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NEIU Independent

Northeastern Illinois University's student-run newspaper

NEIU Independent

Northeastern Illinois University's student-run newspaper

NEIU Independent

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2nd Story: Real Stories by Real People for Real Change

2nd Story, a performance event that combines storytelling and music, began its landmark 25th anniversary season on Sep. 1, 2023.

2nd Story was founded in 1999 with the goal of fostering social dialogue between performers and the audience throughout the Chicago area every month. 2nd Story has the belief that “personal stories can build a bolder and kinder world.”

The event took place at Steppenwolf Theatre, located at 1650 N. Halsted St., which was founded in 1974 by three high school and college friends: Terry Kinney, Jeff Perry, and Gary Sinise.

The theater got its name from the novel of the same name by Hermann Hesse, which original member Rick Argosh was reading at the time of its inaugural production of Paul Zindel’s dark comedy play, “And Miss Reardon Drinks a Little”.

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Husband and wife team David Wagener and Erika Nelson told the first of three stories that night. Erika told the story of how the couple met through a mutual friend and instantly bonded through a shared love of music as she played the cello. David shared his experiences serving in the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq and the wisdom his uncle shared with him during the last days of his life as he played the viola.

The second story of the night was told by Vince Pagan-Hill. He described his experiences working with incarcerated people and how his boss told him to not make assumptions and to be cognizant of his privilege. Curiosity over judgment. Questions over assumptions. The guitar was played by 2nd Story board member Lynnette Li as her hands trembled during moments of tension in Hill’s monologue.

The third and final story of the night was told by the Sivak family: Jeff, Lonnie, and their daughter, Lauren. They shared the story of Jeff and Lonnie’s acceptance of Lauren’s sexuality as she met her first love, Natalie, in the school play in spite of disapproval from Natalie’s mother. An electronic piano played in the background during Lauren’s account of her blissful moments with Natalie.

Crafting a story with 2nd Story is a unique experience where storytelling comes alive.” Lauren Sivak said of 2nd Story’s crafting process. “As tellers, we spend months writing and revising our stories with a curator who is responsible for guiding the writing process. Because 2nd Story sits at the intersection of live lit and theater, there is special care to building the live performance. We collaborate with a director and sound designer or musician to develop the performance. The addition of live music adds a depth to each story that elevates the performance to a symphony of storytelling.”

The storytellers prepared for this night by attending workshops at 2nd Story Studio, located at 3001 W. Lawrence Ave.

2nd Story invites anyone interested in this unique craft of storytelling on their website, “No matter your prior experience or interest, no matter if you intend to submit a story, craft a story for your own creative satisfaction, or participate in a professional learning opportunity, we’ve crafted an experience to support you and your growth.”

To learn more about 2nd Story or to browse its upcoming shows, visit their website.

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Gabriel Gurrola
Gabriel Gurrola, Campus Arts & Life Editor

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