2nd Story Asks: What Was Your Highlight Of The 2011-2012 Season?

Megan Stielstra, literary director: There were so many! Seeing former students of mine perform with us professionally, knowing how far they’ve come; inviting new company members into our family to collaborate with and learn from; writing a story for the season finale performance with Bobby, who inspires the hell out of me; preparing for our upcoming show at Theater on the Lake (!!!); and having our work recognized in the Chicago Tribune’s Printers Row Journal are just a few of the things that blew my mind; but for me, the biggest moment of the year had to be signing the contract for 2nd Story’s first print anthology, due this fall from Elephant Rock Books. I came to my love of stories through reading, and the opportunity to share the work of our storytellers on the page has been a dream of mine since I first joined 2nd Story nearly a decade ago. I can’t wait for everyone to get their hands on it!

Deb R. Lewis, company member: Seeing the cover for the 2nd Story Anthology for the first time; realizing that the 2nd Story Anthology Kickstarter campaign was a success; seeing storytellers’ breakthroughs—especially with those stories that are emotionally rough to tell. Our “Magic” show at Morseland was a blast, with Dorothy Milne directing and storytellers Alex Bonner, Kim Morris, and David Kovac, who amazes at every turn—and not just with illusions.

Madeline Wolfe, general manager: I can’t get over the sense of absolute pride. Literally, when I watched a teller land the final word and the music starts, when the book became real, when our kickstarter campaign went over our goal, when our board members smile and say “you’re doing a great job,” when our audience members laugh/gasp/cry/are completely silent, and when the company members look at each other with such adoration, I feel my entire insides glow like a lightning bug.

Ozzie Totten, company member: This year, I fell in love with an author. Her name is Margaret, and I can not get over the way she writes.

I sat in on Margaret’s audition last summer, and was blown away by her presence. She’s model thin with perfect hair, and she holds herself like she’s never lost. Her story was about the perils of dating somebody from another high school, and having to cheer against him in a basketball game. The way she wrote their relationship, filled with so much love and youthful energy, was invigorating. She was cast without question, and her story scheduled for the Thanksgiving show at the Morseland.

When she walked down from the stage, she was greeted with a big bear hug by her husband. He’s about 6’5, maybe 200 lbs, and looks like he played basketball back in the day. And I smiled as I put it together. That was him, the high school boyfriend. They were married now, and they looked so happy. He kissed her forehead, and she gave him a look that must’ve said so much. There’s something about seeing a couple my age deeply in love. It looks so natural, so relaxed. It reminds me not to force it, to stay patient, because once you find it, it’s totally worth the wait.

There are many moments from this past season that stick out in my mind. It was an amazing year, both for the company and myself. But Margaret’s story, and the lesson I took from it, will stick with me for a long time.

Earliana McLaurin, company member: I hope this isn’t too personal but—I went to a 2nd Story brainstorming session back in April, and when asked what I would take with me, while holding a small faux tea light I looked around a circle of incredibly supportive people and said “A sense of home.”  Three years ago, I was totally that audience member thinking “Oh, no one wants to hear my stories.  They’re too different/too serious/not serious enough/etc.!”  Now, I am a PROUD company member! And I am so grateful to have found a fun and supportive home to stretch my imagination and push myself to create experiences that hopefully touch people’s lives…or at the very least make them chuckle a bit.

Stephanie Chavara, director of audience development: Goodness, gracious. I really don’t know how to pick just one. This season opener, I told a story for the first time. All I have to do is close my eyes and I can remember how intently the audience was listening to me. I felt strong and safe and scared all at once. That feeling has continued as I was asked to become a Company Member, and also was able to assist Deb and Julie teaching a class. The respect that people show each other in a 2nd Story environment is unparalleled and it makes everyone want to be on their A-game. Oh, and this volunteer photographer program makes me so happy; to know that we are loved enough for someone to volunteer their time and then we get to see the 2nd Story experience through fresh eyes-well, that just blows my mind.

Heather Vogel, company member: There were a bajillion awesome high points this past year! I would have to say my favorite 2nd Story performance moment was seeing three brand spankin’ new storytellers rock it out at our recent PRIDE show. They were so brave and engaging and spoke their truth in such a wonderful way it was amazing to watch. Another highlight was our first company meeting with all of our awesometastic new company members–they each bring such great things to 2nd Story and it made me so excited for the 2012-2013 season!

Andrew Reilly, director of publishing: After two years of planning and plotting, the new 2ndStory.com finally went live this past May, and I enjoyed its launch almost as much as I enjoyed JC pausing his story this past January at Webster’s to say, in perfect mock disbelief, “I repeat: a billion years.”

Julie Ganey, director of education: The high point of this season for me was watching our ed program really take off. I had such a blast working with the writers in our classes and workshops. I don’t know if we will always attract such talented, creative and just plain quality individuals, but we sure did this year.

Liz Gottmann, company manager: This season was all about being brave. Taking brave new steps as a company, seeing tellers take bold steps in their writing, and allowing myself to explore outlets that I never thought I’d explore. This season I produced for the first time, I took a workshop for the first time, I wrote and told a story for the first time. I never thought I’d be able to do any of those things a year ago. I work behind the scenes a lot, so I get to see how much work gets put into the shows, workshops, and the season in general. It was awesome to watch as that hard work and bravery got turned into the indescribably amazing and inspiring season we had this year. I can’t wait until September when we get to do it all again!

Second Stories


  • Thank you Ozzie (blushes)

    Comment by Margaret Marion,