Dan is a writer who has spent his career listening to and telling the story of feisty people and groups working to address a wide range of social issues, including education, crime, and housing. He is a consultant who writes for nonprofits and universities, and has also worked as a journalist. He claims to have never illegally declassified government documents, lied about an election, or boasted that he’s the greatest president in the history of the country. He wants to share a personal story or two with you.
Jessica is a Michigan native that relocated to Illinois right before the pandemic (ouch) and has made a home for herself in the Chicago suburbs. Professionally, she is a marketing and administrative assistant with a nearly 10 year background in the music and entertainment industry. Outside of work, she enjoys spending time with her dog, reading novels and poetry, writing of all sorts, traveling, anything music-related, and spending time with friends. She comes from an immigrant, multi-generational household and has many, many stories to share about experiencing an array of cultural and generational shocks.
Reviews from a college friend: Haley Isom. She, They. Lover of Star Wars and Stranger Things. Music Connoisseur. Purveyor of Furniture. Wannabe Comedian, but born and raised in Indiana so you know… Striving for her Dolly Parton Rags to Riches story.
A retired non-profit communications manager, Anna has helped raise funds, plan events and connect with donors at a seminary, a hospice and her local hospital. Her lifelong creative interest is writing poetry. Through her friend Lee Melchior, she was also introduced to the Chicagoland storytelling community and invited to share her poems aloud, which brought her great joy. After attending many storytelling events as a listener, she chose to jump in as a teller and to hone the craft in Scott's class. She finds notes-free storytelling scary, but she's emboldened by the old Nike commercial in her head: "Just do it!"
Eric is thrilled to be storytelling again after a five year hiatus. Starting his performance career as an improviser in 2007, Eric has had a lot of experience being in stage but very rarely as himself, and almost never telling the truth. Storytelling provides a unique opportunity to blend the truth with comedy and drama and that is what has drawn him back to this forum.
Pat says she is serious about her life. She was serious about her career as a retail buyer. She was serious when she changed careers and became a Social Worker. She is seriously nervous about standing up in front of you tonight. And mostly she is serious about crossing things off her “bucket list."
Mary Lou Gilliam
Mary Lou Gilliam is retired from two careers: English teaching and educational publishing. She has been on the stage since she was 10 doing dramatic readings, singing, or some combination thereof. An English major with a theater minor, she found that teaching extended the performance world when she began writing first person narratives to model both writing and speaking for her students. Because she was born and raised in a small Swedish farm town in western Illinois, think Garrison Keillor for thematic content. About ten years ago, while considering retirement, she took her stories on the road, so to speak, by joining Short Story Theatre in the Northshore suburbs. Though Covid ended SST’s run, her stories live on. Having lived quite a few decades by now, her narratives include both the travails and thrills of a long (and possibly over-examined) life. She keeps busy with volunteer work, private tutoring, international travel, and as much time with her four grandchildren as she can.
In the mid 1990’s, Charlie McShane got the best “prescription” he would ever receive on the first weekend after his divorce. “You need to sing more,” a young female musician told him. Well, he didn’t chuck his career as a computer tech in a major metro hospital, but did start a new avocation learning guitar, making new friends, and writing songs. He’s hovered around (and been inspired by) the wonderful “handmade” music and theater of Chicago ever since. He’s dipped his toes in plenty of musical open mics. This is his first foray into storytelling. He swears he is going to put out an album of his songs in the next year. Hold him to it.
Kayla Schassburger is a Chicago native who studied as a CNA and is currently working for the Illinois Housing Development Authority as an intake specialist. She is very excited to be doing her first ever storytelling event tonight, and hopes you enjoy her story about overcoming the obstacles life throws at you. Special thanks to Andy and Eden whose support helped make tonight possible.
Andrew is a local bartender here in Chicago, whose background includes community organizing, solar energy project management, and amateur squirrel hunting. Born and raised in rural, downstate Illinois, Andrew regards himself as a proud Chicagoan, but also an Illinoisan through and through, with a perspective greatly informed by his life experience on the different sides of the cultural divide facing America today.
Jamie is a hobby junkie, thinker, and creative. She's always a writer and traveler and this season, she's into stoicism, hormone science, the James Webb Telescope, crochet, and learning to speak Spanish. She's an outgoing introvert who's mastered unexpected awkwardness. Jamie owns a small communications business. She's infinitely grateful for profitable work with a purpose. Through strategic storytelling, she helps companies catalyze change for the environment, equity and inclusion, health, and wellbeing. Jamie's greatest contribution to the planet is her daughter - a driven young woman, social justice warrior, and fun girl, well on her way to doing great things for the greater good.
Alanis Zoe Castillo Caref
Alanis Zoe Castillo Caref is a writer-poet activist-artist from Chicago. She is a social media and communications enthusiast who received her BA from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Alanis was a finalist for the 2021 Undergraduate Creative Writing Awards and has poetry published in two issues of the magazine, The Fashion Network. Currently she is the marketing coordinator at the Guild Literary Complex. She is passionate about animals, art, and human rights issues, and loves spending time with friends and family, participating in open mics and literary events, learning new things, and being involved with the community.
Jackson Nogahl is a Chicago-based writer. He fancies himself a modern day Ernest Hemingway, if Hemingway had abhorred large game hunting, had had four fewer wives, and had written using long, complex sentences. Jackson loves to make people laugh, even if they have to fake it.
Sarah A. Rae
Sarah A. Rae is a former high school teacher and guidance counselor, and a current poet. She has a few publications to her name in a few journals, some of which have ceased to exist. She did write a chapbook of poetry called Someplace Else that was published here in Chicago, by dancing girl press, in 2020. She is originally from Champaign Illinois (yes, she's actually from there—she didn't just go to school there!) She enjoys telling good stories upon occasion that her friends and family find entertaining. Now she is wondering what on earth possessed her to sign up for Story Lab! But, as with most other decisions she's made in her life, she's going to make the most of the situation.
James Whittington is fortunate to call himself an arts educator. He enjoys sharing crazy stories. He curses, like, a lot (even when the situation doesn’t call for it). His favorite cocktail is the boulevardier and he drinks his coffee black. This bio is, legit, his Bumble BFF profile, just cut-and-pasted.
Chris Bergin is originally from Metro Detroit but went to Northwestern the last 5 years where he played football, graduated with a degree in economics, and a masters in sports administration. He began his career as a walk-on in 2017 and went on to become the first walk-on in school history to not redshirt, played in a school record 58 consecutive games, finished 8th all time in program history in tackles, a 2x Burlsworth trophy semifinalist, a captain in 2021, a first team all-big ten linebacker, and was the 2021 NCAA statistical national champion in both total and solo tackles. He became interested in story telling because his idol Kobe and he feels like he is just a kid with a story to tell. When not playing football he is a certified yoga instructor, and loves few things more than shoes and movies.
Colette is a NYC transplant of 40 years, gleefully married to the greatest guy in the world & the father of their 3 amazing, all grown-up, living on their own, citizens of the world. Having recently arrived at the crossroads of “work or retire?” she’s opted to take her recent layoff as a sign from the universe that there’s something really big for her to do in this final lead-off to the great beyond. Until she can convince the powers that be to hire her, Colette has decided she has some stories to tell in the meantime, and can’t wait to experience the stories that haven’t even happened yet.
Abby is a storyteller of longstanding, gifted with a dogged determination to try what scares her (eating jellyfish, going into a coal mine, traveling somewhere unusual) and then tell other people it wasn’t so bad. Abby has lived in Evanston for 30 years, where she and her husband raised their two kids, assorted dogs, gerbils, hamsters, hermit crabs, and fish. The kids were far and away the best - she doesn’t recommend raising hermit crabs.
Avesha Michael is a recent transplant back to her hometown in Chicago, after 22 years in Los Angeles. She ran the gamut quitting her corporate career recruiting attorneys, only to study Meisner Acting while waiting tables, followed by a decade as a photographer, to come full circle to her true love of ceramics. She put her whole heart and soul into her first pottery studio and humbly, yet gratefully, ran a full-time production studio for the last 8 years in LA. She spent her non-spare time teaching pottery and photography to kids, grown kids and seniors, which was her favorite. Avesha holds an MA in Spiritual Psychology, is trained in many healing arts and recently has been certified as a Breathwork Facilitator. You can find her tending to her first urban garden, fostering a tiny orphan kitten named Kita and bbq’ing like a beast. Give her a bike over a car any day, except her camper van LOTI, whom she sold months back in LA and still misses dearly. She watches only three things on Netflix, since she hasn’t had a TV in 20 years… nature shows, stand up comedy and serial killer documentaries. She refuses to follow recipes, loathes turtle necks and is truly happiest naked in a creek off-grid camping. Avesha wants goats one day, is counting the days until she can escape the city and secretly wants to turn what moved her from LA, into a movie or a memoir. Lately, she questions if StoryLab is the sole reason she came back to Chicago. She doesn’t believe in accidents, things just align.
Sharon Price lives on the northwest side of Chicago. Liberated during high school by Chicago's school without walls, followed by traipsing off to the Bay Area in 1973. Those were truly interesting times! Lucky and unlucky in many, many ways and never, ever bored. Still refusing to " earn a living " and most Hallmark occasions. Sharon thrives on nurturing deep connections and sharing music and food.
Victoria Shane, born in Belarus, grew up in Georgia, and is now Chicago performer. She has had roles in Film, TV, Modelling, as well as, and creative writing. And is telling a story live for the first time. She is happy, nervous, and exited to be here.
Michael Cullinane is a Chicago educator, passionate about helping young people tell impactful stories through his Broadcast Journalism program. Scott Whitehair helped him get his start with storytelling at a past Story Lab event, and since then, he's worked to introduce storytelling to his students. When not spending lots of time with his amazing wife and two wonderful children, he loves writing fiction, making videos, and going Beastmode at the gym. Michael plans to continue to grow his journalism program, and work toward his eternal "hoop dream"---to get his book published.
Réka Ehrentreu is originally from Peoria, Illinois, home to the “Crying Pig” statue and the birthplace of Richard Pryor. After an extensive Catholic education and a fear of being on stage, she broke away from both at the age of eighteen. She attended SIU-Carbondale’s Radio-TV Production program and DePaul University’s MFA in Screenwriting program. She’s dabbled in stand-up comedy, auditioning at Zanies in 2018, storytelling at Louder Than a Mom, and memoir writing. Her screenplays “Mom and Pop Rock,” “The Truth Hurts,” and “Mama Charlotte” have been finalists in various screenwriting contests over the last five years. Réka believes every woman has a story. Women should embrace their life experiences and not be afraid to find and use their voices. When not working full time, she enjoys baking, concert photography, yoga, meditation, and silent films. She currently resides in Rockford, Illinois, aka, the home of Cheap Trick, and is working on a comedic limited series.
Originally from Texas, Meg is a storyteller who has made Chicago her home for the past 12 years. She has worked in several different social service agencies both in the U.S. and abroad at homeless shelters, orphanages, schools, hospitals and up until 2020 was the director of an ESL program on the southwest side of Chicago. She has given the last couple of years to her creative writing side and now finds her joy as an unemployed aspiring writer! Meg speaks Spanish, has only worn dresses since 2009, and opens champagne bottles with a saber and thinks you should too.
Joey Masloski is a rising senior studying marketing at the university of Wisconsin Madison and has many interesting hobbies: including piano, theatre, entrepreneurship, fantasy football, and social media content creation. Joey spent his junior year of college all around the globe, getting the chance to work in Israel and study in Barcelona and Rome. He is extremely excited to tell you all a story about one of his many youthful adventures.
Steve Miller has been a high school math teacher for 18 years. In the classroom, his favorite topic is algebra and his favorite victims are freshmen. Prior to teaching, Steve was a patent lawyer who specialized in disposable, absorbent, nonwoven hygiene products (e.g., tampons and diapers). He likes to believe that commuting in his car two hours a day makes him smarter as long as he listens to audiobooks. When not driving, Steve enjoys discussing politics with his wife and eating smoked brisket sandwiches with his stepson.
Born in Chicago, Joanne has always been an adventurer. She has lived and worked in France, Pakistan, Egypt, and Qatar. Joanne is fluent in French and can get by in Arabic. She has worked in many fields including education, radio, tv, and even brain training. Today she continues her adventures in the world of literacy. She is passionate about her work as Director of Program Development at Literacy Chicago where she can pull together all the skills she has learned over the years, in order to innovate and create exciting programs for students. Joanne also manages the Volunteer Tutor program at Literacy Chicago and has a team of over 150 enthusiastic volunteers working with students. Her other interests include acting which she has done as an amateur all over the world. She discovered storytelling and started to perform in Chicago just before the pandemic!
Ruth Baerman has been in the Chicago area for most of her life, other than vacations, and a couple of escapes. She did a year abroad after college, and a few months in Brasil between careers in the 80s. She has lived in Hyde Park and other areas on the South Side, as well as various locations on the North Side, Oak Park, and Evanston. Ruth has lived in the same place in “almost Evanston for most of this century - a block from the Evanston-Chicago border, on the Chicago side. Ruth went to a local elite university a Liberal Arts undergrad in the hippie era, when it was very inexpensive. In the 90s, she attended a totally different school, Columbia College Chicago, and received an Interdisciplinary Arts Masters degree. As for work, in her 20s, returning from abroad, she started in survey research, then slid into IT back when on-the-job training was mostly how people did it. Accompanying the seriousness of this job was a class in silent clowning, which she took on the road on vacations for a time, and training for actors. Much fun! After IT and Brasil, she got into sales via head-hunting and then job placement. Finally, there was a 20 year stint in the commodities industry, from which she retired in 2018. Giving new meaning to the term Late Bloomer, she got married in 2010 for the first time, and is married still.
From a young age Mark Belden was told that he was destined to become a lawyer. That dream ended the summer he worked in the Clerk of Courts' office and witnessed firsthand what most lawyers did all week long and how it affected them. Since then he has worked as a furniture mover, Rush Street bouncer, busboy, bartender, commodities clerk, radio producer, courier, and landscaper. Mark started classes at The Second City when he moved to Chicago and eventually worked there as an actor, director, writer, creative director, teacher, and once again a student when a storytelling class was begun at the training center. In retirement he has taken up folk guitar and jazz singing.
Mark Anthony Child
Mark Anthony Child is a voice artist, actor, storyteller, and writer whose lived in Chicago since 2011. More recently, he began dabbling in music and wishes he could be the kid from Almost Famous for a job, but will settle for playing dive bars with a punkrocapella group called The Blue Ribbon Glee Club in addition to teaching himself banjo and honing his writing and voice based skills. He is also an election judge and political gadfly, who really hopes you know midterm elections are a thing and the IL primary is in June.
Rasa Gierstikas hails from the southwest side of Chicago. She's lived in Chicago and also NYC. She owns a tripod dog named Sir III and fosters other dogs as well. She works in software development.
Catherine is new to storytelling having completed a class with Sean Ewert and TUTA theatre in February. She's lived her entire adult life in Chicago. Her first story is about a visit to Chicago in 1970. Catherine plans to uncover stories from this century as well.
Lauren Kee is a Boston native and has been living in Chicago for the past six years. She entered the world of storytelling in 2021 by taking a class with Story Lab Chicago creator/host, Scott Whitehair, and has wanted to grow her storytelling skills ever since! Lauren works as an instructional designer for a nonprofit that empowers underrepresented college students to secure strong jobs and achieve economic mobility. Storytelling makes up a critical part of the nonprofit curriculum, and Lauren has been amazed by how storytelling can help young people get to know themselves, take up space, and share their gifts with the world. Outside of work, Lauren loves to play soccer, bike, practice/teach yoga, and dabble in various other activities like tennis, salsa, and rock climbing.