SHorSTory theatre

Our Next Storytelling Event
Wednesday Night
September 20, 2023
7:30 p.m.

The Art Center Highland Park
1957 Sheridan Rd.
Highland Park, Illinois 60015



With Storytellers:
Gale Gand
Scott Woldman
Lou Greenwald
Julie Isaacson
Mary Lou Gilliam

TICKETS: $15.00

Note: Performances usually sell out.




Walk-in seating (cash or check only)

depending on availability.



Some audience responses to our storytelling:

"Thursday night was such a joyous occasion. Short Story Theatre is back and at a wonderful and beautiful venue."

"It was a wonderful return to Short Story Theatre! We enjoyed every story, and the evening was magical."

"The presenters were each wonderful in their own way - such a fun evening."
Responses from our storytellers:
"We had so much fun doing it, and the audience was so responsive."

"Thank you for including me in the lineup. So many wonderful stories last night."

"Every story was really awesome. So happy to be part of it.


Short Story Theatre was founded in 2012 

by Rick Leslie, Donna Lubow & Susan Block.


Mission Statement:

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. 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, at Miramar Bistro in Highwood for several years, and now at The Art Center Highland Park.  Since we began, over 60 storytellers have shared their personal stories with us.  We continue to offer writers and actors opportunities to entertain audiences with enlightening stories.           


"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.

Bruce Bertucci was born and raised in Highland Park. His family comes from Pievepelago in the province of Modena, Italy. Grandfather Bertucci came to Highwood in 1907. Bruce attended Highland Park High School and Miami-Dade JC. He owned Rainbows Bar and Grill and along with his wife Lynne, Bertucci's Italian Steakhouse in Highwood. Now in semi-retirement, Bruce writes the weekly blog "The Bruce Report." Bruce also has been doing the very successful Highwood Historical Cocktail Tours every Wednesday for Celebrate Highwood

Anthony Bilotti lived in a suburb of Philadelphia as a child, moved to Philadelphia as an adult and then Chicago in 1976 after meeting his wife, Emma Kowalenko. He and Emma have worked together for 25 years, following his education in environmental studies and public health. He holds a Ph.D. in Health Policy Analysis from UIC, where he managed a training and research center before joining Kowalenko Consulting Group, Inc. in 1993, providing environmental planning and engineering services for private clients and government agencies at all levels. He has served on boards of professional, community service, and non-profit organizations for many years. He loves living in Highwood, where he and Emma moved from Highland Park in 2014. He and Emma have traveled throughout their 40 + years of marriage and continue to do so. He enjoys bicycling with the Chicago Kibitzers (yes!). He takes pleasure in sharing his life experiences with friends and family. This year he and Emma took part in the University of Iowa Writing Festival. This and Emma’s storytelling have inspired him to share the unique experiences that all of us have in our minds.

Holly Birnbaum worked for the late, great Dick Orkin in the ‘70s, producing comedy radio ads, jingles and syndicated shows like the legendary “Chickenman.” When they moved to Los Angeles, she moved to France. Starting as a nanny, she worked many jobs, including volunteering with a non-profit that sent people to visit Refuseniks in the USSR each month.  She went in 1979, bringing books, mail and hope. Upon her return, she worked as a writer and strategist in public-interest PR.  In 2005 she co-founded Thoughtly Crew, which provides creative thinkers to power up ideation teams. She uses her fluent French today as an 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.

Liza Blue: Elizabeth Brown was a fine and sturdy name for her career as a pathologist, but as she transitioned to writer and storyteller, she wanted a more distinctive and peppier name, fit for her focus on curiosity and irreverent humor. She has rebranded herself as Liza Blue, which is really just a different color for her last name. Her essays range from quirky memoirs to curiosity-driven explorations of whatever catches her fancy, including a discussion of what it was like to retake the SAT exams after a 45-year hiatus. Her essays and podcasts are posted on her website Other interests include racquet sports and birdwatching.

Barry Chessick has appeared in non-equity and community theatre plays around the Chicago area and in numerous film and print commercials. Several of his short stories have been published, and he has written a murder-mystery novel, which he hopes to have published by year’s end. Barry has a BA in English from Roosevelt University and did post-graduate work in accounting, law and finance at Roosevelt and Northwestern Universities. After working for a prestigious national accounting firm for seven years, he joined an international distributing company as a V.P., later becoming a full partner. He was also a member of the Board of Directors of Big Brothers of Metropolitan Chicago. Using a sailboat donated by the Donnelly Family, he organized a sailing program for Chicago area scouts. For fifty-plus years, Barry cruised and raced sailboats on Lake Michigan, the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans and the Caribbean Sea. Barry has lived his entire life in the Chicago area, currently residing in Northbrook with Annie, his beautiful wife.

Jan Cook is retired from the following: bi-lingual legal secretary, bookkeeper for nursing homes, legal assistant, comptroller for architects, engineers and contractors, event planner for spousal programs, assistant to financial consultant, actual financial consultant, and operations manager for party stores. She now spends her time attending the theatre, playing word games, and correcting grammar on Facebook posts.

Kevin Davis is the author of the nonfiction books Defending the Damned (Atria/Simon & Schuster, 2007) and The Wrong Man (Avon, 1995). His most recent book, The Brain Defense, was published in 2017 by The Penguin Press. His award-winning writing has appeared in Utne Reader, Chicago magazine, The Rumpus, Writer’s Digest, and many other publications. He has taught creative nonfiction writing at Loyola University Chicago and at the University of Chicago Graham School of Continuing and Professional Studies.

Marc Davis is a former newspaper reporter and the author of three highly-acclaimed novels: Spector, Dirty Money, and Bottom Line.

Marla Davishoff lives in Deerfield with her husband and two teenage boys. She is a clinical social worker and has a private practice in Bannockburn. Her writings have appeared in 3 anthologies as well as several magazines such as Chicago Parent, Special Parent and several Pioneer Press publications. You can learn more about her at

Craig Davishoff grew up in Skokie, and now lives in Deerfield. He is a physician, specifically an interventional radiologist, practicing in Waukegan for the past 16 years. He is looking to expand his creative side through his involvement with Short Story Theatre.

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 second book of poetry, Late Night Talk Show Fantasy & Other Poems, was published in 2020 by Kelsay Books. She is the founder and program coordinator for Highland Park Poetry, now celebrating its 13th 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.  

Michael Ellman is a retired University of Chicago rheumatologist and writer making his debut with Short Story Theatre.  He is a lifelong Chicago area resident: Delano, Hibbard, Von Steuben, and the University of Illinois. HIs collection of published short stories, Let Me Tell You About Angela, was an Eric Hoffer Award Finalist.  He is also the author of a novel: Code-One Dancing. He lives with his wife Penny in Wilmette.

Michele Feinberg, aka Mitchie, is new to the storytelling world, for about five years now. Who knew that journaling during one of life’s difficult transitions would lead to an untapped wealth of stories and essays just waiting to be written? Michele writes about personal things both big and small, silly and serious, and tries to tap into a sense of humor that she didn’t know she had. She blames working over 30 years in corporate America for dulling that sense! She’s hoping that one day she’ll publish her stories...her life in a gift to her daughters and grandchildren to remind them that this Nana isn’t some old granny sitting in a rocking chair and knitting. But she does confess to knitting!

Arthur M. Feldman is a professional appraiser (fine and decorative art) and museum consultant with degrees in art history and archaeology. He has held positions as Curator/Director at several museums: Victoria and Albert, London; Smithsonian Institution, DC; Spertus, Chicago, and the Miller, Tulsa, OK. A second-generation Philadelphia antique dealer, he has been a Highland Park merchant for nearly 25 years and has lectured, taught and been a guest on several TV shows.

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.

Beverly Friend, PHD, Emeritus Professor of English and Journalism at Oakton Community College, Des Plaines, IL, also served as adviser to the student newspaper. Friend is the author of Science Fiction, the Classroom in Orbit and The Science Fiction Fan Cult (Doctoral Dissertation, Northwestern University,1975). Formerly a theater reviewer for Pioneer Press, she is currently a reviewer for and a member of the American Theater Critic’s Association. Friend is co-author (with Professor Xu Xin) of Legends of the Chinese Jews of Kaifeng. She wrote book reviews and was a Science Fiction Columnist for the Chicago Daily News and is a free-lance writer, lecturer, and scholar. She is a regular contributor to Engage (the publication of the North Shore Senior Center), The Insider, the Township Citizen, and the Sun Sentinel, in Florida. She is active in several writer’s groups and has self-published an autobiography, No Girls in the Marching Band (2007) and several books of essays including The Girl Who Takes Diagonals (2019) and Banished to Paradise. In addition, she is Executive Director of the China/Judaic Studies Assn., a Board Member of the Sino Judaic Institute and an Honorary Director of the Glazer Institute for Judaic and Israeli Studies at Nanjing University. She is also an artist and a percussionist with the North Shore New Horizons Band and most recently with the virtual Congaree New Horizons Band of the Music School of the University of South Carolina.

Gale Gand is a pastry chef and chef and was a co-founder and partner in the Michelin two-star restaurant, Tru, in Chicago. She hosted Food Network’s long running show “Sweet Dreams”, is the author of 8 cookbooks, and worked with Julia Child on her book and PBS series, “Baking with Julia.”  Gale teaches cooking classes all over the country and is an artisanal soda pop maker producing Gale’s Root Beer which is sold nationally. She has received two James Beard Awards, has been inducted to the American Academy of Chefs and the Chicago Chefs Hall of Fame and was schooled in Paris at La Varenne. Gale appears at many Food and Wine festivals across the country and is a professional Pie and Food Competition Judge. Last year she volunteered to cook in Poland and Ukraine with Jose Andres’ World Central Kitchen and taught a Chocolate and Vanilla Master Class in Derry, Northern Ireland. She is the mother of 3, has a BFA from RIT in Metalsmithing, and plays the ukulele. Fun fact-She once made a Peach Cobbler for Aretha Franklin. For more info on Gale go to:

Mary Lou Gilliam was an English teacher for three decades and used both music and drama to engage her students. In addition to performing in musical comedies and singing 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. Retired in theory only, she continues the educational journey in an extensive private tutoring practice. When she is not writing or tutoring, find her engaged in international travel—the source of endless story material.

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, and he's been volunteer tutoring inner city 3rd graders once a week. 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.  

Fred Gold moved to Buffalo Grove from Ohio about 13 years ago with his wife June. They have two daughters and four grandchildren. Fred worked for an international manufacturer for 37 years holding various positions such as National Training Manager, Product Manager and Director of National Accounts. Fred’s duties required that he travel extensively throughout the country on a regular basis, so he has many stories to tell regarding his traveling experiences.  When Fred retired, he became involved with several volunteer opportunities in the area.  He currently works in the green house at the Chicago Botanic Garden and is a member of several camera clubs where he has won awards for his images. Several galleries have regularly exhibited his work, which focuses on street photography and emphasizes people living in various parts of the world. Fred is also a dedicated runner and enjoys participating in area races.

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.

 Louis Greenwald was dragged to the National Storytelling Festival by his wife Susie in 1985. Since then he has attended ‘millions’ of storytelling events, produced 7 concerts and tells stories as often as audiences will put up with him. He has won 2 Moth Story Slams, and has told stories in Chicago, Highwood, Highland Park, Glencoe, Madison and Phoenix, AZ His mentor is world famous Storyteller Donald Davis.  The first story he told was under the direction of Donna Lubow of Short Story Theatre.

Susie Greenwald was an English teacher and Future ProblemSolving 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 lives in Highland Park with her rescue pup, Ziva. She is happy when she is teaching, baking, writing, walking at the Botanic Gardens and visiting dear ones, including her new grandson in LA. Julie has been a frequent flyer at Short Story Theatre since 2015, both in the audience and at the podium, where she launched her anthology, The Angry Chef: Satisfying Recipes Inspired by Unsatisfying Relationships.

Judith MK Kaufman is the Editor-in-Chief of East on Central, founded in 2001. 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 Alexandra Kowalenko founded Kowalenko Consulting Group (KCG) in 1988. At KCG located in Highland Park, Illinois, she is strategist, environmental planner, and change management implementer. Of eastern European heritage, born in Casablanca, Morocco, Ms. Kowalenko at the age of 11 emigrated to the U.S. with her parents. Fluent in six languages, small business advocate, oral historian, poet, and mixed media visual artist, she is passionate about giving visibility and voice to the unseen and the unheard. She believes that storytelling represents the human lifeline to the past and the future. Currently serving as an emeritus board member, she is one of the founders of East on Central Journal of Arts and Letters, currently in its 18th year of publication, based in Highland Park, Illinois and an active member of the Sister Cities Foundation of Highland Park. Emma promotes cultural and educational exchanges with Sister Cities Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, Modena, Italy, and Jerucham, Israel. Other active civic and nonprofit involvement includes the Highland Park and Highwood Historical Societies, the Modenese Mutual Aid Society, and the Highwood Bocce Club.

Rick Leslie is a co-founder of Short Story Theatre, and has been telling stories for more than 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.   His creative non-fiction has appeared in various literary magazines, including the Connecticut Review and Confluence.  Presently, Rick has just completed writing a book of his colorful memoirs. We hope he’ll be sharing some of these with us during 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 with a major in Theatre Education. After graduation she worked in television production in NYC. In the early 80’s, she started a children’s theatre program at the Buffalo Grove Park District. After moving to Deerfield more than 40 years ago, Peggy worked in residential real estate and corporate relocation. Happily retired, and the grandmother of 6, her days are filled with books, theatre, travel, film and attending kids’ baseball and basketball games!

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 recently produced a feature-length documentary “Iron Five” chronicling the 1963 Loyola Rambler College Basketball Team. It premiered in the Black Harvest Film Festival and is scheduled to air on WGN-TV in February and again in March.

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 blames his friend Michael for getting him interested in writing personal observations about the human condition, and now he can't stop! He writes his memories in interesting story form for his children and grandchildren, and hopes that over time they’ll add their own stories, creating a family chronicle. Hopefully, this chronicle will be read and reread by future generations.  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.”

Terry Moritz is a lawyer with more than 50 years of experience. In 1980 he left a white shoes law firm as a young partner and with several colleagues formed and built a significant law firm in Chicago. Terry is consistently recognized as one of Illinois’ best business litigators. For the last 10 years Terry has spent an increasing portion of his time functioning as an arbitrator and mediator engaged in resolving commercial disputes. Terry is active in a variety of charitable and legal organizations and he teaches alternative dispute resolution at Loyola University’s School of Law. Terry was an avid skier for over 40 years until one of his misadventures crushed a knee and ended that career. He continues to be an avid cyclist but notes that his rides are getting shorter and the post-ride coffee time is getting longer. Terry and his wife Carol have been residents of Highland Park for 47 years.

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 used to be a techy but, since retiring from AT&T and his teaching career at DePaul University, he has been focusing on standup comedy. John performs throughout Chicago and the suburbs, as well as in Wisconsin, sharing his humorous take on aging. He was a finalist in the Clean Comedy Challenge in Aurora in 2018 and also at the Clean Comedy Challenge in Nashville in 2019. John won a competition against 19 other standup comics at the Brauer House in Lombard in December. He will compete against the winners of the seven other weeks in the competition for a chance to be the opening act for a nationally-known comic. John is also an avid gardener who earned the title of Master Gardener from the University of Illinois Extension Program. His main job, however, is keeping his wife Myrna amused.

Myrna Petlicki is an arts writer for the Chicago Tribune's Pioneer Press and Doings suburban newspaper chains.  She is also a lyricist whose musical "Black, White and Gray" was produced at Theatre Building Chicago.  Her ten-minute musical "Ribbet!" won the Skokie Theatre Short Play Festival Audience Favorite Award.  Myrna is currently working on two full-length musicals, "Animal Acts" and "Guilt, the Musical."  She is a fitness enthusiast who currently takes four virtual exercise classes and two virtual yoga sessions each week.  Myrna has been married to standup comic and storyteller John Petlicki for 48 years.

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. Jonathan's memoirs entitled “Yellow Jacket Blue,” consist 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.

Marjorie Rissman grew up on Long Island surrounded by duck and potato farms but made her escape at 14 when she went to boarding school, then college, then graduate school. After her sister passed away several years ago, Marjorie found solace in writing poetry. More recently she has begun to write memoirs under the wings of Jennifer Dotson. When she is not writing, Marjorie sells residential real estate and enjoys solving jigsaw puzzles. She has two sons and four wonderful grandchildren. She serves as treasurer of East on Central Association, which publishes a journal of art and literature from local authors.

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.  

Steve Sadin is a freelance journalist writing primarily for Pioneer Press where he covers events ranging from municipal meetings to youngsters doing productive things at school to farmers markets to elections to sports to political events and more. He enjoys the wide range of folks he meets and variety of stories he gets to write. He started out in Skokie, moved to Highland Park in fifth grade, spent 10 years in California after college and returned to Highland Park where he still lives now. He gets a thrill out of finding a unique story in a situation which begins as bland. "Dig deep enough and one is there."

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:

R. Craig Sautter is author, co-author or editor of 10 books, including Inside the Wigwam, Chicago Presidential Conventions 1860-1886, with Alderman Ed Burke, and The Wicked City: Chicago from Kenna to Capone with Curt Johnson. For the past three decades, he's taught courses in philosophy, politics, history, literature, and creative writing at DePaul University. He was the 47th president of the Society of Midland Authors.

Holly Schaefer acted many years ago in off-Loop and dinner theater productions. Her most recent role was that of M’Lynn in Steel Magnolias with Theatre in the Woods. Holly entered the field of education late in life after earning a bachelor’s degree from Northeastern Illinois University and two years later her Master’s degree from the same university. She has been involved in the field of special education for over 30 years. Holly founded Safe Haven School in Lake Bluff, a private therapeutic day school for students with debilitating anxiety, depression and other emotional disabilities, 11 years ago and has served as Executive Director since its inception.

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,, 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.

Frank Shapiro was born in New York City, grew up on Long Island and moved to the Chicago area more than half his life ago. Frank has had his life turned upside down a number of times including one time on a mountain bike (literally) while descending in Kettle Moraine and recently in his current job when it was announced eight days after he started that the company had been acquired. Luckily he survived both events and is currently a Tier 3 Support Agent at Salesforce. Frank enjoys telling stories, riding bicycles, making bad puns and good food.  

Bonnie Hillman Shay had a life-changing experience in July, 2019. She feels the experience is a gift that keeps on giving as she has tweaked her life personally and professionally and treasures what each day brings. Professionally, Bonnie is a Photo Organizer, who works on clients’ photo and video collections. As Short Story Theatre demonstrates, life is all about stories. Bonnie is honored to help a client with their photographic story and makes sure a family’s photos and videos are manageable, enjoyable, shareable, safe and secure for now and generations to come. Since parents pass their photo collections on to their kids and grandkids, Bonnie considers the results of her work to be priceless. When Bonnie isn’t curating family photo collections, she enjoys bicycling, walking her dog, cooking, and doing crossword puzzles.

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

Tony Smith is a semi-retired accountant living in Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin. He has three adult sons and spends his time reading, volunteering, working around his house and yard, making furniture, maintaining a couple of small wooden boats, and writing essays. He grew up in Libertyville, Illinois. His father was a journalist and his mother a librarian. He has four brothers and four sisters. He reads his stories on a regular basis at an open mic setting called “Writers’ Night” in Sturgeon Bay.

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 p