwestern University and numerous Do Not Submit shows.
Born and raised in small town Indiana Whitney spent many summer days wrecking her bike and still has the scars to prove it. She’s an advocate for s’mores culture and can often be found with a cup of coffee in her hand. Whitney has always loved writing and storytelling. Her ultimate life goal is help others feel less alone by telling stories about her life.
Will is a writer, intellectual giant and arbiter of good and evil for all who cross his path. He whiles away the daylight hours in a soulless office job and blossoms in the evening hours. He has a widely-chronicled grudge with water in all its forms – solid, liquid and especially steam. His writings have been compared to lunatic rantings, and he has been favorably compared (by himself) to the late Chicago outsider artist Henry Darger, who authored the 15,145 page handwritten novel, “The Story of the Vivian Girls, in What is Known as the Realms of the Unreal, of the Glandeco-Angelinnian War Storm, Caused by the Child Slave Rebellion.” He is loved by few and feared by many. He has a pretty and talented girlfriend who is a StoryLab veteran and who introduced him to storytelling. He also has a very discontented twelve-year old cat.
Parla Hoelter is originally from New Orleans, and owns over twenty different hot sauces. Parla enjoys reading, cross stitching, sunscreen, sour beers, improv, and figuring out how to stop her cat from eating every plant she owns. She is currently taking a 80's jazzercise class and is now the proud owner of three pairs of legwarmers.
Carrie comes from a background in public relations, where she says you are telling stories just about every day and just about every one of them is true. Her work today finds her presenting to audiences on main stages and in workshops on her favorite business topics -- personal and business branding. She has performed at the Second City Training Center in sketch comedy and storytelling shows. In her spare time, she is giddy about just becoming an AMC Stubs A-List member, which enables her to see up to three movies per week all for one low, low monthly fee.
Tracy Lytwyn is native to the Chicago area and recently returned after a brief foray in Indianapolis. She found her passion for writing and storytelling at a young age and has had her words published in The Atlantic, WBUR Boston, Prevention Magazine, xoJane and others. When she isn't spinning a yarn, she enjoys rock climbing, singing, playing piano, biking, exploring and advocacy work. Professionally, she works in public affairs for a non-profit and lives in Lincoln Square with her "dog-child," Juno.
Valerie Mrak is a speaker, storyteller and coach as well as an award winning documentary filmmaker. She has interviewed a wide range of people from His Holiness the Dalai Lama, a Blackfoot Medicine Woman, Fortune 100 CEOs and “everyday” people with fascinating stories. She is a TEDx speaker and leads workshops and talks on Conflict to Possibility: Insights from Nobel Laureates and Former Gang Leaders. She produced the Telly Award-winning documentary, Shadow Over Tibet: Stories in Exile, a film about Tibetan immigrants in America and India striving to maintain their religion and culture in exile. It is narrated by Richard Gere and aired nationally on PBS.
Darren Stephens is a voiceover talent, actor, writer and singer who is happy to be a successful full-time freelancer living in Chicago. Onstage he was Pastor Dave Shepherd in the critically acclaimed parody church service The Best Church of God at various venues around town and played Rod Blagojevich at the Athenaeum Theater. He has performed long-form improv with Baby Wants Candy, Cast On A Hot Tin Roof, and the Free Associates. He can be heard at local venues with his three-part bluegrass harmony comedy group, The Famous Brothers. Darren has voiced hundreds of regional and national radio and television commercials, including during football season as the announcer at the end of Corona Hotline TV spots. His MFA in Acting is from Ohio University.
Sage Tyrtle is a professional storyteller whose stories have been featured on CBC and NPR radio. She teaches The Art of Storytelling.
Born and raised in Jackson Hole, Wyoming Jeffrey spent much of his childhood roaming the peaks and valleys of the Grand Tetons and beyond. When it was time to grow up, he moved to the bleak and muggy prairies of Iowa to attend Grinnell College, and then on to Chicago where destiny lead him to many amazing adventures and his soulmate. Jeffrey is now a cowboy of financial planning, focusing on helping physicians manage all aspects of their wealth. He’s come to StoryLab to realize his true passion for storytelling, and when he’s not telling a long-winded tale, he can be found obsessively tracking the US Men’s Soccer team and DJing the underground techno beats!
For years Nancy has had one foot in the arts and one foot in the madcap world of marketing research. Part of the creative team behind the long-running show Late Nite Catechism, and a marketing research consultant, Nancy understands the importance of both following your artistic dreams and having a sensible fallback career. However, winning a recent Moth StorySLAM has definitely amped up her interest in storytelling. A stint in the record business put Nancy’s pop music fixation to good use in a pre-Google world, not to mention provides some pretty interesting stories. As a kid she saw the Beatles live and has the $2.50 ticket-stub to prove it.
Mosie is New Jersey born and Boston educated. She works at a non-profit on the West Side and loves running, cooking, crafting, and petting cute dogs. She took “Storytelling for Everyone” earlier this year, and recently performed in Is This a Thing? She keeps saying she’ll do more story-telling and she swears that she’ll actually follow through on that in the next year (but like, please hold her to that).
Native to the South suburbs she has performed at The Drama Group in Chicago Heights and was nominee for a Northwest Indiana Excellence in Theatre Award. A graduate of The Second City writers program and The Lincoln Lodge Stand up Comedy seminar. She’s facinated with world politics and by that she means she likes looking at pictures of Justin Trudeau. So thrilled to be telling a story!
After many years of watching other brave souls share their stories OUT LOUD, and in front of a LIVE AUDIENCE (while I anxiously chew my fingernails in the back row), I’ve finally decided it’s time! Plus, I’m worried about the state of my nails! I should be good at this, right? I come from Irish immigrant grandparents, the people known for being professionals at this storytelling gig. I will either honor dear Anastasia and Joseph, or I will shame them since I don’t possess “the gift” of weaving a good yarn. I desperately want to be clever, but I would rather be profound, inspiring, healing (with a touch of entertainment!). Through the stories from my circus-like life, I’m hoping that you will see a bit of yourself. I grew up in Chicago, still reside here (big yay!), and have too many interests to name. I work with immigrant high school students full-time, as well as helping single moms and children in crisis. I’m excited for my first telling at Story Lab!
Mercedes Lake graduated from a school you've probably never heard of (Marlboro College) and received her MFA from a University that you probably have (Northwestern University). She's a playwright/screenwriter whose work has been produced through the Araca Foundation, Chicago Dramatists, Scrap Mettle Arts, Panglossian Productions and Fraud and Phony. She's was also a finalist for Northwestern's Julia Louis Dreyfus sitcom grant, which was really really cool. She's currently working on several screenplays in collaboration with Lighthouse Media Management and occasionally laughing at bad parallel parkers from her 3rd story apartment.
Sidney Thompson is a short story writer straight outta the suburbs of West Omaha. After leaving home at seventeen, she spent a year living in California before coming to Columbia College Chicago to get her B.F.A in Fiction. When she is not frantically editing a story five minutes before class, she’s most likely people watching in coffee shops or running the Lakefront Trail.
No performance this month
Raconteur. Bon vivant. Social Butterfly. Government agent from Absurdistan, Briskin has a wealth of experiences to share. Despite youthful good looks he did not recently fall off the turnip truck but rather bears the scars of many battles won & lost. A refugee from the world of finance (Morgan Stanley) he visited such garden spots as Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iran, India, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Turkey and Israel as well as most of Central and South America. They liked Americans back then. The epitome of his adventures may be the unwitting Running With The Bulls in Pamplona, Spain during the Festival Of San Fermin...or maybe the bus ride through the Khyber Pass on top of an old American school bus painted turquoise (to ward off evil spirits) with a handful of Balucchi Pakistanis...or maybe ... Briskin is putting together a geriatric memoir with the temporary title of "Too Old For Snapchat. Too Young For Life Alert."
Julie Danis is a storyteller and writer of essays, commentary, and marketing insight personas. Her career resembles a long and winding road with some twists, detours, and even dead ends. She studied social policy before going to business school but after studying theater. As a business humorist, Julie wrote a Chicago Tribune column called "It's a Living," and contributed commentary to Marketplace radio. She practiced humor on the job at places like Frito-Lay and Mondelez, the maker of Oreos and in roles such as Director of Mind and Mood. Julie also taught consumer, and insights and behavior at Northwestern’s Integrated Marketing Communications program. She's also a graduate of the Second City School of Improvisation and has told stories at live story telling events in Chicago, such as The Moth, Story Club, and now Story Lab, next year with 2nd Story. Currently she’s working on a documentary film script for “The Girl Who Wore Freedom”, which she hopes gets produced and wins many festivals.
Francine Pappadis Friedman, a former English and journalism teacher, is a professional writer of fiction and non-fiction. Her first short story was published in Story Quarterly; and her essays and articles appeared for years in Greek Circle, a national magazine. Friedman was an invited guest blogger in 2016/2017 for the American Writers Museum, and she currently reviews plays. Friedman’s memoir, MATCHDOTBOMB: A Midlife Journey through Internet Dating, won two first-place awards for non-fiction in 2008 from both the Illinois Women’s Press Association and the National Federation of Press Women. And it was reviewed in dozens of publications and on radio and television shows across the country. Friedman recently completed her first upcoming novel, BEYOND THE GREEN, an urban drama set in Chicago in 1998, depicting both the city’s beauty and its mean streets. Her novel describes its “have” and “have-not” characters as they cross the lines of class, age, sex, and race, dispelling common stereotypes. Hopefully it will be published soon, as it’s very timely.
Bitty Higgins is brand new to the city of Chicago and quickly falling in love with its art scene. She is intrigued by humans and what they create to communicate or express their experiences. She holds a degree is Music and Drama from Spring Arbor University and is currently enamored with and training in aerial circus arts. For survival and for fun she babysits all your children, pours your coffee, and walks your dogs. You can find Bitty singing loudly while cycling all over the city or practicing contortion while steaming your latte. Bitty is so excited to join you for an evening of storytelling with some lovely humans.
Alan Malter is a 4th-generation Chicagoan but took a long hiatus to live overseas and all around the U.S. before returning to the Windy City. In his day job, Alan is a business professor at University of Illinois at Chicago, but since research and teaching are essentially story-telling (even in his courses with exciting titles like “marketing analytics”) he has been telling stories for a couple of decades. His travels across five continents have inspired many of his stories, as have adventures with his wife and four kids. Roaming the globe also convinced him that life is even more interesting in multiple languages, so he is oddly committed (for a native born American) to speaking foreign languages at home. His sister finds this highly annoying but he is proud that all his children caught the travel bug and are bilingual.
By day, I work as a computer systems analyst; by night, I scour the Internet for poems, art, literature to be included in my websites: A Poetry-Lover’s Guide to the World-Wide Web and the Humanist Art Homepage. I have three grown children. I love playing Scrabble, which I do each Wednesday evening at the Rogers Park Public Library Scrabble Meet-up.