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 an audience of 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.