Our History

2nd Story was born on the second floor of Webster’s Wine Bar in 2002.  We began as an evening of short theater pieces that was briefly dubbed “2nd Story Cabaret.” That evening included a series of talented Chicago actors, performing short, solo theater pieces and readings on the second floor of the wine bar.

From this first event, another performance was created, re-envisioned and renamed “2nd Story.”  It brought together the seamless union of great wine, music and storytelling. This time, however, the actors told their own personal stories that they wrote themselves. The small upstairs room of Webster‘s Wine Bar was packed with an audience of people, hanging around, enjoying wine and food, and as the music faded out, a single spotlight fell on one of the actors in the crowd. Conversation hushed and the storytelling began. And so it went, throughout that first evening, the music fading in and out, showcasing our first four storytellers. It was a magical evening.

That evening grew into a series of eight Wednesday evening performances spaced over the course of six months, then a compressed 5-day festival, and then a 2-week festival, and then a 3-week festival, and then a once-a-month series, and finally into what it is today. When we began, 2nd Story was one of many projects produced by the Serendipity Theatre Collective—for the first 8 years of our existence, we also produced new plays.  But in 2007, the company decided that storytelling was really where our heart is, so we decided to focus the organization exclusively on that. We stopped producing straight theater, re-named ourselves 2nd Story, and concentrated solely on deepening the art of crafting personal narrative for the stage.

Storyteller Kimberlee Soo reaches a thoughtful moment in her story. Webster's Wine Bar, 2006.

Since that first event in 2002, 2nd Story has continued to grow and cultivate a community of local performers, writers, and humans of all shape, size, and job description—anyone with a voice and a story to tell. We have persevered in exploring the cross-pollination of the myriad forms of storytelling: writing, performance, oral storytelling, and live music. We have worked with great enthusiasm to create an entirely unique theatrical experience that interweaves high-caliber storytelling with the opportunity for conversation and contemplation. Serendipity was founded in 1999 with the goal of “fostering social dialogue” amongst artist and audience alike, and we are proud to carry that torch of community building and conversation. It was our intention from the beginning and has become our motto: “We tell our stories so you’ll tell yours.”