Our Host

Matt Jones has been telling stories his whole life. One of four boys in a family of talkers, story telling was a competition and an outlet. As high school history teacher and football coach he used this ability to bring the events of the past and the present to life for his students and players. Today as a father of four himself, an active Scout leader, PTA president, coach and friend he's still using that power to communicate with wit, humor and an ability tap into those human emotions that connect us all, to keep those around him active and engaged. 

A resident of Naperville for over ten years Matt has never forgotten his Virginia roots, his family and the places he came from. 

Phyllis Porché

Phyllis Porché grew up on the south side of Chicago.  She is a storyteller, fiction writer, and teacher.  She began telling stories to her students as an icebreaker, and then took it to the stage.  She is a Chicago StorySlam Moth winner and has told stories at Literate Ape and First Person Live events.   She believes in the power of words and encourages her students to use them wisely.  Her secrets to writing are late nights, chunky peanut butter, strong coffee, good white wine, and writing by hand.​

Margaret Burk

Margaret has told numerous places around the Chicago area, including The Moth, This Much Is True, Homewood Stories, Story Sessions, Story Club, Chicago Celtic Festival, Fox Valley Folk Festival and Illinois Storytelling Festival.  Her one-woman show ‘Bring It On!  has been featured at the Celtic Knot in Evanston and at Northlands Storytelling Conference. Margaret co-produces and co-hosts three monthly storytelling venues in Oak Park & River Forest.   She is President of Illinois Storytelling Inc, a state-wide association of storytellers, and believes in the power of story to connect us all!  

 

www.facebook.com/Backroomstories

Brendan Cournane

Brendan grew up on the South Side of Chicago, where most people came from a similar background and an exotic trip was to the Wisconsin Dells.  He followed his parent's advice, getting a good education and became a lawyer only to discover that within that lawyer's body is a soul filled with wanderlust bursting to get out.

 

Brendan scratched this itch by traveling the world.  He has visited all 50 States and all 7 Continents and he's seen the world up close while running marathons on the Great Wall of China, Patagonia, around Mt. Kilimanjaro, northeast Australia and even in Antarctica.  And he's not finished yet - with plans to continue seeing the world in countries yet unvisited as well as returning to some of his favorite spots.

Along the way, he has collected stories of triumph, failure, love, losses, and gains.  Those stories have made him who he is today, and he relishes sharing his tales gathered on the journey of life.

Beth Basmajian

Beth Basmajian grew up in a small town in Michigan. She moved to the Chicago in 1996 on a whim with no real plan other than to enjoy life in a big city. As fate would have it, she landed a job she enjoyed, met a cute boy, married the cute boy, had three kids, and in 2009 moved to Naperville. Beth is a stay-at-home mom. She enjoys exercising, baking, and reading. 

She became interested in storytelling after attending a few First Person storytelling shows in 2017. This will be Beth’s first time taking the stage as a teller. She decided In the Blink of an Eye was a good theme because life threw her an unexpected curve-ball several years ago. She learned that sometimes the unexpected actually turns out to be a blessing in disguise.

Peter LeGrand

Peter LeGrand has been and still is a teacher, a woodworker, a toymaker, a builder of boats and is not currently a pig farmer, which he has been. By day he skulks the halls of a middle school teaching engineering and squirrel chasing, by night he writes long, languid missives about basset hounds and getting locked in the lumber yard at Menards. He is the proud parent of two boys and a golden retriever named Ursa, and he suspects Ursa spell checks his work every night after he goes to bed. His partner in all this is Gabby, she excels at tolerating his view of the world, and it's a wonder she has not worn out her eyes from rolling them so much around him. Peter takes much comfort in listening to Gabby speak to him in Portuguese, even though he knows some of the words are probably not very nice! 

Michelle Furlow

Michelle grew up in Naperville, but lived in Iowa, Alabama, and studied for a short time in France. Professionally, she's worked in the Criminal Justice field since 2001 and is currently a professor at Moraine Valley Community College and a training instructor for a Sheriff’s Department. At home, she enjoys time with her son and daughter, two dogs and cat. Her significant other lives in Colorado, so she escapes to the Rocky Mountains as often as possible. She's passionate about staying active and enjoys being outdoors, especially hiking to see the sunrise.  Any downtime is spent painting & woodworking several times a week, devouring true crime in any form, and perfecting the art of not exactly knowing how to cook but trying anyway. Michelle is embracing turning 40 this year, and is excited about this time in her life!

Gina Farella-Howley

Gina Farella-Howley taught fifteen years in Illinois public schools.  The past twelve, she’s been freelance writing and tutoring for fun.  Her specialty: managing the crazy produced by and around her husband John and their beautiful boys Martin (12), Joe (10), and Tim (8).  She’s particularly excited to explore a new avenue in her life and share some of the many stories eternally dancing in her head!

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