Paula Coleman, mostly a lifelong Chicagoan, has embarked on a fun new chapter as a storyteller. Paula initially pursued a fulfilling career as a registered nurse. However, her thirst for creativity led her to return to school and obtain a design degree, setting the stage for her next adventure. With her newfound knowledge and passion, Paula immersed herself in the world of toy invention. For over 25 years, she contributed her innovative ideas and design prowess to prestigious studios such as Marvin Glass and other Chicago-based firms. Driven by an entrepreneurial spirit, Paula eventually established her own business. In 2009, her journey came full circle when she decided to return to nursing, this time in the school setting. Paula enjoyed remaining connected to the world of children until her retirement in 2022. Now, in this exciting phase of her life, Paula is devoted to reviving her creative career. When not immersed in her creative endeavors, Paula cherishes the role of being a loving mother to her two adult children.
Jasmine Eisner is a 5th grade math and science teacher. She has been a passionate storyteller from the moment she could form sentences. Camping under the stars she would make up stories using her own constellations. Her parents were also teachers and storytellers and cultivated both talents within her from a young age. She taught English in Thailand for two years and during that time was a member of the Bangkok Women’s Writers Group. One of her short stories was published in the book Monsoon Midnights. She continues to write fiction stories while also beginning the journey of telling her own story.
Michelle Kois began thinking about exploring storytelling during COVID when the highlight of her Saturday night was listening to the Moth while creating paint by number masterpieces. Michelle lives in Chicago, works in pharmaceutical marketing, and can talk more about the FDA drug approval process (and The Grateful Dead) than one would think is humanly possible.
Rob is a lifelong Illinoisan with an endless curiosity about the world around him. When he’s not trying to talk his friends into planning the next big trip, you’re likely to overhear him excitedly sharing details about where he’s been hiking lately or the latest piece of investigative journalism to join his vast collection of open tabs. Clients know him at his job in pet care retail as the friendly neighborhood “fish guy”, and although Rob is definitely not a professional storyteller, he does greatly enjoy trading stories with shoppers while assisting on the sales floor.
Lisa has spent many years as a career counselor helping others tell their professional stories and is appearing at StoryLab for the first time to start telling her own. To practice, she often tells them to herself out loud on long walks, garnering weird looks from passersby. In her stories, she explores definitions to complicated words like ‘friend’, ‘family’, ‘self’, and ‘dinner’. Wisconsin born and raised, she’s called Chicago home for the past dozen years and is a proud FIB (but remains a Packer fan, because the Bears just aren’t an option. Please.)
If experiences were dollars Adam would be worth billions. At seventeen he began street performing as a juggler, ultimately going on to raise a family as a professional variety entertainer. His favorite moments here on earth have been the ones that count. New to storytelling, Adam hopes to come together in a room full of friends and strangers, tell a story, breathe, and share a little.
David Falk has been living in Chicago since rent was $240 a month, utilities included. His trajectory has been anything but linear. He grew up in northern New Jersey, received a priceless degree in theater from Ohio University, and has managed to always live less than a mile from the lake. He has stage managed, worked in advertising, marketing, taught special ed, worked in a children’s psych unit, and is currently a freelance writer/marketer by day and a “beer wench” at Dovetail Brewery by night. Cooking, hosting parties, traveling, and long bike trips up big mountains (without a motor) to raise money for environmental causes, keeps things interesting. David is happy to share his enthusiasm for life with his stories and have a captive audience.
Kate is a professional over-thinker and rabbit-hole-follower. She grew up moving from state to state, and she even managed to live outside the country for the entirety of the Trump presidency. Now she’s happy to be a newcomer to Chicago with her husband, Chihuahua, and Pomeranian.
Theresa has been surrounded and immersed in stories of all kinds her entire life. She is the fifth of eight children of a German nurse and an Irish librarian. She is a retired CPS middle school teacher and a current adult ed ESL teacher. She is married to Mr Fixit and is a mom of two brilliant humans, a destiny dog, a sweet, senior dog with dementia and a very curious cat. She walks a million steps a season, loves to read and travel and is on the perpetual search for balance.
Maggie was born and raised in the Chicago suburbs. She is the youngest of four siblings and really enjoys spending time with family and friends. Maggie likes new adventures, traveling to new places, outdoor music festivals and reading a good paperback. Maggie is a middle school Media Arts teacher in Lake Forest and throughly enjoys sharing her passion for the arts with students. She is very excited to be doing her first storytelling event and she hopes you enjoy a story about her past. She currently lives in Lake Bluff with her husband and two kids.
Johnny Siharis is a native Chicagoan who regularly crosses the line between the creative and the analytic. A top student, Johnny enjoyed performing on stage from an early age. In 8th grade, he played charismatic show producer Charlie Davenport in “Annie Get Your Gun”. As a high school senior, he led the tenor section of his school’s extracurricular singing ensemble and performed the bass solo from “The Magnificat” in its annual holiday choral concert. His analytic skills landed him on television, representing his school on Chicago’s “It’s Academic”. After high school, Johnny turned his attention to developing a professional career, earning licenses as an Attorney and CPA. As you might expect, it wasn’t long before the arts came calling again. While serving as a Deputy Public Defender, Johnny returned to the stage to act, sing, and dance in the DuPage County Bar Association’s annual talent show. A few years later, he worked on two major film projects that were shooting in Chicago. Though he hasn’t quit his day job (yet!), Johnny has continued to work on both sides of the fence ever since. Johnny Siharis is represented by Makai Magat-Davis and Ella Patino at The Rock Talent Agency in Chicago.
Rose Spinelli is a Chicago native who lives in Rogers Park with Peter, Ralphie, Corey, A.J. and The Professor. She coincidentally? fortuitously? ironically? teaches a Public Speaking class at Loyola University. Getting up in front of a crowd with great courage gives her skin in the game. Plus she has things to say.
Blake Levinson Brian Brady is a consultant helping schools and nonprofits helping scale good ideas. More importantly, he is a father of 2 fabulous adult kids, Hazel and Russell - both of whom live in Chicago. Brian lives in Evanston with his partner, Vita, and his 3 legged poodle, Luna - aka Ms. Pickles.
I grew up in the south suburbs of Chicago (go Sox!) and moved to the DC metro area after graduating high school. After spending the better half of a decade there, I moved back to the city of Chicago in 2008. Currently a resident of North Center, I have spent the last 15 years living in the northside neighborhoods of the city (Go Cubs!). I tend to follow my passions and try new things, and even studied Pastry Arts in my early 30's. After a few years of working in kitchens and living on cheap ramen, I went back into a more lucrative workforce. I take full advantage of my free time and enjoy a multitude of activities. I am an active volleyball player, and started swing dancing about a year ago. When I'm not setting up plays, or doing a swing out, I like to enjoy nature, try new restaurants, comedy and live music. A favorite quote of mine comes from Amelia Earhart, " The most difficult thing is the decision to act; the rest is merely tenacity".
By day, Blake is a freelance writer whose severely-persuasive ad copy convinces people to buy things they never knew they wanted. His time working for the Man in this field includes Leo Burnett, Foote Cone & Belding and BBDO. By night, this creative dude is a storytelling playwright whose latest scripts include: “The Lost Bar Mitzvah Speech of Jesus,” “The Deconstruction of a Honky,” and “By Reason of Sanity.” But wait! There’s more! He’s also a trained Improv artist, certified Laughter Yoga instructor, and creator of the humor website www.HAMASTE.com (the funny bone in me tickles the funny bone in you). To help fund more of his heart, mind & spirit-touching art writing or just find out more about what makes Blake tick, feel free to visit: www.blakelevinson.com
Julie Pedersen was born in Chicago and raised in an average political family where all the men were cops, and all the women and children worked as precinct captains, poll watchers, donut buyers, envelope stuffers, door knockers, valets, and whatever else was required to maintain "the machine" that was Chicago politics back in the day of the first Mayor Daley. Among other things, this meant being roused out of bed in the dark of night on primary and election days for years on end. It also meant gainful employment through summer patronage jobs mysteriously given to her and her siblings and cousins. Garbage removal? Auto mechanic? Beach Matron? Jury Duty summons? Curb and gutter crew? These are the jobs she knew growing up. Especially the beach matron job. "Matron" is short for cleaning the bathrooms at Foster beach. A dirty job to be sure, but one that could be done fairly quickly twice a day leaving a good portion of her working hours free to spend her time near the blue waters of the great and beautiful Lake Michigan. All that time by the water got her thinking, enough to get a Ph.D. in philosophy. Her greatest achievement, and her absolute favorite thing about life, is being the mother to the amazing Soren and Eric.
Ralph Shayne is a product of Chicago's Lakeview neighborhood and a collection of adventures from living in Ireland, Denmark and Hawaii. He is a financial services entrepreneur, the father of twins, and leading career goal scorer in the Francis Parker alumni soccer game (although now retired). He became a fan of graphic novels back in the '80s with the pioneering work of Frank Miller (Daredevil, The Dark Knight, etc). He has now created his own first graphic novel, Hour of Need, which debuts this September and tells his family's World War 2 story.
Suzie Campbell is a single mom living in Evanston, IL with her two children and a cat named Magic. A Loyola University Chicago alum with a degree in Sociology and Women’s Studies, she now works as an IT manager for a non-profit company. Seen at storytelling shows such as Story Colliders, Is this a thing? and Filet of Solo, Suzie shares stories that often show that reproductive journeys are not always linear, sexuality is not always straightforward, and that seeking support for mental health treatment - especially in relation to motherhood - isn’t something shameful. She believes if more people talk about these ideas openly, the stigma around them will decrease over time.
Elizabeth Johnson is a customer educator with a passion for storytelling. A strong believer in the power of stories and real-life scenarios, she has been advocating for their integration into her training programs for years to create more engaging and impactful learning experiences. To help fine-tune her storytelling skills and challenge herself personally, she’s excited and nervous to be joining the story lab stage for the first time. A Chicago native, she's lived in various parts of the city for over 20 years, and currently resides in lakeview with her husband Tony and their puppy Ruby.
Charles is a legal assistant in Chicago, and currently a part-time student and hopeful future attorney. He grew up in the near suburbs, and has since jumped around the city but currently makes his home in Logan Square. Charles has had and eclectic work history, including five years on tour boats in the Loop--since then he has loved Chicago history and boats, though preferably independent of each other. His first foray into storytelling was Dungeons and Dragons and it will always hold a special place in his heart. His other loves include cooking, reading, and cheap airline tickets.
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.
Nathan Cover is a transplanted Texan who has called Chicago home for the past two decades. A math teacher and copywriter by trade, he enjoys writing flash fiction pieces that begin like running downhill at full speed elated, but end with an inevitable crash. He enjoys unreliable narrators and travel stories that can't be published in the magazines on the back of airplane seats. His work has been published in X-ray, BULL, Hypertext Review and Barzakh.
Bonnie Bagdon (left) is recently retired from 25 years as a trial lawyer defending personal injury cases. In other words, denying compensation for widows and orphans. In penance, she now volunteers at a food distribution center and is active in greyhound rescue and cat adoption groups. She is looking forward to telling stories to more than twelve people at a time.
Phil Brakefield promoted concerts for and toured with Elvis, Frank Sinatra, John Denver, Elton John, Jimi Hendrix, Glen Campbell, Neil Diamond, Led Zeppelin,Three Dog Night, The Moody Blues, and many other bands in the late 60's and early 70's. These days he works on behalf of young people battling addiction, is active in dog rescue, is an avid folk music nerd and didn't waste a moment of the Covid shutdown by learning a fourth chord on guitar. At 76 years of age, he figures at this point he is playing on house money, so why not give storytelling a shot!
Hailing originally from the mostly great state of Maryland, Chuck set down in Chicago about a dozen years ago and never looked back. When he's not in the lights booth at the Bughouse theater around the corner, he's playing fetch with his cat, creating comedy and documentary films with his wife, or you know, doing his job. He works at the Alzheimer's Association, which he's very proud of, but works primarily in social media, which he's very sorry for.
Melissa is a multidisciplinary artist, metalsmith, and an educator. She comes from a family of multigenerational storytellers, artists and educators, too. She loves rainbows, shiny things, and learning random facts. As a storyteller she keeps those she loves alive with her words and their stories, and firmly believes that George Bernard Shaw was right, “If you cannot get rid of the family skeleton, you may as well make it dance.
Samantha is originally from Charlottesville, VA but is now living life as a reluctant midwesterner after living in Rome, Italy for the past five years. She's interested in the following things in no particular order: Middle Eastern politics, the Jesuits, rock climbing, college access for minority and underserved students, perfecting an authentic carbonara (don't even THINK about adding garlic or butter. we can talk about this later), Jewish-Catholic dialogue, and her cat, Pangur Ban.
Linda Bubon had a 40-year career in bookselling, co-founding Women & Children First. She continues to lead the monthly Women's Book Group and first Wed of the month morning Storytime at the bookstore. A long-time performer of great children's books and adult stories by famous authors, she is new to personal storytelling. Be gentle.
My name is Tareq M. I moved to the states when I was 15 and Chicago has been my home since. I collect plants, Pokémon, and Star Wars Legos. I speak 3 languages and enjoy learning new ones. Clearly I only do things in 3’s, because rule of 3’s apparently.
Katurah comes from Cleveland, has travelled all over the world, and has recently reached her seventh continent. She is happy to return to the Chicago stage and start telling her own stories, instead of telling stories by others.
Although this is Leah’s first storytelling performance, she has always been the storyteller of her friend group. When dinner parties come around, everyone buckles in for an hour long tale about hitchhiking on a jet ski or falling through the gap on the train platform. Even when life is less fantastical, Leah believes with the right details and enough enthusiasm, just about anything can be a good story. In her everyday life, Leah is the creative director at a children’s food company and loves pursuing creative projects beyond her day job. She often has trouble focusing on just one thing and spreads her energy across multiple hobbies, but her favorite pastime is hanging out with her cherished loved ones.
Eva Zeidner is the mother of two young adults, an avid gardener, cook and baker, and a Licensed Clinical Professional Counselor. As is the case with many mental health professionals, Eva spends most of her time focused on other people’s life stories. For the past decade she has worked for Thresholds, overseeing intake and community relations for the Emerging Adult program, and helping to develop innovative mental health services to address psychosis risk and help young people cope with their first episode of psychosis. But when it comes to the coping mechanism on which she personally relies – seeing humor on even the darkest of days is Eva’s specialty.
After a decade of performing stand-up comedy and two decades of trying to get over it, Briane finally turned to his storytelling roots ten years ago, by creating a one person show “Confessions of an Operatic Mute” which received outstanding reviews at Fringe Festivals across his home and native land, Canada. He has since created two additional Fringe Festival shows, and currently co-hosts and co-produces the seres “But That’s Another Story” every second month in Toronto. His focus is personal stories, usually showcasing his keen sense of humour and observations gained from too many attempts to find love, fame fortune and happiness – not necessarily in that order. For more about him visit www.brianenasimok.com
Franklin Guttman is a designer and illustrator originally from New York who just moved to Chicago a few months ago. Being still basically a baby, he doesn’t really have anything to share, and is currently trying to figure out what to write, but will have something once you see him.
Ernest was born and raised in New Jersey but calls Virginia Tech home. He began working at pizza joints to finance degrees in engineering and creative writing, of which he completed neither. Most of the following years were spent in either restaurants or some form of isolation across Virginia and North Carolina before winding up in Chicago. Over that time, he has fundamentally redesigned his life and learned to embrace who he is as well as his unconventional journey, focusing now on cultivating empathy through entertainment. Whether it's through storytelling, standup comedy, game development, or screenwriting, you will find him sharing his experiences and observations on life in a style all his own. He earnestly hopes that you enjoy what he has to say.
Matt O'Leary was born in New York, but he's lived throughout the whole country in his life, typically within a few miles of the ocean. He moved to Chicago six years ago and immediately fell in love and now hopes to remain here the rest of his life. Prior to moving to Chicago he mostly worked on and around large ships, but these days Matt works as a professional watchmaker. When he's not repairing watches Matt enjoys cycling, racing on sailboats, playing with his cat, and telling stories to anyone who will listen.
Katlin Schneider, spelled K-A-T-L-I-N and definitely pronounced KATE-Lyn not CAT-Lyn, has been making shit up since she was able to write (about 3 or 4-years-old). Midwestern born, she graduated with a degree in screenwriting from Columbia College Chicago and over a decade later she still can’t quit this city. Her day job is in marketing, but she identifies as a writer and filmmaker. She’s producer of a documentary called Melomaniac about Chicago’s punk music scene in the 80s and 90s in addition to producing a music video called Password for local musical comedian Ron Hexagon. You can find her at her second home the Bughouse Theater, where she produces and hosts a showcase of women, trans, LGBTQ+, and BIPOC comedians called FORWARD (In Comfortable Shoes).
Claire Bergen is a teacher, artist, semi-retired musician and is studying to be a rabbi at a school nobody has heard of. Ten years ago, they came out as nonbinary by telling their story at SHINE Storytelling in Santa Monica, CA. Since arriving in Chicago in summer 2021, Claire has found some more stories to tell, so they've decided to try their hand at it again.
Katie has always loved storytelling and comedy, which she explored by writing sketch comedy, performing stand-up, and studying improv at iO. Today, she enjoys writing personal narrative essays, drawing cartoons, and binge-watching shows. She's lived on both the West and East coasts, moving back to Chicago in 2016 where she currently lives with her boyfriend and their two cats.
Sarita is a retired English/language arts teacher, mother to two fine adults and one adorable pup, mother-in-law to a flower farmer, and grandmother to two rambunctious dogs and a mischievous cat. Presently, Sarita tutors reading, writing, and grammar - something she greatly enjoys. Throughout her days as a middle school teacher, Sarita was known for telling stories during lessons. Although her students thought they were pulling one over on her and getting her off task when they asked for a story, she explains that doing so was her plan from the beginning. She believes that listening to others’ anecdotes and telling one's own is an important path toward literacy as well as toward an understanding of the human condition. To Sarita, life is simply stories. In the past, she shared a couple of hers with audiences at Short Story Theater in Highland Park, and she admits to being somewhat nervous but also excited about telling one at Story Lab.
Oliver has lived all over the Midwest and New England, but finds himself drawn time and again to the Chicago area and is now a resident of Evanston with his partner and cat. He is absolutely obsessed with opossums and will gladly lift his pant leg to show off his opossum tattoo. He likes to experiment and tinker with home bartending, getting lost in cozy mysteries, and watching Wheel of Fortune while eating dinner. Oliver fell into story telling by way of a queer story telling bar church and is so happy that such a thing exists.
Rich Price is a retired computer programmer. Immediately after retirement he started writing an open source application to support the online play of certain board games. Even though he can play no musical instrument and has trouble singing on key, he has nonetheless hosted song circles at his home on a regular basis since sometime around 1986. Rich attends lots of science fiction conventions. He has also worked as a volunteer on many of them. All in all Rich is a really weird guy.
Tim Mills-Groninger is a retired consultant to nonprofits where he worked with a range of human service, arts, and education agencies. Prior to settling in Chicago he has lived in Pennsylvania, Connecticut, Florida, and Indiana and insists that he has no accent. He enjoys cycling, yoga, and tennis and is struggling with a pickleball addiction. With his partner Carolyn and their dog Ziggy he enjoys traveling and Ziggy is especially fond of road trips that involve BBQ in motel rooms and pork ribs in the bathroom.
Katerie Prior is a classic underachieving overachiever. She is a corporate trainer and instructional designer who teaches cybersecurity basics by day, a wannabe novelist by night, and a watercolor artist on the weekends. A Michigan native, Kate has recently celebrated her one-year anniversary of living in Chicago and she enjoys exploring the many cool neighborhoods in her new hometown.
Diane Roman has lived on Chicago’s far north side for more than 32 years when she got married at the young age of 26. A communications professional by day, Diane has always enjoyed writing and wanted to try her hand at live storytelling. In 2018, when her 28-yr marriage imploded, Diane started writing a book as she embarked on a mid-life journey of separation, Zoom divorce, dating, and discovery all while COVID-19 raged. She shares the characters she’s encountered and her experiences in creating a joyful new life with honesty, humor, empathy, and insight. Her two rescue dogs seem to enjoy her stories, and Diane hopes you will, too. You can’t make this stuff up!
Alex Stenner is originally from Connecticut - since 2016 he has called Chicago home. He has had a meandering path of shifting, exciting, serious endeavours - from teaching kids how to garden and cook in Americorps with Foodcorps, to service industry jobs ranging from casual to fine dining, to bike courier work, even a few years as a farmer here in Chicago, a brief stint as small dog walking business owner, and for the past 4 years a member of IBEW Local 134 as an electrician. Just having turned 30, Alex is gratefully feeling Saturn's Return cooling off after a very tumultuous 29th year in life. Having fun, you can find Alex going to therapy, attending ska and punk shows, swing dancing, riding bikes, and cooking with those he loves and calls friend
Michelle Young grew up in central Illinois and has lived in Chicago over 30 years. By day she manages a global sales team in hospitality software, by night she writes (stories and comedy). A self-taught artist, Michelle also tells stories through her art. She started telling stories on stage, with “Is This a Thing” right before Covid but has been telling her stories to anyone who would listen for a very long time. Michelle believes that telling our stories, is essential to creating community with others and transformation for ourselves.
Mary Pat Dillon
Mary Pat Dillon was born and raised in Lincoln Square and North Center. She is the oldest girl of 8 sibs, so has plenty of experience bossing people around. Mary loved acting in her high school plays. She worked for 45 years as an RN. In retirement, she loves being in a writing and an improv group. With thr improv group, she acted in a play at the Harris Theater. The play was called "Off our Rockers" Which best describes all who participated! After the play Mary Pat realized she had missed her calling! She is now to try her hand at storytelling!
Mark Kincaid is an entrepreneur, traveler, and husband, and if he is being honest, he’s average at best. He wasn’t proud of this statement, nor was he inclined to share it with strangers, but here we are. Mark has always been a firm believer in the idea that if you see something, say something, and having lived worldwide; he has seen a lot, so now it's time to do some talking.
Kelly Pasholk is an attorney living in Evanston with her husband and cat. She can usually be found baking a new recipe in her apartment, spending 3 hours trying to decide which documentary to watch on Netflix or trying to find her keys.
I grew up in Indianapolis, the 6th child of 7. My childhood was unremarkable for that time, and only now have I come to fully appreciate the freedoms that children were once given. We amused ourselves, made up games, and played outside, essentially all the time we weren't in school, at church, at camp, or on vacation. Weekly piano lessons in our home were the only structured activity, but I enjoyed banging away at that. “Screen time” meant watching a few television programs per week, including The World of Disney, Marcus Welby MD, and MASH. When you wanted to watch The Wizard of Oz, you had to wait for the once a year airing of it on network television. When you wondered about something, you had to go to the encyclopedia (We had both Encyclopedia Brittanica, the stuffy, dense one, and World Book, which had more color pictures.) It was a big deal when I got to stay up late to watch The Beatles on Ed Sullivan, when they debuted in February 1964. I've been blessed to find work that I am passionate about, as a midwife for women who choose to give birth at home. I've always marched to a different drum, and I guess this is just one more expression of that. I've been less lucky in love... the father of my first 2 children and I divorced when they were babies, and the father of my 3rd child died young of a brain tumor.
Saychay Thor moved to Chicago just as the US entered a national shutdown due to the global pandemic, dramatically shaping her Chicagoland experience thus far. As the youngest daughter of first-generation immigrants, she has chosen to live life on her terms and continues to believe that we make the life that we choose. In doing so, Saychay has a plethora of life stories to share.