Short Story Theatre was founded in 2012 by Rick Leslie, Donna Lubow& Susan Block.
Our concept is to present storytelling as an entertaining theatrical event. We are dedicated to promoting awareness of storytelling as a vibrant, contemporary art form. Our stories are creative non-fiction, based on our personal experiences, but with universal themes. We meld our writing skills and performance skills to entertain and inspire our audiences.
Our founders have backgrounds in theatre, television, advertising, painting, writing, and teaching. So why not storytelling? After seeing Rick Leslie perform a story in Chicago in early 2012, Susan Block and Donna Lubow thought -"we should do this in the suburbs!" Our first venture was at "Vibe at 1935" in Highland Park. Performances were sold-out, and audiences were sold on spending an enjoyable evening eating, drinking and listening to 4 10-minute stories. Writers/actors around town heard about us and wanted to be a part of the excitement we were building. So then we were eight. Our next moves were to the following venues: Bertucci's in Highwood, Laughing Chameleon in Glenview, Cellar Gate in Highwood, Books on Vernon in Glencoe, the Wilmette Theatre, The Alley in Highwood, and now Miramar Bistro in Highwood. Fifteen more storytellers and musicians joined our troupe, and now we are twenty-three and growing. We continue to offer writers and actors opportunities to entertain audiences with enlightening stories.
Watch this site for more information, including copies of our favorite stories...new storytellers...new ideas...
"Go into the arts. I'm not kidding. The arts are not a way to make a living. They are a very human way of making life more bearable. Practicing an art, no matter how well or badly, is a way to make your soul grow, for heaven's sake. Sing in the shower. Dance to the radio. TELL STORIES. Write a poem to a friend, even a lousy poem. Do it as well as you possibly can. You will get an enormous reward. You will have created something."
- Kurt Vonnegut
Rebecca Adler has performed at local theatres including Attic Playhouse and Clockwise Theatre, where she also served as Managing Director during its formative years. She spends her days as an instructional designer, writing classroom and e-learning courses for companies across the country. She has been writing since the day she learned to read.
Marc Davis is a former newspaper reporter and the author of three highly-acclaimed novels: Spector, Dirty Money, and Bottom Line.
Al Day has performed in clubs and colleges throughout the United States and on such radio and TV shows as WFMT's "Midnight Special," WFMT's "Studs Terkel Show," WBEZ's "The Earth Club," and WTTW/Channel 11's "Sound Stage." Hailed as most "Most Promising Songwriter" by Chicago Magazine when he entered the music scene, his songs have supplied many other artists with original material. Additionally, Al has composed several concert theater pieces and wrote the libretto for the opera Two Soldiers, which was funded by the National Endowment for the Arts and nominated for a Pulitzer Prize.
Eileen Donohue studied with Nancy Beckett at the Lakeside Writing Studio for seven years, where she completed a first draft memoir about her family and her mother’s terminal illness. “Now,” she says, “it’s on to the endless revisions.” In the meantime, she also enjoys writing personal essays. She lives in Evanston with her husband, Gene, and their two children.
Jennifer Dotson earned her MFA in drama from the University of Virginia and followed the siren song of Chicago's vibrant storefront theater scene shortly after. Since then she has focused her creative energy into poetry. Her book, Clever Gretel, received the Journal of Modern Poetry First Book Award and was published by Chicago Poetry Press in 2013. She is the founder and program coordinator for Highland Park Poetry, now celebrating its 10th year.
David Edler has an MFA from the Professional Actor Training Program at Ohio University. He has worked at the Milwaukee Rep and the Hyde Park (NY) Shakespeare Festival. David has acted in off-loop productions of As You Like It, Working, The Fantasticks, and The 1940's Radio Hour, and has directed Jacques Brel is Alive and Well and Living in Paris and Larry Shue's one-act Grandma Duck is Dead. David comes from a family of educators (his father was a high school drama teacher), yet has found his career as a Business Development Director in the vision care industry.
Robin Finesmith, a graduate of the Iowa Writers' Workshop, has spent much of her career in public radio. Her arts features and environmental reports have been heard frequently on NPR, and her work has won honors form the Voice of America and the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting. She also teaches creative writing and serves as a freelance writer for educational testing companies.
Beth Goldberg has worked with Theatre in the Woods, Oil Lamp Theater, North Shore Theater of Wilmette, and Deerfield Family Theater playing various roles, in various productions, and has thoroughly enjoyed pursuing the "acting bug" she's always had.
Mary Lou Gilliam was an English teacher for nearly three decades and used both music and
drama to engage her students. In addition to performing in musical
comedies and in the church choir, she has been a wedding soloist for many years.
Her writing credits include nationally distributed educational materials, user
guides, and magazine articles.
Lou Greenwald, a husband, brother, father and grandfather, has attended numerous storytelling festivals and has seen many of the country's greatest tellers. He hopes he has learned something about telling stories along the way.
Benita Haberman has been with Short Story Theatre since our premiere performance. She began journaling in grammar school and put her joy of writing to good use during a ten-year career in Special Events fundraising before "retiring" to be a stay-at-home mom. She began writing creative non-fiction while studying with Nancy Beckett at the Lakeside Writing Studio, and later re-entered the work force as a Special Education Student Aide. Benita lives in Vernon Hills with her husband, Marc, and her two teen-age children.
Julie Isaacson enjoys cooking and writing. The Angry Chef anthology is her first publication. She writes poetry and offers wordsbyjulie.com for individuals seeking personalized tributes for special occasions. She retired from 30 years of Special Education instruction, and teaches writing skills to adolescents.
Judith MK Kaufman is the Editor-in-Chief of East on Central, now in its 15th year. Judith’s poetry has been published in literary journals, including Poetica and The Journal of Modern Poetry. “Caught Laughing: the Esther and Bernie Story” is a collection of flash memoir, stories which Judith has been telling throughout her life about growing up the daughter of two warm, wonderful – and inadvertently funny New Yorkers. She intends to publish her memoir soon.
Denise Kirshenbaum learned to write as a member of Nancy Beckett's Lakeside Writing Studio. A one-on-one writing coach herself, Denise blends her writing experience with visual and production skills honed during a 20-year photography career to help clients of all levels achieve their writing goals. Her essays have appeared in literary journals, on the web, and in national magazines, including More and Bark.
Emma Kowalenko (Pen Name Emma Alexandra), poet, visual artist and oral historian, founded Kowalenko Consulting Group, Inc. (KCG) in 1988 in Highland Park. She holds a Master of Arts degree in history from Northeastern Illinois University. At KCG, she integrates her entrepreneurial expertise, strategic planning skills, and multi-cultural proficiency for clients in the private, public, and nonprofit sectors. She is on the board and task forces of several professional and nonprofit organizations. In Highland Park and Highwood these include: East on Central, a Journal of Art and Letters; Sister Cities Foundation of Highland Park, the Modenese Society, the Highwood Bocce Club, and the Highland Park and Highwood Historical Societies. Of Eastern European heritage, she was born and raised in Casablanca, Morocco and is fluent in French, Italian, Polish, Spanish, Ukrainian, and Russian. She and her husband Anthony Bilotti, reside in Highwood.
Rick Leslie, a co-founder of Short Story Theatre, has been telling stories of one kind or another for over 40 years, from composing songs and writing ads to producing network news and making TV documentaries. In his travels he has shared Thanksgiving with the Navajos, ridden with the Canadian Mounties and been exposed to Cosmic Dust at NASA. He’s even travailed the Bayou with Cajun backwoodsmen, in a scene right out of the film Deliverance. As a co-founder of Short Story Theatre, Rick is committed to bringing the best of storytelling to Chicago’s North Shore. You’ll find his creative non-fiction in various literary magazines, including the Connecticut Review and Confluence.
Ron Levitsky is a retired educator who currently serves as a trustee for West Deerfield Township and the Lake Forest Library. He also hosts a public access TV program in Highland Park. Ron has published several mystery novels and short stories. His story "Rimbaud" appears in the latest edition of East on Central, Highland Park's journal of arts and letters.
Peggy Lewis is a graduate of Northwestern University with a major in Theatre Education. After graduation, she worked in television production in New York. In the early 80's, she started a children's theatre program at the Buffalo Grove Park District. After moving to Deerfield 30 years ago, Peggy worked in residential real estate. She is thrilled to be writing and performing again!
Rino Liberatore began a career in advertising in 1982. He received local and national acclaim for his creativity for such clients as Chevrolet, the Chicago Cubs, Loop Radio, the Illinois Lottery, and WGN-TV. Rino formed his own film production company in Chicago in 1995 and directed numerous projects with the most celebrated athletes of our time including Michael Jordan, and the 1985 Super Bowl Chicago Bears, Harry Caray and many others. Rino has produced short films and co-directed an Independent Feature titled “The Opera Lover.” The film aired on Showtime. A Chicago native, Rino is currently working on a feature length Documentary “Iron Five” chronicling the 1963 Loyola Rambler College Basketball Team.
Rich Logan has been performing musically since vinyl was still popular. He has done sound design for theatre as well as live performance for improv and staged readings. He managed a theatre space called the School Street Cafe for 8 years in Chicago in the 90's, providing essentially free space for over 100 productions. He has graced many a Chicago stage over the years as an actor (Trap Door, Oracle, Famous Door, Victory Gardens, and Touchstone). He is excited to be invited to share "the sound track" to the stories that inspired them.
Mike Lubow is a former creative director of a national ad agency and founder of a Chicago ad agency. He wrote the weekly column "Got a Minute" for The Chicago Tribune and currently writes the "North Shorts" column for North Shore Weekend. His short stories have appeared in magazines here and abroad. His Tribune columns are collected in the book In a Chicago Minute, and ten of his published fiction pieces are in the book Paper and Ink. He’s also published a book of nature writings, Wild Notes. And an informal memoir, Time Pieces. These books are sold through Amazon, Barnes & Noble and bookstores.
Judy Markey spent twenty years co-hosting WGN Radio's "Kathy and Judy Show," and she's back on the air on Saturdays! The show won both state and national awards. She has published two novels and two collections of her nationally syndicated Sun-Times columns. She is a born talker, a born writer, and a born lover of storytelling, but...she's still scared of screwing up. Judy recently won one of NPR's "THE MOTH'S" Story Slams.
Sarita Miller was involved in a variety of aspects of community theatre for many years. She performed in a number of plays including California Suite, The Diary of Anne Frank, Talking With, Fiddler on the Roof, and Peter Pan. She started an after-school drama class when her own children were in elementary school, and she directed several plays in the middle school where she currently teaches 7th grade language arts and where she is known as the “storytelling lady.”
Sahar Mustafah is a writer, editor, and teacher from Chicago. Her work has appeared in Great Lakes Review, Word Riot, Flyleaf Journal, Hair Trigger, and elsewhere. She was named one of “25 Writers to Watch” by the Guild Literary Complex and recently returned from Norway where she served as a creative ambassador at the Kapittel International Festival of Freedom of Speech and Literature in Stavanger. She is the proud co-founder of "Bird’s Thumb," an online literary journal devoted to publishing new and emerging voices.
Jim O'Connor, along with his wife Lynda, founded O'Connor Communications, Inc., in 1989. The firm specializes in promoting authors and their books and has won three national awards for the Best Book Publicity Campaign of the year. Jim is the author of CUSS CONTROL, The Complete Book on how to Curb Your Cursing.
Susie Perkowitz is a graduate of Loyola University Chicago with degrees in Communications and Theatre. Most recently she appeared in Improv Playhouse/GreenStick Theater Company’s production of A Christmas Carol. Currently she narrates Cozy Corner Podcast, a guided relaxation and bedtime story for children, but in a previous life she worked for Clear Channel Communications Chicago. Susie enjoys singing, writing, painting, guitar and doing improv. She is also a Toastmaster and an outdoor enthusiast on a mission to visit all of our national parks.
Jonathan Plotkin is a nationally published editorial cartoonist and illustrator whose art can be found on the pages of the Chicago Tribune and other national and regional publications. In 2015 Jonathan received the Highland Park Mayor’s Award for the Arts. Over the past 2 years Jonathan has been at work on his memoirs entitled “Yellow Jacket Blue” which consists of various hitchhiking and other travel encounters he experienced across the United States, Europe and beyond. Jonathan lives with his wife and best buddy Robin a mile from where they met on the same street as 3 year olds in the fall of 1957. They are proud parents of 4 exceptional children….all of them artists in their own right!
Anne Purky attended the MFA program in Writing at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. She has performed at Louder Than a Mom, Tellin’ Tales Theatre, Filet of Solo, Live Bait Theatre, and many more. Her blog, “The Gilded Forest,” was launched in 2015.
Joel Ramsey has been a speech and communications instructor for over 5 years. He has been onstage and performing throughout his life as a speaker, instructor, actor, murder mystery dinner performer, stand-up comedian and improvisational comedian. Joel currently resides in Northern Illinois with his children and teaches speech, communications, English and marketing both in online and onsite university classrooms.
Janet Reed earned a bachelor’s degree in music education for the love of it and a J.D. to earn a living. Featured in dozens of area musical and theatrical productions, she also directs youth musical productions and tours area schools and senior facilities with her one-woman themed musical programs.
Bob Rubin worked as a buyer for Montgomery Ward, was marketing director in the musical instrument field and then ended up in his own import/marketing business for 25 years. Since then Bob has been a commercial real estate broker for Berkshire Hathaway and participates in competitive senior tennis. He insists that it isn't too late to fulfill his secret dream of becoming a Hollywood screenplay writer.
Martie Sanders is a Chicago actress and writer /performer with the Sweat Girls. Sanders’ solo show “The Me, Mom & Dad Show!” played in Goodman Theatre’s Women Taking the Stage Festival. Her favorite acting roles have included: Mae West in Dirty Blonde (Madison Repertory); Lina LaMont in Singin’ In The Rain (Theatre at the Center); Janis Joplin in Love, Janis (Royal George); Jenny Diver in The Three Penny Opera (ATC); Hero in Much Ado About Nothing (Chicago Shakespeare). Martie founded Green Scene Chicago and brings performing arts education into school and urban gardens: www.greenscenechicago.org.
Jim Scott has been a lover of theatre, music, and the pursuit of humor since his school days. He has partially satisfied these passions by playing his guitar, singing in various choirs, performing in theatre productions (most recently Sabrina Fair and Squabbles) and attempting to entertain anyone within earshot.
Kristen Scott enjoyed many Short Story Theatre performances as an audience member before joining us on stage. She is a parent of two adult children, and has served as Town Clerk for West Deerfield Township since 2011. Her writing has appeared in the Chicago Tribune, Chicago Parent, Pioneer Press, TheMighty.com, and two book anthologies. Kristen founded and led a support group for parents of children with disabilities for seven years, focusing on the emotional impact of raising extraordinary children, and has spoken on autism to various groups. She blogs at Good Marching: Experiences in Autism and the Rest of Life.
Madelyn Sergel is a playwright, freelance writer, and producer. Productions include The Party in the Kitchen and Special Needs (Clockwise Theatre), Another Piece of Cake (Citadel Theatre). Her award-winning YA play Totally Okay, Right Now is published by YouthPLAYS, and her plays have had public readings at American Theatre Company, Citadel Theatre, Gift Theatre, Clockwise Theatre, Chicago Dramatists, and Gurnee Theatre Company. The founding Artistic Director of Clockwise Theatre, she also co-produced the company’s first 13 productions. Recent and upcoming projects include the reading of her play Throwing Rice at Chicago Dramatists Saturday Series and the reading of her one-act comedy Dogs Are People Too at Clockwise Theatre in April.
Bonnie Hillman Shay was gifted with the “organizing” gene, which inspired her to establish her own Professional Organizing business in 2007. Bonnie creates order out of disorder, specializing in residential organizing, email management, and photo organizing (printed and digital.) Bonnie feels blessed to have found her calling, allowing her to perform “magic” for her clients. As a Photo Organizer, Bonnie helps her clients tell their story through photos and other media, so she is now thrilled and honored to organize her own words to share her stories. Bonnie wrote a book “Take Charge of Your Email Inbox.” She admits it doesn’t have much of a plot or character development, but does provide great tips and techniques for managing an overflowing email inbox.
Anne Shimojima, a retired school library media specialist, has told stories for 30+ years at festivals, schools, libraries, conferences, and museums. Some past venues include: Teller-in-Residence at the International Storytelling Center, the Exchange Place at the National Storytelling Festival, Illinois Storytelling Festival, the Smithsonian American Art Museum, and Storytelling Arts of Indiana. Anne also gives workshops on the use of storytelling in education and the creation of family history projects. Her family story about the Japanese-American incarceration camps in World War II is available at www.byuradio.org.
Kirk Steinhaus has been an employee of Catholic Charities since 1994. He worked his way through college and is a graduate of DePaul University. He worked at the Chicago Sun-Times for several years, joined the Sun-Times Speaker’s Bureau and became a designated speaker for DePaul. He spoke to students at the elementary, high school and college levels about the newspaper business. He then worked with his wife in her public relations business as a photographer, writer, and proofreader. He was founder and president of C.A.P.S. Beat 2411, Inc., and was the Beat Rep for beat 2411 in the CAPS program for the Chicago Police Department for 4 years. He also studied Mediation at Northwestern University, and was trained by Archdiocesan mediators. Kirk studied music for many years and learned to play piano, trumpet, tuba, some violin, and studied voice for opera. He is also a serious student of the sinking of the Titanic and World War II. Kirk lives with his wife and two children in Wilmette.
Vargas’ short story collection is being published by Curbside
Splendor Publishing in Spring 2015. She was named one of Guild’s Literary
Complex’s 25 Writers to Watch, won the 2013 Guild Literary Complex Award in
Fiction, and has received two top citations in Glimmer Train’s Short Story
Award for New Writers contests. She holds an MFA in Creative Writing-Fiction
from Columbia College Chicago. Her work has appeared in Word Riot, Split Lip
Magazine, Hypertext Magazine, and elsewhere. She teaches creative writing
workshops around Chicago and online.
Scott Woldman has performed as an actor, performance poet, storyteller and comedian for over 15 years in venues across the United States. He is a Resident Playwright at Chicago Dramatists (most recent play: Beautiful Autistic), Redtwist Theatre, and the Metropolis Performing Arts Centre. Scott's drama Beaten was produced at The Artistic Home and several of his late-night comedies—including Dates From Hell, Drunk and Ready, and Men Exposed—were produced at Redtwist Theatre as part of their Luv Cycle.
Sarah Zematis is a performer, writer, director & producer. She is a company member with 2nd Story and was also in the Chicago cast of "Listen to your Mother," a nationwide storytelling event, giving Motherhood a microphone. She has worked throughout Chicago with companies such as Porchlight, Emerald City & Strawdog. Some of her more interesting performance credits include being a maiden at the Bristol Renaissance Faire, singing with an Andrews Sisters trio at Green Dolphin Street, and giving voice to deaf actors at Centerlight Theatre. But, far and away, her favorite gig is being Mom to her Wee Three. Not only do they fill the days with fun – they make for some excellent story material!
Donna Lubow, Producer and Emcee, a co-founder of Short Story Theatre, has taught English literature and drama to all age groups, and has performed in, produced and directed numerous plays all on the North Shore of Chicago. She co-founded several theatres including Highland Park Players, Attic Playhouse in Highwood, Theatre in the Woods in Riverwoods, and ARTicuLIT Readers Theatre, a touring company.