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.
Holly Birnbaum lied about her age for her first job selling lawn tickets at Ravinia Park. She worked for the late, great Dick Orkin as Den Mother to the Stars (the longest title in her career) in the ‘70s, producing comedy radio ads and shows, like the unforgettable “Chickenman.” She moved to France when they moved to Los Angeles. Starting as a nanny, she had myriad gigs, including with an NGO that made clandestine visits to Refuseniks in the USSR. She went in 1979, bringing books, mail and hope. When she returned to the US, she was a writer and strategist in public-interest PR for over two decades. In 2005 she co-founded Thoughtly Crew, which provides creative thinkers to power up ideation teams. She uses her French today as a volunteer interpreter for asylum seekers at the Marjorie Kovler Center for the treatment of torture survivors.Susan Block, a co-founder of Short Story Theatre, has dual talents. She is a painter and an actress. Susan has shown her paintings all over the world and has had thirty one-woman painting shows. She has also starred in about thirty plays, garnering a Joseph Jefferson nomination for best actress for her portrayal of Martha in “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf” at Red Wolf Theater Company in Chicago, where she was the Artistic Director. She learned about writing stories at The Writer’s Loft.
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 11th 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.
Barry Freydberg honed his storytelling chairside, while his dental patients couldn’t respond. As an international lecturer on several dental subjects, he tells stories in the midst of his teaching to a captive audience; however this time, people can and do respond. Also, a serial joke teller (only good ones), he's stepping out of the safety of his profession to talk about some of his life experiences. Married with 6 kids, a bunch of grandkids, Barry's a late starter in many of life’s activities. His senior hobbies include starting skiing at 45, golf at 58, pickle ball at 70, piano at 73. Always the traveler and photographer, he is finding way too much to do while still practicing and teaching a little more than part time.Larry Glazer has always found a way to work in entertaining jobs that amuse him and inspire creativity. As a teenager he sold peanuts and cokes at White Sox baseball games, allowing him to make money while watching his favorite team. He bagged groceries at a large neighborhood grocery store, which enabled him to meet girls who shopped with their mothers. In college, Larry was a disc jockey and newscaster at several radio stations. He made a career selling broadcast advertising for over 200 U.S. Radio and TV stations, including Anchorage, Honolulu, Los Angeles, Chicago, New York and Fargo! Retired, Larry now works at a golf course part time and golfs part time. Some of his creative writings have been published in 2 national magazines, the Skokie Northlight Theatre magazine and on The White Sox scoreboard. Larry won $10,000 AND HIS WIFE for something he wrote for Marshall Field's State Street store window.
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. Lou: "Stories surround unforgettable moments in one's life."
Susie Greenwald was an English teacher and Future Problem Solving coach for three decades. She believes storytelling greatly enhances a sense of community in the classroom and encourages students to research their own family stories as well.
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. In recent years, his creative non-fiction has appeared in various literary magazines, including the Connecticut Review and Confluence. Presently, Rick is writing his memoirs, some of which he'll be sharing with over the coming months.
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.
Bob Meyers says his friend Michael L got him interested in writing his observations of the human condition, and now he can't stop! He writes stories so that his children and grandchildren can insert their stories, along with his, into a family chronicle. Hopefully, this chronicle will be read and reread over the next 100 years. Bob: "It's wanting to know, that makes us human."
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.
John Petlicki applied his master’s degree in psychology to the selection and career development of employees at Teletype Corporation. A decade later, he earned a postgraduate degree in software engineering. He computerized employee records and modernized organizational procedures. He taught computer programming and software engineering courses evenings at DePaul University. John has acted in community theater productions and is a member of Chicago Cabaret Professionals. He is a standup comedian and performs with High Fiber Comedy.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 National Storytelling Festival, Illinois Storytelling Festival, 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.
Susan Thompson is a Chief Human Resources Officer and Certified Mediator. In her spare time, she is a Wilmette mom of two teenage boys. Susan’s stories explore modern family dynamics and can be found on her website www.susanveronica.com. Her boys have requested she use this pen name to protect the guilty and their reputations on the North Shore.
Avinash (Avi) Vaidya is Executive Vice President of Product Development and Chief Technology Officer at Shure Incorporated, the world's leading manufacturer of microphones and audio electronics. He holds nine U.S. patents, has published numerous technical papers, and has received several awards for technical excellence. Dr. Vaidya has a Master’s in Engineering Electronics from the Netherlands Universities Foundation, a Master’s in Computer Science, and a Ph.D. in Electrical Engineering from the University of Wisconsin at Madison. Avi loves to travel on business and for pleasure and has traveled to more than 60 countries including Israel, Finland, China Japan, Malaysia, and Sri Lanka to name a few.Nutan Vaidya, as a lifelong academician and administrator, has spent a considerable amount of time recognizing and cultivating talents of resident and faculty members and helping enhance their teaching and academic skills. A distinguished fellow of the American Psychiatric Association, she is certified in the subspecialty of Behavioral Neurology and Neuropsychiatric education. Dr. Vaidya is the co-author of two textbooks: Descriptive Psychopathology and Psychiatry Rounds and has authored several peer-reviewed articles.
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.