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SPAWN: Stories about parenthood

Friday, Aug. 20/  6:00 - 8:00 p.m.

First United Methodist Church of Arlington Heights

Ah, parenthood - none of us would be here without it, but what a long, strange trip it is! This month, stories about evil stepmothers, wild grands, reluctant moms, lawbreaking dads, feuding exes, freaked-out fosters - and yet much love. 

Show is appropriate for ages 18+ unless accompanied by an adult. Grounds open at 5 p.m. BYO chair, food & drink - no alcohol please. In the case of inclement weather, the show will move indoors and follow all CDC guidelines.

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Diane Kastiel is the producer, director, and host of First Person Live. A writer and storyteller from Chicago, she’s a three-time winner of the National Public Radio’s Moth StorySLAM; her work has been featured on the Moth Radio Hour, its podcast, and at special events for WBEZ, NPR’s Chicago affiliate. Diane has told stories on stage at The Second City, the Park West, Victory Gardens and other theaters as well as comedy clubs, art galleries, the basement of a tattoo parlor - she even did a show in the middle of the woods! Since launching First Person Live, Diane works with libraries, community centers and homeless shelters to bring storytelling to a wider audience, and leads regular storytelling workshops at Northwestern University. Diane is an alumna of The Second City Conservatory and the University of Chicago’s Great Books program. She also has an MBA from Northwestern’s Kellogg School of Management…just in case. 

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Grace Topinka is from Miami, but has been living in Chicago for eight years. (And no, she’s still not used to the cold.) She works as a production accountant, where her most important duty is petting the office dogs. She’s also the co-host of Two Girls, One Crossword podcast and a regular at Moth StorySLAMs. Grace also spends a lot of time paying late fees at the library and on escape room leaderboards across the city.

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Marya Morris is a city planner and freelance writer and editor. She lives in Wilmette with her husband Andy, mother Wilma, and three kids at various points on the launch trajectory (there are no straight lines in that regard). Marya considers each difficulty, embarrassment and absurdity of everyday life to be ripe material for storytelling. She began telling stories at in 2015 and has performed at the Moth and other storytelling shows in Chicago, becomng a Moth GrandSlam Champion in October 2018.


Jitesh Jaggi is a program coordinator for the National Indo-American Museum in Chicago and a recent immigrant from India. He ended his seven-year career in finance one day when he lost all the data he forgot to save on an Excel sheet, and realized he just didn't care. That tipping point led him to become a writer; he blogs at and is working on a book of essays. A two-time Moth StorySLAM winner, Jitesh is also passionate about storytelling (and loves writing bios because he can refer to himself in the third person). He can be easily bribed with chocolates and books.

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Evelyn Troutman works as a server in Wrigleyville but thankfully not in one of those big douchey bars. She’s also a comedian, poet, rapper and storyteller who got her start in Columbus, Ohio. Evelyn is a regular at Moth StorySLAMs and at comedy and variety shows throughout Chicago. Other than reading, writing, and performing, she loves being outside, spending time with friends, drinking chocolate milk, and getting her blood drawn.

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Wendi Nelson is a native Chicagoan who divides her time between the Windy City and Miami. By day, she’s a sales process improvement consultant; by night, she can be found lurking around storytelling open mics, hoping to share a story. New to storytelling, Wendi has participated in Moth StorySLAMS in both of her home cities, and is committed to working her way to New York. She’s thrilled and honored to appear in First Person Live. When not working or telling stories, Wendi loves to spend time with her husband and two grown daughters. She is an exceptional cook, and loves to sing (loudly) and be on the water - either in a boat or a raft, as long as it has a cup holder.

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David Barish has been telling stories ever since his parents came home when he was just a wee lad, looked around and said, "What happened here?" And he’s been listening to stories for years as an attorney representing injured workers. In recent years, David started telling stories on stage, revealing parts of himself that have raised eyebrows from his loving wife who simply says, "Hmm…never heard that one before!” As an adult, David has found ways to cope with the inability to sit still that drove his parents nuts: playing the harmonica, throwing golf discs, and riding his bicycle for miles and miles - and miles!


Brendan Cournane is a recovering lawyer who is now a Professional Development Coach, helping his clients understand why they do what they do and align their core values with how they work and live. A frequent storyteller around Chicago, he enjoys sharing his experience, strength and hope with fellow travelers along the road to a happy destiny. Brendan is a long-time practitioner of mindfulness and meditation who believes that “happiness is a present attitude, not a future condition.” To satisfy his wanderlust and adventurous genes, he has literaly run around the world, completed marathons in all 50 states and on each of the seven continents (yes, even with the penguins in Antarctica!). He’s also climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro and continues his quest for exciting opportunities.

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