Inspired by Lydia Diamond’s Toni Stone, participants in the winter 2023 session of GeNarrations wrote stories of athletic triumphs, old rivalries, and the bonds we forge with teammates on and off the field. Out of over two-hundred stories, fifteen were selected by GeNarrations participants and teaching artists to appear on this page.
LOSING SEASONS by Joe Russo
Joe Russois a lawyer who has worked nearly his entire career protecting the rights of people with disabilities. His practice has included service in the U.S. Department of Justice’s Disability Rights Section, the Illinois Attorney General’s Disability Rights Bureau and the City of Chicago’s Mayor’s Office for People with Disabilities. Born and raised in New York, Joe is a graduate of Georgetown University and the New York University School of Law. When he is not working, writing, or procrastinating he enjoys reading, theater, watching classic and not so classic films, bad TV, sports, wheelchair hiking, baking bread and spending time with family and friends. (And yes, like all lawyers he is working on a screenplay. All it’s missing is a plot, a location and some characters . . . ) He currently lives in Chicago with his wife, Bebe, their dog, Lucy and an obstreperous cat named Auggie.
Rhonda Reed is a storyteller, attorney, and grandmother, who has participated in GeNarrations since 2014. Before the COVID-19 pandemic she spent much of her time operating a law practice, traveling the world, dining out with friends and enjoying live theatre productions whenever possible. These days she continues to operate a virtual law practice while hosting her grandboys at her home for their virtual education and trying (unsuccessfully) to not gain COVID weight. Through writing and performing in GeNarrations and the Second City’s “Humor Doesn’t Retire” classes, Rhonda has met so many wonderful people of all ages. Sharing life with others in this way is priceless.
SOMETIMES BASEBALL by Mike Felten
Mike Felten is an award-winning singer/songwriter who has been writing stories with GeNarrations since the fall of 2022. He is a working man. Some have taken to calling him a legend. He just calls himself a “Johnny Lunchbucket”. Mike has been playing since the 1960’s. That’s right. A veteran of rock, country and blues bands. Mike sat in Muddy Waters bedroom, had Buddy Guy show him around the blues clubs where Willie Dixon, Junior Wells and Mighty Joe Young among others were hanging out, played folk gigs at places like the Fifth Peg and Orphans in Chicago, alongside guys like Steve Goodman & John Prine.
A former record store owner and music critic, he has now released seven albums, including Landfill, Tossin’ It Away, AKA Johnny Lunchbucket and No 2nd Rides. He is always looking for an opportunity to share a song, knowing that music is his way of life.
Nancy Solomon joined GeNarrations in 2018 when it held its first session at Willye B. White Park in Rogers Park with teaching artist Adrian Abel Azevedo. She is grateful for the joy, structure and connection she feels with the storytellers in her group and throughout Chicago. Thanks to GeNarrations, Adrian and her fellow students, she has a positive sense of herself and a deeper appreciation of the life she is still living. The invisibility that often comes with age is gone. She is also a grandmother to four fabulous young people who live within minutes of her. She is friends with her daughters and their husbands. They are all committed to social justice, which makes her very proud. She shares her condo with a small 11-year-old fluffy dog named Angie and is currently trying to retire.
Stacey Jackson has been a part of GeNarrations for the past three years. She is a professional actor and has had small role in TV shows such as Shameless and Chicago PD. She has a burgeoning home organizing business and has worked at Madison Square Garden’s The Chicago Theatre for the past 15 years.
Pete Wood has been in GeNarrations for five years. He was also chosen to represent the Willye White group, Rogers Park in the Citywide show “Stories of Extravagance” and performed on stage as part of the Summer 2019 InterGens Program at the Goodman. He has performed in improv and storytelling shows at the Chicago Park district’s Berger Park and recently played a gangster in a Smithsonian Channel documentary “Drinks, Crime and Prohibition”. Pete played Nunzio, Sal and Vinnie Black in “Tony ‘n Tina’s Wedding” at Pipers Alley, Chicago. He has been a 1920’s Gangster Tour guide for Untouchable Tours since 2009 and is a stand up comic.
JANUARY 1952 – FIRST MODELING JOB By Phyllis Zornig
Phyllis Zornig has been telling stories with GeNarrations since 2011. She is also a vocalist who has performed at the Chicago Theatre, Grant Park, and Davenport’s Piano Bar and Cabaret. When she is not writing or performing, Phyllis spends her time watching TV and doing household chores. She’s 89, what do you expect! Phyllis is the mother of two sons, one of whom passed away in 2019. She is also a proud grandmother and great-grandmother. Her great grandson begins classes at Columbia College this fall.
Donna L. Pasternak is Professor Emeritus of English Education at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, where she directed the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee Writing Project. Raised in suburban New York City, she is affected deeply by her ties to the Eastern European refugee community and her experiences teaching English in Europe and South America. Widely published in academic journals, Donna has authored, co-authored, and co-edited six books, including a children’s picture book called Hello, Pounce, which follows a day in the life of her university’s mascot. Donna thanks the Goodman Theatre’s GeNarrations program, its amazing staff of teaching artists, and its participant writers for nurturing her creativity. Beginning the program in spring 2022, she’s especially excited to have performed her first story at the Fillet of Solo Festival 2023. Her latest story, “Your Impossible,” was co-written with her 92 year old mother, Helen Pasternak.
Janie Isackson has been a part of Goodman’s GeNarrations for nine years and counting, after teaching English at Niles East High School in Skokie, then followed by teaching at DePaul University as well as being responsible for the Bridge Program, a cohort of First Year Students at DePaul for one quarter of a century….As Covid has waned but has not faded, returning to GeNarrations at the Goodman made her feel as if she were awestruck Willie Wonka entering the chocolate factory. It felt great!….When time permits participating in the memoir class at the Chicago Cultural Center is swell. In addition to appreciating family and swimming her focus is Reading, Writing, but not Arithmetic. Finally and philosophically her enduring question is, How can we take a doctor seriously when the recording for waiting is the theme from Batman?
Lisa DeSantiago is a non-formal educator of at-risk urban teens who works each day to live a life worth sharing stories about. She follows in the footsteps of her storytelling Jibaro (hee-bah-roe) ancestors, whose stories of resilience and survival offered her life lessons, love, and hope. She is a proud crone who feels that she has learned more through her travels and conversations than she has within the confines of accredited academic spaces. She is a purveyor of peace, who pictures herself in a hut on a Caribbean beach in a rocking chair facilitating peace circles and trading stories for cocoanuts, mangoes, and conversation.
Joan Mulcahy is a native Chicagoan. She has participated in GeNarrations for about 8 years or so. Joan has shared her stories at the Book Cellar in Lincoln Square, the Levy Center in Evanston and at the Senior Satellite Center at North Center. Until very recently, Joan has been an avid cyclist. In Spring, Summer and Fall, you would have likely found her on her bike riding anywhere and everywhere, including parts of Europe and throughout the States. She has especially liked charity rides, rides that raise funds for causes, rides that make a difference, such as riding for lung health and clean air. Much appreciation to the GeNarrations program, for giving us a voice!
Marguerite Louise Scott joined GeNarrations in Spring of 2020 through the magic of connecting with Willa Taylor while working with teens on the national ENOUGH! PLAYS TO END GUN VIOLENCE project. She joined Willa’s inaugural on-line class and keeps coming back as it’s such a nurturing, inspiring and craft-expanding group. Her love of theatre landed her in NYC throughout the 1980’s where she studied acting, performed and began writing plays. While volunteering for the 52ND ST PROJECT, she developed a passion for working with under-served youths. In 2018 she launched the Young Creators Project which uses Improvisation, Writing and Performance to help kids and teens empower their own voices. Creativity, and especially theatre, saved her own life. In GeNarrations she is finding new ways to embrace and tell her stories. Marguerite Zooms in from New Mexico where she lives and writes with her hiking companion, Puffin, a once-feral cat.
Sharon Naylor is an occupational therapist, educator, traveler, naturalist, wife and mother. She is a first time GeNarrations performer. She began making up stories when her son was born. He loved the woodland creatures and super baby tales. She listens to people with curiosity and heart. She spent years traveling, from Zimbabwe’s medicine woman to an eight year old girl from a remote island in Fiji, all had beautiful stories. In her work she guides youth in child welfare to write narratives of possibilities. “We tell stories to one another, and we listen. Through smiles and tears, our stories are of human survival and tenderness, we share them all, they are our birthright. They nurture our souls.”
Elizabeth Distel-Grady is a published author, public speaker, graduate of The Second City’s Players Workshop and a recently retired advertising veteran. She is a newcomer to GeNarrations and is enjoying repurposing her skills in her second act.
Bonnie Anderson grew up on the south side of Chicago. She majored in education. Studying in Denmark her junior year and traveling around Europe in a Datsun pickup truck, she discovered many subjects that interested her.She began a daily writing practice by sending aerograms to family and friends. Education was a perfect vehicle to study literature, drawing, painting and photography and incorporate them in her lessons. She spent a summer at UCLA studying drama and children’s theater using Viola Spolin’s Theater Games and her personal stories to motivate students to write and perform. Now retired, she began an online class writing children’s picture books. It turned out that she loved reading them, not writing them. That’s when she discovered GeNarrations. It has been a year of challenges and growth. She is especially grateful for the opportunity to meet so many talented writers with different backgrounds and experiences and for the support of the teachers.
On select Thursdays, visit the Goodman’s mezzanine lobby to hear GeNarrations stories inspired by the plays on the Albert stage. The next opportunity to hear Lobby Stories will be on April 20 and 27 at 1:00pm.
Can’t get enough of GeNarrations?
Visit our Basecamp to listen to dozens of stories from GeNarrations tellers.