I like to think as a playwright and director, I’ve been storytelling for decades, but I really started storytelling with Listen to Your Mother. I think like many storytellers, I had a story I needed to share in a way that transcended the page. It needed a voice. I was fortunate enough to have the right story for the right venue at the right time and it really opened me to storytelling on a larger scale.
I got into storytelling from the acting world. I was writing and for a living and had put my acting life mostly on hold while my kids were young. But then in 2012, my best friend got invited to audition for a storytelling show. She passed the opportunity on to me, saying, “this seems like it’s in your wheelhouse.”
She was right! I got in to the show, had a blast, and have been writing and telling stories ever since. I’ve met some of the best friends I’ve ever had.
My early background was in theatre. I moved on to arts administration. When I left that career the personal storytelling world was just bursting open. I felt a calling to participate, to get back 'on stage', to write and tell my own stories. And it has been deliciously fun. I love feeling the spark of a new idea and crafting it into a story.
In the summer of 2017 I decided to write and produce a solo show about my childhood. I went to every storytelling mic I could find in Chicago to work out these stories. There is no motivation quite as effective as the panic of a deadline. I'm so glad I decided to do the show because it plunged me into one of the best communities I have ever been a part of.
I've wanted to do it for years after being inspired by listening to "The Moth" on NPR, but I didn't really know how or where to start. Then a bit of serendipity came about by way of a Newberry Library email announcing Jill Howe's storytelling class. I enrolled and had such a fabulous experience! Little did I know that in a matter of months, I'd not only be telling my story for a live show, but I'd even have it published. I'm excited to see where the next steps in my storytelling journey will lead me.
I listened to storytelling on the radio, but I had no idea that people were doing it in my city, actually in my neighborhood. Once I found my people, it took me a while to get the courage to even tell-- about a year. I went through all of the growing pains of a clueless ingenue in a microcosm arts scene, and now I'm an increasingly active part of a national movement of tellers of all kinds. Producing Story Sessions (since 2013) allows me to work with & meet the most talented storytellers that Chicagoland has to offer.
The first time I ever did storytelling was in August, 2016. I performed a solo comedy/ storytelling show for about 40 people as a fundraiser for a youth dance ensemble. Prior to that, I had virtually no performing experience – I’m a statistician by profession. The adrenaline rush I got from performing that show was like nothing I’d ever felt before. I was compelled to write a second, completely new show & performed it 8 months later. After those 2 shows, several people spoke with me about the Moth. On October 23, 2017, I went to the one in Evanston, put my name in the hat, & ended up being chosen at random. I’ve been telling stories regularly since.
I’ve been journaling every day since I was 18. A passionate singer and dancer, I also performed in Pippin, Hair and Jesus Christ Superstar! In college, I began writing personal essays and years later wrote my memoir called ‘How I Survived Motherhood on a Suzuki TU250X. In 2018, I took a stand up class with the Kates and some improv classes. Being on stage again was invigorating and I began searching for ways to merge my writer and performer selves. Many ‘Do Not Submits’ and a Scott Whitehair class later, I was asked to be in curated shows, wrote and performed a solo show and started producing Soul Stories Live!
Jill Howe had stalked Ellen and implored her to tell a story at Story Sessions. We both went to a show to scope it out and had a great time. We went again the night Ellen told her story and heard more great stories. I began thinking about what stories I might tell Ellen then began coming to Friends with Words. I decided to try my hand at writing a story and brought it to Friends with Words. I told that story to a room full of then strangers who are now old friends. Jill asked to record that story for the Story Sessions podcast and I was hooked.
I started as a bookstore story reader and then began doing the same at many venues in Chicago (The Art institute, the Chicago Public Library, synagogues, churches and schools). It was suggested that I try performing rather than reading, so I began telling spiritual and folk tales. One night, I watched poets and storytellers telling the same basic story in their own genre while sharing the stage. It sparked something in me and I signed up for my first storytelling/writing class. I was drawn to the experience of writing and sharing my own stories - and here I am.
I was living and working in LA, doing theater and the occasional guest star spot on TV. I was a member of West Coast Ensemble. The theater was an old, ramshackle, 3-story building that had been a funeral home. We did everything from building the sets to doing the PR. Before company meetings I would tell funny stories about growing up a hearing child in a Deaf family. I told tales of sign language mishaps (the word “sex” and “very” are similar), lights strobing when the doorbell rang and informing my incredulous father that farts had a sound. One day, Anne Etue, a talented director/producer said, “You have a story and you need to tell it!”
When I was about 8 or 9, a storyteller came to our church to perform for us. I was entranced. At the end of her performance, she announced that she also held storytelling classes. I begged my mother to sign me up, and she agreed. Do you remember the movie, My Girl, when the little girl signs up for her teacher’s adult creative writing class? That was my experience. I walked into a room of grown-up storytellers with my arms wrapped around the Shel Silverstein collections I planned to read. I think they were somewhat bemused, but I learned a lot in that class. Most of all, I learned that I loved performing on stage.