Angalia “Bianca” was raised in Oak Park, Illinois by her father and paternal grandmother. She began using drugs at 9 years old, dropped out of high school, started abusing heroin at the age of 17, and went on to struggle with addiction for 36 years. At 19, she joined a Chicago Latino gang and eventually became a career criminal ultimately serving more than 12 years in a state prison.She lived in the CHA housing projects on the west side of Chicago for over 25 years where the onslaught of violence meant that bullets would ricochet past her head daily. She was released from prison on August 9, 2011 and began working for CeaseFire in December of 2011. Her personal experience has pushed her to relentlessly help youth and young adults, who are involved in high risk street activity, to make better choices to save their lives. Bianca started out working as a violence interrupter/outreach worker was promoted to Supervisor and in October of 2013, she began working at the CeaseFire/Cure Violence headquarters at the University of Illinois at Chicago. Today Bianca is a successful sober productive law abiding citizen, has reunited with her family and has dedicated her life to violence prevention and helping others. She travels internationally to deliver presentations on incarceration, gangs, violence prevention, substance abuse and social change at universities, high schools, Rotary Clubs, state prisons and national conventions. In 2012, Bianca was an invited guest at the inauguration of President Obama when she was featured in the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy. She has also been featured in The Chicago Tribune, Redeye Chicag, WCIU TV, CNN Anderson Cooper 360, She is currently completing her bachelor’s degree in Inner City Studies at Northeastern Illinois University Chicago, IL. Bianca’s memoir, co-authored by Linda Beckstrom – IN DEEP: How I Survived Gangs, Heroin and Prison To Become A Chicago Violence Interrupter – published by Chicago Review Press, was released on October 1, 2018.
Anne Abel moved to Chicago from suburban Philadelphia in January, 2016, for what she thought would be only four months, with her husband, Andy, who was a visiting professor at The University of Chicago. Anne has received a Bachelor of Science from Tufts University, an MBA from The University of Chicago, and an MFA in creative non-fiction from The New School, and has been published inThe Philadelphia Daily News, Lilith, and Jewish Exponent. She recently jumped into the city's storytelling scene, with performances at Story Lab, several Do Not Submits, a few Moth Slams. Story Sessions, Homewood Stories, Tuesday Funk, Louder Than a Mom, Serving The Sentence, and Tenx9. Anne discovered Bruce Springsteen late in life and is trying to make up for lost time.
AK Agunbiade is a comedian, storyteller, and blogger that was born in the motherland, but grew up in the awe-inspiring cornfields of Indiana. His foray into stand up comedy was accidental in nature. He told a funny story once on stage at a college comedy show and people laughed. The rest is history. You can usually find him performing at various venues in Chi-town and different colleges nationwide. When not performing, he is either sleeping, eating, or blogging....But most likely he’s eating.
Renee Albrecht-Mallinger is a Moth StorySLAM winner, a math teacher, and a school leader. For the last seven years, she has been coaching teachers, making teenagers care about mathematics, and getting school staff to talk openly about race, gender, and sexuality. She is currently developing a high school computer science curriculum and telling stories about mistakes, family, mental health, and what it’s like to be born lucky.
Susie Allen grew up in Palo Alto, CA, and currently lives in a faraway land known as “Hyde Park.” She studied English and French literature in college; somehow, despite this great hardship, she is currently employed. She can often be found applying hand sanitizer, writing, and avoiding writing.
Brittany is a hardboiled private detective by day, and a masked vigilante by night. When she takes a break from her crime fighting duties, she enjoys telling stories to help her work through her perpetual anxiety. Her recent storytelling credits include Story Lab and the brand new Identity Flip. She would like to thank her big family, and her own neurosis, for being never-ending sources for great stories to tell.
Rebecca moved to Chicago in 2007 to get an M. Div. at the University of Chicago and has a BA in playwrighting from Hampshire College. In between, she’s been a stand-up comic, an ox-drover, a nanny, a weaver, and she ran an afterschool program. She's an avid fan of hearing people's stories on stage or over coffee. Active in several communal gardens, she still hankers for her own plot of land. Willing to run outdoors in (almost) any weather, Rebecca only bikes when it’s over 55, and is a year-round world-class putterer.
Martin Andrews is an actor, director, and storyteller. In 2009 he co-founded WORKING GROUP THEATRE, a nationally-recognized theatre company, whose original plays, events, and educational programs are created in collaboration with artists and community partners to tell the untold stories that surround us. He has received support from the New England Foundation for the Arts, The Association of Performing Arts Presenters, the Met Life Foundation, The National Endowment for the Humanities, The National Endowment for the Arts, and others. Martin is a certified Teacher of Fitzmaurice Voicework® and was Co-Creator and Co-Director of the FIRST INTERNATIONAL FITZMAURICE VOICEWORK CONFERENCE in Barcelona, Spain, which brought together over 100 students and teachers from twelve countries. Martin was the Core Creator and Producer of THE BROKEN CHORD PROJECT, an award-winning theatrical examination of Alzheimer’s Disease and caregiving carried out through interviews with patients, doctors and caregivers. From 2010-2015 he was the creator and director of WAS THE WORD, a monthly spoken word, storytelling, and music series in Iowa City that raised money for human service organizations. Martin co-produced/co-directed TELLING: IOWA CITY and TELLING: ALBUQUERQUE, full-length plays created from the stories of returning veterans and acted by the vets themselves. As an actor, Martin has originated roles in seven world premiere plays with Working Group and has continued to act around the country developing new work and performing established plays at The Kennedy Center, Hancher Auditorium, The Know Theatre, Riverside Theatre, Duke City Repertory Company and many more. Before moving to Chicago in 2017, he served as Artistic Director of SHAKESPEARE ON THE PLAZA, a free public Shakespeare Festival in the urban center of Albuquerque. Martin has taught and directed in the Department of Theatre at Central New Mexico Community College, Cornell College, Coe College, and The University of Iowa. MFA, Theatre, University of Iowa; M.Ed, Social Science and Latin, Wright State University; BA, History and Philosophy; The Ohio State University.
Mama Edie Armstrong
Mama Edie is a bilingual storyteller (Spanish/English), published writer, percussionist, speech/language pathologist, and voice-over artist who has provided international storytelling performances and workshops to parents, teachers, children, social workers, steel workers, attorneys, and various other professionals since 1989. Her stories are largely inspired by her passionate regard for her African and Native American ancestries. She believes that the power of story can help us to connect with the importance of knowledge of one’s self, of belief in one’s self, of understanding our connections to the rest of the world, and of honoring the right each of us has to strive to attain our highest potential. Whether fun and frolicking or somber and serene, these presentations are powerful reminders of our own beauty and strength and the gifts we are to the world.
Naomi Ashley (Musical Guest)
Singer-songwriter Naomi Ashley has been performing in and around Chicago for over 15 years. In addition to playing various venues such as FitzGerald's, SPACE and the Acorn Theater in Three Oaks, MI, Naomi has musically collaborated in a slew of spoken word events including the Uptown Poetry Slam, the Encyclopedia Show and most recently The Carter Family Family Show with the Neo-futurists. She is currently working on a new album that will be released in the fall of 2013.
__Peter Athans is the 2011 winner of WNEP’s SKALD storytelling competition and has been telling true stories his whole life. He also helps make up stories and narrative improvised theatre as an ensemble member of Theatre Momentum. He studied Improvisation at Second City and iO. Peter is a founding and former member of Trying Too Hard (attendees of the 2008 LA Comedy Fest) and founding and current member of The Shelter. He has appeared in various film and video projects that you probably haven’t seen, and does stand-up wherever anyone is crazy enough to hand him a mic. He’ll be co-directing the 15-hour project for Theater Momentum later this month. He drinks beer. After about three beers, he will not stop talking. Which reminds me, did he ever tell you about the time when…
Augie Averbuch is a thirteen-year-old guy who loves to play sports and hang with his friends. He just became a Bar Mitzvah last month! The oldest of five, Augie fills the self-designated role of family funny guy. Though he studies acting at Second City and plays piano, this is the first time he is telling a story and he's super pumped!
Brooklyn based Robin Bady is an award-winning storyteller who performs throughout New York City (she is a MothSlam winner), nationally and internationally. She curates “No, We Won’t Shut Up!” a show of female storytellers speaking out about race, sexual assault, wages theft and sexism. She hosts the monthly house concert series every month, the BADYHouse Storytelling Concerts, in her Brooklyn townhouse. Robin is currently touring her solo show about her family’s experiences during McCarthyism - “Nancy Drewinsky and the Search for the Missing Letter” – which can be seen this weekend at the Stage Left Cafe in Woodstock, IL.
Jeff Baltes hails from Columbus, where he was a show and festival organizer in the city's burgeoning comedy scene. Since moving to Chicago in 2016, he has discovered the art of storytelling, featuring in events including Death of the Cool, Sunday Night Live, Storylab, Sunday Morning Stories, and I Shit You Not. He is currently a student in iO's improv training program.
David Barish is a storyteller, lawyer, cyclist, harmonica player, disc golfer and lover of pizza. He represents injured workers and claimants for Social Security Disability. David has told stories at Story Sessions, You're Being Ridiculous, Essay Fiesta, Is this a Thing? Homewood Stories, First Person Live, Story Club, Serving the Sentence, Pour One Out, Thread Reading Series and many others. He has published stories in Story Club Magazine and Stitch. He is the co-host of Do not Submit Evanston.
Ellen Blum Barish
Ellen Blum Barish’s essays have been aired on WBEZ Chicago Public Radio and she has told stories at many Chicago storytelling venues including Do Not Submit, Homewood Stories, Story Sessions, You’re Being Ridiculous, Is This a Thing, Story Club North and Essay Fiesta. She published a book of essays in 2007 and her memoir is currently in search of a publisher. Ellen is editor of the literary publicationThread which is celebrating five years and two acknowledgments in Best American Essays and she teaches writing at Northwestern, Story Studio Chicago and privately with writers through her workshops and coaching.
Bron Batten is an Australian theater-maker and performer. Her work has been seen at The Edinburgh Fringe Festival, Next Wave Festival, The Melbourne International Comedy Festival, Adelaide Fringe Festival, Perth Fringe World, On Edge Festival, The Village and The Falls Music Festival. She has been the Creative Producer of the successful independent theater event The Last Tuesday Society since 2008, which provides regular performance opportunities for emerging and established artists. The Last Tuesday Society has been presented at venues and festivals locally, nationally and internationally. She developed the performance work Sweet Child of Mine in collaboration with her parents for the 2011 Melbourne Fringe Festival where it won the award for Best Experimental Performance. Sweet Child of Mine was presented in Sydney in june 2012 as part of PACT’s Tiny Stadiums Festival and has since toured to The Adelaide Fringe Festival where it received a Special Commendation for Best Theatre and Perth Fringe World Festival where it was nominated for Best Theatre Production. Sweet Child of Mine enjoyed return season at The Melbourne International Comedy Festival, before it tours to The Neo-Futurists Theater in Chicago in September 2013.
__ J.W. Basilo is a writer, performer, humorist, and musician from Chicago whose work is equal parts poignant and perverse, hilarious and heart-wrenching. Basilo is a National and World Poetry Slam finalist, a PushCart Prize Nominee, Artistic Director of Chicago Slam Works, and an aggrandizing douche. You can catch him Friday the 18th at Elastic Arts in Logan Square at Real Talk Live and every single Sunday at 7PM at the Green Mill.
She recently won a Moth Grand Slam and The Maelstrom improvised storytelling competition. She's been telling stories anywhere she can for 3 years. “I’m a nanny, a momma, a woman of life. I’m an Urban Legend, a Queen and a Killer. I’m a flower, I’m a verb – Ladies and Gents: I am Lily Be.”
Nancy Beckett is a comedy-writing teacher at Second City, Columbia College. A Chicago native, she is also Founder of Lakeside Writing Studio’s memoir writing method. As a recovering Yale School of Drama playwright, Beckett is currently writing a devised, ensemble-driven, family drama. The play’s songs and staging are in Story Theatre-style. This play marks a career milestone, combining epic theatre with comedy performance.
Linda is a freelance Writer/Creative Director and has been writing short stories for many years. She’s a Moth Story Slam winner, has appeared in the Moth Grand Slam, and many other live storytelling events around Chicago, including Louder Than a Mom, OutSpoken, Do Not Submit, and Is This A Thing?. Linda is currently working on a memoir about her family.
Ian Belknap is a Chicago writer/performer whose work has appeared at Here’s The Story, Essay Fiesta, P. Fanatics, 8 X 8, Funny Ha Ha. He was the victor at the most recent Literary Death Match, is the Dean of Mean at The Paper Machete, and till recently served as Fact Checker for The Encyclopedia Show. He is co-founder with Samantha Irby of the caustically foul-mouthed comedy blog irby + ian. He is the originator, host, curator, and Overlord of WRITE CLUB, the nation’s premiere competitive philanthropic readings series – monthly at The Hideout. Find WRITE CLUB on Facebook, at writeclubrules.com, and on Twitter: @writeclubrules.
David W. Berner
_David W. Berner is an award-winning journalist, broadcaster, author, and teacher. His first book, Accidental Lessons was awarded the 2011 Royal Dragonfly Grand Prize for Literature. His broadcast reporting and audio documentaries have been aired on the CBS Radio Network, NPR’s Weekend Edition and a number of public radio stations across America. David has been the recipient of awards from the Associated Press, RTNDA (Radio and Television News Directors Association) and the Broadcast Education Earlier this year, David was awarded the position of Writer-in-Residence at the Jack Kerouac Project in Orlando, Florida for the summer of 2011. His writing, both reporting and personal essays, have appeared in publications and online journals such as PERIGEE, Tiny Lights Journal, Shaking Like a Mountain, Travelgolf.com, Worldgolf.com, Golf Chicago Magazine, The Sun Newspapers, and Write City Magazine. David has also read and performed his work at events such as Story Club and Essay Fiesta in Chicago. And with all of this, David still finds time to play guitar and watch as much TV coverage as possible of his beloved Steelers.
Rachel Bertsche is the national bestselling author of MWF Seeking BFF. She is also a journalist and editor, whose work has appeared in The New York Times, Cosmopolitan, Marie Claire, More, Teen Vogue, Seventeen, Every Day with Rachael Ray, Fitness, New York, Huffington Post, and more. Prior to leaving the office life for the comforts of working from home (and in her pajamas), Bertsche was a producer for Oprah.com and an editor at O, The Oprah Magazine.
Marilyn Rea Beyer
Marilyn Rea Beyer has spent a lifetime speaking in public, teaching, and performing the works of her writing heroes such as Poe, Joyce, Bradbury, and Brautigan. Many years on public radio in Boston, as PR director at Perkins School for the Blind, and teaching writing to college students has confirmed her belief in the power of words. Marilyn has been writing poetry since 2005, with a number of her poems appearing in a recent anthology, We Will Not Be Silenced of works by sexual abuse survivors, as well as in online journals. She has performed her poetry and her personal stories – a collection she loosely calls “Chicagolandia” - in many Massachusetts venues. She was a semi-finalist in the 2018 MassMouth story slam competition at Club Passim in Harvard Square. With her husband, documentary filmmaker and history author Rick Beyer, Marilyn returned to her hometown of Chicago in January. She’s excited to find new stories here!
_Bobby Biedrzycki is a writer and performer who came to Chicago from St. Paul, Minnesota via The Bronx, New York. Bobby’s writing has appeared in The Black Bear Review, Hair Trigger 28 & 29, The Banana King, Ghost Factory and Ante:thesis Volumes I & II, and his stories have been produced Off Broadway. Bobby is the Director of Programming for 2nd Story and an adjunct faculty member of the Fiction Writing Department at Columbia College Chicago.
Danny black, of chicago band ‘the blacks’ (bloodshot) has jumped into storytelling & comedy with stories covering his favorite topics: sex, religion, family life & mental illness and has performed at cool shows like “paper machete”, “guts & glory”, “the blackout diaries”, “the moth”, “seven deadly sins”, “solo in the 2nd city”, “i shit you not” and is the producer of “the god, sex & death variety hour” every 4th Tuesday @ the hideout.
Jamie Black has been an actor in Chicago for over 19 years. He has performed with many theatre companies including Factory Theatre, Noble Fool Theatre and National Theatre For Children. His first solo show was produced by Bailiwick Repertory and played to audiences across the country. Jamie premiered his current solo show at MPAACT’s Solo Jams Spring series. He won National Artist of the Year at the St. Lou Fringe Festival last summer. He made his International debut this July in Toronto and received a grant from city of City of Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events. Jamie is a founding member of Soul Fools, an African American sketch comedy group. His television credits include The Chelsea Handler Show, Conspiracy: Martin Luther King, Jr. and Boss.
Twenty-year Chicagoland resident Mimi Black is an actor whose voice has been heard on untold hundreds of radio, television and online advertisements. From McDonald’s, Toyota and Coca-Cola all the way down to our own Peggy Notebaert Museum, Mimi’s voice has floated on the airwaves for over a quarter century. She apologizes for her complicity in some of those annoying on-hold telephone messages. Unusual in the voiceover industry, Mimi also holds a doctoral degree in Psychology and has published articles on memory and children’s gender stereotyping. Her children's book manuscript on bullying prevention is under publisher review. Wherever her work takes her, Mimi draws on storytelling for its uniquely persuasive power.
Mary Pat Bohan
MP was born and raised on the South Side of Chicago. She wrestles her painful experiences of childhood, life, and love into comical stories. She has been performing stand-up and story telling for a coupe of years. MP loves talking to people about overcoming life’s obstacles and you can check out her podcast interviews at JumpingTheFence.com .
_Roger Bonair-Agard is a native of Trinidad and Tobago, a Cave Canem fellow and author of two collections of poems: tarnish & masquerade (Cypher Books, 2006) and GULLY (Cypher Books/Peepal Tree Press 2010). Co-founder of NYC’s louderARTS Project, Roger is an MFA candidate at University of Southern Maine’s Stonecoast Program. He is artist-in-residence at University of Wisconsin-Madison’s First Wave program and poet-in-residence at Young Chicago Authors. He teaches at Fordham University, NYC and Cook County Juvenile Temporary Detention Center. He lives in Chicago and Brooklyn.
_Julia Borcherts is a co-founder of Reading Under the Influence and The Chicago Way lit series, a fiction writing instructor at Columbia College Chicago, a theater columnist for RedEye and Metromix and a frequent contributor to Time Out Chicago and the Windy City Times. She has been a featured reader at Victory Garden’s Fresh Squeezed series, 2nd Story, the Windy City Story Slam, the Revolutions reading series, the Museum of Contemporary Art, Women & Children First bookstore, the Criminal Class Press anti-gala and many other venues.
Jack hails from Connecticut and comes to Chicago in the winter for the chills. This is his first time at This Much is True. He has told his stories at Is This A Thing? and Do Not Submit. He has been a teller at Speak-Up in Hartford. He recently retired after nearly 40 years as a professional recruiter where story telling is essential. Now serving his second elected term as an elected selectman where facts are critical and leading improv groups where fiction rules -- constantly working at keeping the two roles separate. He’s appeared in community theater and been an award-winning Toastmaster. His best title role: father of four daughters and in love for more than 50 years with his wife Pat.
Lizzy Bortoto is a union organizer and storyteller living in Chicago. She’s committed to telling at least one story a month in 2019, and is even starting a story circle with Gilead Chicago. When she isn’t storytelling or union organizing, you can often find her planning for her monthly (and elaborately-themed) dinner party.
_Jen is a writer and performer from Chicago. She is currently the host of “Stories at The Store,” a once a month storytelling event held at The Store on Halsted. Jen spent 6 years in Los Angeles where she worked for a movie star, got a Master’s Degree and became progressively crazier. She is glad to be home.
_Chris Bower lives, teaches, and makes shit in Chicago. He is also the creator and host of the Ray’s Tap Reading Series in Avondale and puts up a few plays a year. You can find him at holdmyhorses.com.
David Boyle is a musician, actor and storyteller born and raised on the south side of Chicago. He enjoys swimming, smoking, eating and drinking (in that order).
_Patrick Brennan is a member WNEP Theater and hosts their annual SKALD Storytelling competition (later this month at the Chicago Cultural Center). Patrick won the SKALD in 2002 and has been coasting on that since. He is a dear friend and we’re all pulling for him not to disappoint us.
__Susannah Breslin [http://susannahbreslin.blogspot.com/] is a journalist, blogger, and author. She blogs for Forbes [http://blogs.forbes.com/susannahbreslin/] and has written for Salon, Slate, The Daily Beast, Harper’s Bazaar, Details, Variety, Newsweek, Esquire.com, and TheAtlantic.com. In 2008, TIME.com name her one of
the best bloggers of the year. She has appeared on “Politically Incorrect,” CNN, and NPR.
the best bloggers of the year. She has appeared on “Politically Incorrect,” CNN, and NPR.
Jonathan moved to Chicago 8 years ago from a small farming community in Indiana. In an attempt to separate himself from his blue collar roots, he decided to pursue a career in the arts. It was only after he earned a degree in Theatre, that he realized that the stories that mattered most to him revolved around farming. Jonathan currently works with Polymyth Productions, a Chicago based video production company. He spends his time drinking coffee, smoking cigarettes, and befriending dogs.
Bridget Brown is a young woman with Down Syndrome who inspires everyone she meets. She was the first person with a disability included in her school district, and is a strong advocate of inclusion. Bridget is a national public speaker and has her own advocacy organization called Butterflies for Change. She often speaks to students about having a disability and encourages them to respect people of different abilities. Bridget can be seen in three movies, has worked with William H Macy on Shameless, and was featured in several commercials. She works with a theater group for people who have special needs in LaGrange and recently played Maria in The Sound of Music. Bridget received the Association of University Centers on Disabilities 2009 National Leadership in Advocacy Award, was recognized by Clay Aiken’s National Inclusion Project Charity, and received the 2012 National Down Syndrome Society’s Champion of Change Award. Bridget is grateful that she has a voice and can speak for individuals who are finding their own way to communicate their hopes and dreams.
Elizabeth Brown has left her exacting and only mildy creative career of pathology to join the exquisitely creative world of storytelling. She has frequently performed at the Short Story Theatre, a story telling venue in Highwood and also at First Person LIve located in Arlington Heights. She would like to give a shout out to Scott Whitehair whose workshop on story telling got her started.
Nancy Brown is a social worker, proud mom and grandmother. She works as an inclusion consultant on behalf of individuals with disabilities. Her greatest teacher is her daughter Bridget who has Down syndrome. Nancy and Bridget work together to help the world become a little more inclusive and welcoming to people of all abilities. Nancy loves storytelling especially around a campfire !! She oversees a free summer camp for children with limited resources and loves to experience awe and wonder in the outdoors.
Kucha Brownlee &
Baba Tony Brown
This dynamic storytelling duo combine their experience as performers to weave a rich tapestry of African, African-American and Spanish folk tales, frolicking fables, proverbs, and dialect into their cultural performance art. Kucha and Baba T's presentations are accompanied by musical melody including through the playing of African Djembe, the shekere, mbira, banjo, and more, and enhanced by audience participation.They believe that storytelling can inspire, confirm, engage the imagination, and plant the seeds for morality, values, and principles. More here.
_Jamie Buell is a writer/ comedian and a proud member of the Playground Theater company and Laugh Out Loud Theater in Schaumburg, IL. He can be seen occasionally around town as half of the olde-tyme comedy duo Montgomery & Cooke. He was also the first champion of the Blewt! Productions comedy-talent competition Impress These Apes, now in its 6th season. He’s married, has a dog, and lives within walking distance of a real good sushi place. The dream is real.
Sarah Bunger grew up in one of the smallest towns imaginable outside of Dayton, Ohio (think: flashing caution light, a gas station/Subway sandwich shop, and lots and lots of cows). Since moving to the big city seven years ago, she is adjusting to the long winters and nearly complete lack of cows. She teaches English to sophomores and seniors, relishing every minute she gets to re-experience Holden Caulfield, Blanche Dubois, and Nick Carraway. (But not those boys from Lord of the Flies. Because, gross). She has told stories at Solo Theatre, Story Lab, Truth or Lie Reading Series, and she is the most recent Moth Grand Slam Story Champion. She hopes to tell more stories in 2015 and beyond.
_Margaret Burk’s lifelong study of mythology, psychology and world spiritual traditions infuses her work as storyteller, actress and educator. She is Director of the Fleming Center which teaches classes in leadership development: living into our full creative talents. As Director of Development for the Chicago Sinfonietta, Margaret was named as “100 Women Making a Difference” in Today’s Chicago Woman Magazine (July 1997). Margaret believes there is power in story to touch the heart, to inspire a sense of hope, to spark the imagination, to embolden the spirit, and to remind us of the greatest of human potential! Margaret has a B.A. in Theatre and M.A. in Communication. She is on the Board of Illinois Storytelling, Inc. and is co-artistic director of a Storytelling Concert Series at Village Players Performing Arts Center in Oak Park, IL.
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.
Stanley "Bunjo" Butler
Stanley “Bunjo” Butler, the “West Baltimore African Talkin’ Drum” is a Librarian, Educator, Storyteller, and Workshop Facilitator, who has been active in the storytelling world for over 25 years. Telling in the African Oral Tradition, his repertoire includes variations and improvisations on the universal truths found in the myths, stories, games, proverbs, riddles, and songs of the African diaspora as well as those of his own creation. Bunjo is a Life Member of the National Association of Black Storytellers (NABS). Bunjo has served NABS as Adopt-A-Teller Program Director, Board Member, Festival Director, and President.
Jamie Campbell has been a stand-out for years in Chicago’s world-famous comedy scene. With the release of his debut album, Tell Me You’re Proud of Me, on Mint 400 Records, which debuted at #1 on the Amazon comedy charts, he is making waves nationally. He has been heralded as a “bombastic genius” by Dan Telfer of Comedy Central’s @midnight. Ryan Budds, producer on MTV2’sRidiculousness, calls Jamie “one of the fastest and funniest comedians and actors I’ve ever worked with.” A favorite on the festival circuit, Campbell was specially-selected by the sister of the late Andy Kaufman to perform in Chicago’s TBS Just For Laughs Festival. Over the past year, Jamie has appeared at the New Orleans Comedy Arts Festival, Austin’s Out of Bounds Comedy Festival, The Kansas City Improv Festival, The Cleveland Comedy Festival, The Columbus Unscripted Improv Festival, and The Big-Little Comedy Festival. In Chicago, Jamie is a regular at Laugh Factory, and is a founding member of stand-up collective 100 Proof Comedy. In 2013, he was named Chicago’s “Best Stand-Up” in The Chicago Reader’s annual Best of Chicago issue. One of the nation’s top improv performers, his recent appearance on Jimmy Carrane’s popular Improv Nerd podcast put him in the company of a veritable Who’s Who in the world of comedy. He appears regularly at ComedySportz, The Annoyance, and with the anti-heroes of improv – The Stevens Family. As an actor, Jamie had a stand-out appearance in last year’s indie feature Sex Ain’t Love. He has a starring role in the upcoming film Dirtbags from award-winning screenwriter Dale Zawada, and recently made his network television debut in NBC’s hit series Chicago Fire in 2015. You may also recognize him from his appearance in KFC’s popular #HowDoYouKFC ad campaign. Jamie also teaches comedy classes and workshops throughout the nation, is a faculty member at The ComedySportz Theatre’s Training Center, and has taught festival workshops through The Annoyance Theatre and Columbus Unscripted. He emcees corporate events, counting many Fortune 500 Companies as prior clients and specializes in customizing comedy for private events. Additionally, you can catch Jamie’s Talk Hard podcast, the flagship show on The Rebellion Network, which releases a new episode every Tuesday, featuring interviews with interesting figures in and out of the world of entertainment!
Jasmin Cardenas is a Colombian-American bilingual Storyteller, Actress, Educator and Social Activist. Jasmin enjoys exploring the uncomfortable truths found when you grow up between cultures. Her one-woman show, ¿Niña Buena? is a coming of age story highlighting the joys and challenges of being Latina y Americana and has been toured in the Midwest and to Mexico. In 2013, Jasmin was awarded The Race Bridges Storytelling Fellowship. Jasmin regularly tours her bilingual storytelling program Cuentos from the Americas locally & nationally. Jasmin is professional actress, an ensemble member of UrbanTheater Company and a proud SAG-AFTRA member who’s TV Credits Include ABC Betrayal & NBC Chicago Fire. FB Page: JasminCardenasCreates.
By day, Miriam Carey weaves tales about technology for Chicago companies as a marketer. By night, she weaves stories in her head to tell you. Author of four books and a former magazine editor, Miriam has been involved with story one way or the other since she produced her first magazine with construction paper and crayons at age 4.
Jimmy Carrane has been teaching and performing improv in Chicago for more than 25 years. He is the host of the Improv Nerd podcast and co-author of “Improvising Better: A Guide to the Working Improviser.” He is the former host of Studio 312 on Chicago Public Radio. He has written several one-person shows, including the hit show, "I'm 27, I Still Live at Home and Sell Office Supplies," at the Annoyance Theater. For information, visit www.JimmyCarrane.com.
_Paula Carter writes everything from marketing reports to memoir. Her creative work has appeared in or is forthcoming from Southern Humanities Review, New South, Rhino, and Quick Fiction among other journals. She holds an MFA in creative writing from Indiana University, where her thesis explored the line between truth and fiction by paring essays and stories that each dealt with the same subject, event, or character. What she discovered is the line becomes less clear the closer you look. She is new to storytelling, but has performed with theater groups from Boston to small town, Illinois.
Beth Casey has shared her stories at Grown Folks Stories and Story Club. She teaches people how to impress their Tinder dates with home-cooked meals on a budget at BethCaseyCooks.com. When she isn't pretending to work at her day job, she can be found on her sofa, eating a bag of croutons, and watching Law and Order: SVU; or doing laps around a skate rink with Chicago's Women's Roller Derby Team, the Windy City Rollers, under the alias Casey YaLater.
Mary Dean Cason
A native of North Carolina, Mary Dean Cason absorbed the art of storytelling on the front porches of her youth. She is a featured writer/performer at Chicago’s Story Club, Story Sessions as well as a founder and producer of Indigan Storyteller, an international storytelling workshop. She is a winner of the University of Memphis Pinch Award and the 2008 University of Chicago Writer’s Studio Prize for Fiction and a finalist in Chicago Public Radio's Stories on Stage. Her book, What Solomon Saw and Other Stories, is available at amazon.com and barnesandnoble.com.
_ Shannon Cason is a writer and storyteller. He has shared his stories on large stages, dive bars, and small living rooms all around the country. Shannon is a host, Mainstage storyteller and GrandSlam Champion with The Moth. He is a contributor to NPR’s Snap Judgment; awarded their Best Performance of 2013. Shannon also hosts his own storytelling podcast called Homemade Stories. He is originally from Detroit. Please find out more at shannoncason.com.
Elynne Chaplik-Aleskow is a Pushcart Prize nominated author and award-winning educator and broadcaster. She is Founding General Manager of WYCC-TV/PBS and Distinguished Professor Emeritus of Wright College in Chicago. Her adult storyteller program IN HER OWN VOICE is renowned. Her stories and essays have been published in numerous anthologies including Thin Threads (Kiwi Publishing), Chicken Soup for the Soul (Simon & Schuster Distributor), This I Believe: On Love (Wiley Publishing), Forever Travels (Mandinam Press), Press Pause Moments (Kiwi Publishing), My Dad Is My Hero (Adams Media) and various magazines including the international Jerusalem Post. Elynne Chaplik-Aleskow’s performances of her stories have been broadcast on The Bob Edwards Show on NPR and Rick Kogan’s Sunday Papers on WGN radio. She performed her Pushcart Prize nominated memoir “More Than Life” in NYC at the Museum of Motherhood. Elynne has performed her stories for organizations throughout Chicago including the Printer’s Row Lit Fest. Her work has been part of the production “Dear Mother” in L.A. at The Lyric Theater. Elynne was a featured guest artist performing her stories at the Acorn Theater in Michigan. Visit http://LookAroundMe.blogspot.com
Stephanie Chavara is an actor, storyteller, and teaching artist. She has acted with Strawdog, Signal Ensemble, TimeLine, Adventure Stage, Remy Bumppo, Collaboraction, and The Agency. In addition she has collaborated as a dancer and puppeteer with Rooms Gallery, Champagne and Milk, and HERE Theatre Company. Her stories have been heard at Essay Fiesta, Story Club, Salonathon, Story Lab, and 2nd Story-where she is also a company member. She is currently teaching theater in schools around Chicago and can be seen next at Profiles Theatre in the play, Genius.
Elizabeth is an avid day dreamer and storyteller born and raised in Cleveland, Ohio. She is inspired by Rupaul, is a co-host of Do Not Submit- (a story telling open mic in Rogers Park) and hosts a semi-weekly podcast named Random Conversations with Elizabeth.
Ada Cheng is a professor turned storyteller, improviser, and stand up comedian. She decided to quit her university job in December last year to pursue theater and performance full time. She has done storytelling at The Moth, Dead of the Cool, Seven Deadly Sins, Loose Chicks, and In Any Language. She is absolutely enjoying her new adventures in life and she has never embraced life more wholeheartedly than now.
Arif Choudhury, CPA, is a professional storyteller, filmmaker, theater artist, and stand-up comic. He is currently working as the post-production supervisor on a documentary film about folk storytellers in a remote village in China and his short film “Coloring” premieres in January 2013. He is the co-founder of Bard & Fool Theater Company, Chicago-based non-profit theater company formed to make theater accessible to non-traditional theatergoers. Arif performs "More in Common Than You Think" his one-person program of stories for schools, libraries, conferences, and festivals around the country and abroad. He tells humorous stories of growing up in one of the few Bangladeshi-Muslim immigrant families in Chicago. Focusing on issues of ethnic and religious identity, assimilation, multiculturalism, and diversity, his stories poke fun at how we think of one another. Arif also tours the country in “More Alike Than Not: Stories from Three Americans—Catholic, Jewish, and Muslim.” He recently recorded a CD of stories entitled, “Where Are You From? And Other Difficult Questions” and has written his first children’s book “The Only Brown-Skinned Boy in the Neighborhood.” When Arif isn’t working on film or theater he works as a manager of Endeavor Financial Services, an accounting firm that specializes in accounting, income tax return preparation, tax planning and small business consulting. Arif has a B.S. in Business Administration and Marketing from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. He is currently completing an MFA in film and video at Columbia College Chicago. He lives in Northbrook, Illinois.
Aasim Chowdhry’s story is a strange one, with major stops in Texas, Saudi Arabia, with him finally settling in Chicago. Primarily a musician, he spends much of his time and energy perfecting his craft. These days, his primary musical focus is writing his musical “From Wicker To Gold.” Other than that, he loves to spend time with his fiancée, Mackenzie, and their dog Etta James.
Will Clinger is the producer and host of the Emmy-winning travel series Wild Travels (wildtravelstv.com), now shooting its third season. He is probably best known as the host and segment producer of Wild Chicago, a television program that looked at the offbeat side of the city and aired on WTTW/Channel 11. His work on the show earned him fourteen Midwest Emmy awards. He has produced and hosted several documentaries for Channel 11: Vanishing Act – Memories of Vaudeville, Lost and Found – Chicago’s Offshore Treasures, The Bleacher Bums – Rabid Fans of Wrigley Field, and The Legend of Del Close, the first two of which also received Midwest Emmys. Will has acted in the feature films Witless Protection, Stranger Than Fiction, Camp Manna, B-Roll, After Effect, Something Better Somewhere Else, No Sleep ‘Til Madison, Stash, and Serious Business, as well as the short films Stealing Kisses, Hit and Run, and Train Town (which won a Silver Award at the 2007 Chicago International Film Festival and a 2008 Best of the Midwest award for Best Short Film). Will’s work in Train Town was nominated for a 2008 BMA Award for Best Actor. He has also appeared in a number of network and cable television shows, including Chicago P.D., Sirens, and ER. For the stage, Will wrote and performed the one-man play Dr. Harlon’s Keys to Better Living (Royal George Theatre) and co-wrote and performed in the musical Two for the Show (Theater Wit), which received the After Dark award for Best New Work and was Jeff-nominated in the same category. in addition to acting with numerous Chicago theaters, he has appeared with the Michigan Shakespeare Festival, the Peninsula Players in Door County, Wisconsin and traveled all over the country with the Second City National Touring Company. He bears a startling resemblance to Willie B. Famous of the comedic bluegrass group The Famous Brothers (www.famousbrothers.com)
Shawn Cobb has worn many hats over the years, working jobs ranging from forklift operator to Cosmetologist and pretty much everything in between. He finally settled in at the railroad where he has worked as a mechanic for over 13 years. Also a published Sci-Fi author, Shawn has always been passionate about writing and illustration. However, it was through Toastmasters that he found his voice as a storyteller. For Shawn, to be vulnerable while operating from a place of love has proven to be the perfect counterbalance to the sometimes harsh and less forgiving aspects of the railroad. He aspires to inspire through life experiences and stories that find and exposes that common thread that binds us all.
Hailing from the southside, Jacoby has lived everywhere in the city from Chatam and Englewood, to Chicago Heights and Wicker Park and now Hyde Park. With a Masters in Communication he has hosted dozens of public speaking and story telling workshops across the country and coaches thousands of kids. The guy who couldn't keep his damn mouth shut as a kid is now a performer in the local Chicago scene and is recognized as the only Four-Time Collegiate Top Speaker in the nation. "I pledge my allegiance to the stage, the only place I ever felt free."
Barrie Cole is a writer and a playwright. She's read work at Write Club, Essay Fiesta, Story Sessions, You're Being Ridiculous and and many more. This Spring she had a very tiny play in the One Minute Play Festival at the Den Theatre. She's currently working on a new, longer play as well as a collection of essays.
James Conway (Musical Guest)
James Conway is an active musician in the Chicago music scene. He plays in several formats but mainly solo acoustic and with his Celtic power trio, The Boils. Heavily influenced by acoustic greats such as Neil Young, Merle Travis, Bo Carter, and Mississippi Fred McDowell, James uses fingerpicking, slide guitar, rack-harmonica, and a variety of tunings to perform tasty renditions of songs from the folk and country blues genres. In the Celtic scene, Conway plays the traditional dance music of Ireland on tin whistles and harmonicas. Playing the fast-tempo reels and jigs on the mouth harp isn’t a common or easy feat but James does it convincingly using advanced techniques he learned from local blues/jazz harp heroes such as Junior Wells, Sugar Blue, and Howard Levy. He does a variety of musically instructional stuff (workshops, seminars, private lessons) at places in his hood and beyond such as Hogeye Music, Old Town School of Folk Music, Northwestern University, and SPAH (Society for the Preservation and Advancement of the Harmonica). James has performed and/or taught at places such as: Les Harmonicales Festival (France), An Ri Ra Festival (Butte, Montana), Steppenwolf Theater, Long Wharf Theater, The Indy Palladium, and Wicker Park’s Smoke Daddy. Conway received both a Fellowship Award and a Master/Apprenticeship Award from the Illinois Arts Council during one of his rare productive periods. James Conway has an endorsement with Hohner Harmonica.
Steve Coombs grew up in Detroit in a big Catholic family. He was an altar boy at St. Mary’s, but came out unscathed. He claims to no musical, writing or artistic talents. Steve works as a Risk Manager by day and a risk taker by night. He is “left brain” dominated. He enjoys analyzing anything and everything involving numbers. Just last night, while walking to a party on Ashland Ave., he calculated the number of cars parked illegally in all of Chicago at that hour. In his spare time he flies airplanes and samples craft beer. But not at the same time.
Prior to bringing her yarns and hounds to the greater Philadelphia area, Vara Cooper was telling stories, teaching, writing, editing, and making fiber art in Asheville, NC. She is a Moth Story Slam champion and winner of the 2017 National Story Slam at the National Storytelling Festival in Jonesborough, Tennessee. Vara emceed and still co-produces West Asheville's oldest story slam, she has performed on the David Joe Miller presents WORD! and Listen to This stages, and she was featured at the 2017 Gotham Storytelling Festival in New York City. Vara is a native New Yorker who has traveled through thirteen countries and 49 states, but has never been to the Grand Canyon or the top of the Empire State Building. She earned a bachelor’s degree in English and American Literature from New York University, master’s degrees in English and Adolescent Education from Hunter College, and master’s certification in Academically and Intellectually Gifted Education from The University of North Carolina at Charlotte. Her favorite color is green.
Randall Colburn has written and performed around town with Paper Machete, Story Club, Mortified, Ray's Tap, and You're Being Ridiculous. He's also a playwright, a staff writer for Consequence of Sound, and a talking head in the hit documentary BEST WORST MOVIE.
Jahmal Cole is a tireless volunteer and role model. An advocate for education reform in Chicago, Jahmal is passionate about improving schools and is a frequent speaker at colleges in the Chicagoland area. Jahmal is the author of The Torch of Decency: Rekindling the Spirit of Community Organizations, "Athletes & MC's" and "50 Excuses: to not following your Dreams." Recognized for his contributions to the community, he is the recipient of many awards, including a 2012 Certificate of Appreciation from Governor Pat Quinn, 2012 Chicago Ideas Award Winner presented by Mayor Rahm Emmanuel, 2013 Scion Motivate Winner presented by Toyota, 2013 John Lennon Song Writing Grand Prize Award Winner, and 2014 Cook County Juvenile Detention Center Volunteer Award. He was appointed as honorary chair of State of Black Chicago Steering Committee by Cook County Clerk of the Circuit Court and named one of Huffington Post's 15 Inspiring Chicagoans. Most recently, he has successfully launched a groundbreaking social initiative entitled "My Block, My Hood, My City, where he takes teenagers from underserved Chicago communities on City Wide explorations. Jahmal is a member of the Mayors Youth Advisor Council on Gun Violence and Restorative Communities
Rives Collins is a faculty member in the Department of Theatre at Northwestern University where he teaches courses in Theatre for Young Audiences, Creative Drama, and Storytelling. A lover of stories since he could talk, he is featured regularly as a professional storyteller and keynote speaker at festivals, schools, libraries, businesses, and museums, proclaiming that, “Storytelling is at the heart of everything I do.” He is the co-author with Pamela Cooper of The Power of Story: Teaching Through Storytelling, soon to be released in its third edition. His audio recordings have received the Parent's Choice Award, the iParenting Media Award, and the Spoken Word Award from the NAPPA. He is a proud member of the National Storytelling Network, and he loves empowering students of all ages to find their own voice as they become storytellers themselves. A long time Illinois Theatre Association member, he is also a Trustee of the Children’s Theatre Foundation of America, and an active member of the American Alliance for Theatre and Education. As the immediate past president of AATE, he works with an international community of artists, educators, and scholars to champion the cause of drama and theatre (including storytelling) in the lives of young people. Other interests include folk guitar, cycling, hiking, and making new friends in faraway places. In addition, he is currently bat-shit-crazy for geocaching (his caching name is R.C.Tells), which explains why he can often be found traipsing through the forest preserves these days.
A Chicago-born slam poet, performer, playwright, essayist, and researcher, Bea Cordelia uses her writing and academia for transgender activism and other forms of social change. Six of her plays have been produced to date and many of her poems and essays published. Most recently, she performed her own autobiographical one-lady play Chasing Blue to rave reviews; self-published her first chapbook of poetry, 28.06 // Dear Sylvia; featured at the Green Mill, OUTspoken! LGBTQ Storytelling, Homolatte, Sappho’s Salon, Salonathon, and in The Fly Honey Show; was a winner of the Goodman Theatre’s New Play Bake-Off; and wrote an award-winning thesis on the intersection of body image and law in the German transgender community at Northwestern University. Check out her latest at facebook.com/bea.cordelia1, or on Twitter and Instagram @beacordelia.
Robert Cornelius, a Chicago native, has been an artist for over 30 years, performing as an actor, singer, dancer, director and storyteller. He was most recently seen onstage as Dr. Kelekian in Wit at The Hypocrites and Howard in American Theatre Company's production of the William Inge classic, Picnic. He performs and records with local favorites Poi Dog Pondering as well as fronting his own band, RC7. Robert has been Arts Education Director at Victory Gardens Theater for the past ten years, bringing arts programs into CPS schools. And he loves telling stories.
Kevin Coval is a poet and community builder. As the artistic director of Young Chicago Authors, founder of Louder Than A Bomb: The Chicago Youth Poetry Festival, and professor at the University of Illinois-Chicago—where he teaches hip-hop aesthetics—he’s mentored thousands of young writers, artists, and musicians. He is the author and editor of 10 books, including The BreakBeat Poets: New American Poetry in the Age of Hip-Hop and Schtick, and co-author of the play, This is Modern Art. His work has appeared in Poetry Magazine, The Drunken Boat, Chicago Tribune, CNN, Fake Shore Drive, Huffington Post, and four seasons of HBO’s Def Poetry Jam. Coval’s forthcoming collection, A People's History of Chicago dropped in April 2017 on Haymarket Books.
Jake Cowan is originally from St. Louis, Missouri and is the co-producer of Is this a thing? - a monthly storytelling show that takes place the second Monday of the month at O'Shaughnessy's at Ravenswood and Wilson. He's lived in Chicago since 2007 and has appeared in shows such as Guts and Glory, Serving the Sentence and Storylab. He works in the nonprofit sector, but he finds he makes his biggest impact on the world by simply showing up to parties with a pound of crispy bacon. You can follow him on Twitter @BaconJedi.
_MT Cozzola is a Chicago writer and director. She’s told stories around town at Here’s the Story, Tuesday Funk, Speak Easy Speak Hard, and Stockyards Theatre Women’s Performance Art Festival, shared prose and poetry in the pages of After Hours, Swivel, Crawdad, and other magazines, and screened films across the globe. She keeps a story blog at www.midwesternrobot.com. Come visit!
Cody Cranch is first and foremost a teacher... the kind that chucks out that boring ol' textbook to make room for creative writing and improv. He is also a portrait artist and illustrator by night. His visual work can be seen at the occasional gallery, but always on codycranch.com
Alison Cuddy is the arts and culture reporter and hosts Weekender at WBEZ 91.5 FM, the NPR affiliate in Chicago.
_Victoria successfully completed the M.A.T. program in High School Education-English Language Arts/Special Education at National-Louis University. Prior to this, she was a freelance arts & travel writer, (Time Out Chicago Guidebook, Hungry? Chicago Guidebook, etc.) and storyteller/workshop leader with college teaching credits in speech communication (DePaul Univ. School for New Learning, Loyola Univ., College of DuPage, etc.). her biggest claim on stories, however, is her association with the late actor, monologuist and author Spalding Gray.
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, Story Lab, and the Goodman Theater.
_Frankie Cusimano, actor, improviser, writer and director, spent his formative years in New York City. In 2000, he graduated from the University of the Arts in Philadelphia PA., with a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Theater. He was a bike messenger for a span of 5 years through the hilly streets of Philadelphia and the grueling winters of Chicago solely to build character and muscle tone. Once in Chicago, Frankie found himself performing with such groups as Theatre O’ the Absurd and Careening Theatre Company. In 2004, he started studying improvisational theater at iO and sketch comedy through Second City’s Conservatory Program. Since then, he has been performing improv, sketch and stand-up consistently around Chicago. He is a founding member of 4 person improv group The Angry Northeast and The Playground Theatre’s Member team Mort. He is also a member of iO Harold team Soldier Body and Mission Improvable’s National Touring Company, with which he toured the country for 1.5 years. He has written and directed numerous video sketches for Mission Improvable throughout his time on the road, check them out athttp://www.missionimprovable.com/. On a personal note, Frankie enjoys riding bikes, shooting pool and his dog.