Never Again: Spectacular Recap

On Thursday evening a packed house gathered at Turner Hall Ballroom for Ex Fabula’s Spectacular StorySlam. Continue reading “Never Again: Spectacular Recap”

Ex Fabula December Spectacular

Spectacular Storytellers

Holiday greetings Ex Fabulites! We hope the December rain isn’t stopping you from enjoying this fair city of ours. As we prepare for the Spectacular, we decided to ask the Spectacular Storytellers for their thoughts on great storytelling.Continue reading “Spectacular Storytellers”

Recap of “Theory & Practice”

by Ex Fabula blogger Krista Lanphier

photos courtesy of Kat Berger.

Ex Fabula’s most recent storytelling event was held on Tuesday April 12th at the warm and inviting Bay View Brewhaus. The theme of the evening was “Theory and Practice,” and the event quickly became an example of storytelling theory in practice!

Paul Crowley, Grant Hagen, Amie Losi, Michael Heider, Rebecca Segal, Patrick Schmitz, Linda Muza,  Alicia Wahl and Kristia Wildflower had their names picked out of the hat, thus earning the chance to share a true tale on stage. In the end, it was an extremely close race for a chance to appear at the season finale event, Ex Fabula ALL STARS.

We were entertained by Paul’s story of his endless attempts to quit his job working for a Renaissance fair. Quitting should have been easy, but his boss who couldn’t take no for an answer.

Next came Grant – who talked about his and his wife’s memories of how they saw their first two daughters married off to wonderful men. He then went on to share the story of his third daughter who, while teaching English to monks in Nepal, decided upon an impromptu marriage to a local man.

Amie reminisced about her sunny beach days in her home state of California….and then shared how she moved to Wisconsin with her three children all under the age of 6, in the middle of heavy snow, to help her husband fulfill his dream. In the end, Amie dream of having someone to love and cherish her also came true in its own special way.

After reading Jack Kerouac’s On The Road at the ripe age of 16, Michael ran off to New York City in search of a new, exciting life. He found himself shacked up in an apartment in Greenwich Village with no heat and a drunken owner. One day he wakes up to an Irish Setter taking a poo just 6 inches from his head, and decides immediately to find a way back to Milwaukee. He makes it, but only after many days “on the road” –which included getting arrested in Chicago.

Rebecca shared memories of studying in France along with a group of students that hailed from all over the world. On one sleepy night, an Irish student decides to stage a party at an abandoned factory. Rebecca was sure it was going to be a boring night, but after a night of drinking alcohol, jamming to music and running away from the police, it ended up being the party of her life.

Patrick then recounted the time he came into the big city for an audition and accidentally ended up at Art’s Performing Center instead of the Performing Arts Center; after an amusing encounter with the bouncer, Patrick eventually realized that Art’s was actually a strip club and made it to his real audition.

Linda told her angst-ridden story of how her only son out of 6 children, who grew up in a “world of women,”  decided to join the army. After he was stationed in Iraq, she is heartbroken by the irrevocable changes she sees in her beloved only son…and only wishes she could have him back, away from the “world of men.”

Alicia reminisced about how, as a technician for the Santa Fe Opera, she and her roommates couldn’t get any relief from a pestering neighbor until they devised a cop-proof strategy of living – and partying – that involved tie-dye, pajamas, pizza, root beer and muppets.

And finally, Kristia told of her story of how she had planned for months to attend a writer’s workshop in Oaxaca, Mexico, but after missing her flight, found herself making new friends at Chicago O’Hare over the course of 10 hours. She never made it to Mexico…but she did find new friends.

At the end of the night, the audience voted and selected Amie Losi as the evening’s Audience Favorite.

In theory, you’ve wanted to be at every Ex Fabula event this season, but we know that in practice, those intentions don’t always work out. But don’t fear! At Ex Fabula ALL STARS, you can hear new tales from the storytellers that were voted Audience Favorite as each event.  Ex Fabula ALL STARS will take place Thursday June 2nd, 8 pm at Turner Hall Ballroom. The appropriately mysterious theme will be  ‘Secrets & Lies’. Last year’s event was packed, so buy your tickets early!


WATCH! Spectacular Video “Gifts”

Take a look at this medley of  ‘Gift’ stories that were told at Ex Fabula’s Spectacular event held at Turner Hall ballroom.   Some of Milwaukee’s best; Grant Hagen, Amie Losi, Dan Niederloh, Deaduri Gales, Emmett Gross, Cindy Grover and Lisa Gatewood.

This spectacular video was taped by Cole Quamme,  Ryan Reeve, Li Wang, Adam Presti.  Art Direction and editing performed by Adam Presti and Kara Mulrooney.

See you on Tuesday 1/11/11 at Stonefly Brewery for our ‘It Gets Better’ story slam.

Ex Fabula Spectacular Bits:

Recap of the December Spectacular!


thanks to our blogger Stephanie Kilen!

An Ex Fabula audience is not easily fooled or deterred. We know the difference between rain and snow, so even winter horror stories from Minnesota could not keep the faithful away from Turner Hall on Saturday, December 11. After all, we were promised “gifts” – the theme for the storytelling spectacular.

While some audience members went home with Ex Fabula buttons, or stickers, or a buzz from the famous Turner Hall Tall Boys, only one lucky audience member went home with the memory of kicking off the show by sharing her story on stage. Molly McGrath’s name was pulled from the dapper, white top hat. She told of the year her 10-year old self wanted only “peace and quiet” from her three older brothers and received a jar filled with green water from one of them that was supposed to do the trick.

Amie Losi began the scheduled program with a story of a teacher who gave both Amie and her son, Alex a gift by appreciating, liking and encouraging the “cynical and jaded 5-year-old” that was Alex. Before the first break of the evening, Grant Hagen gave us the inside scoop on what it’s like to be a mall Santa based on his stint as the big guy at Capital Court in the 1970s.  While there was plenty to be not-so-jolly about, Grant had a twinkle in his eyes when he assured us that, “It’s not all Billy Bob Thornton when you’re Santa Claus.”

In between stories, host Leah Delaney read UltraShorts. Lest you think that UltraShorts are hot pants a la The Rockettes, UltraShorts are the one-to-two line stories submitted by audience members and read by the hosts – Megan McGee and Leah Delaney. There was no shortage of UltraShorts Saturday as there is obviously no shortage of odd and touching gift memories this time of year.

Back for Round 2, nurse Cindy Grover held the audience in touched silence as she told about the Christmas she had to give a badly burned, 5-year old boy a painful treatment. The pain the boy endured and the pain it brought Cindy to have to do it turned into a gift for both of them when weeks after being discharged, the boy returned, perfectly and beautifully healed, to thank Cindy for her care.

Frequent Ex Fabula contributor Dan Niederloh literally “looked a gift horse in the mouth” and indeed, ended up with a beloved old horse for him and his family. The horse got the gift of grass –instead of  glue factory- and Dan got one of those great “’Dad is a hero’ moments to be savored because they come along so seldomly.”

The audience was then treated to a story that couldn’t be touched by any Hallmark Christmas Special movie. Deaduri Gales told of her first Christmas after losing her mother and father within a year of each other.  A then 10-year old Deaduri went to live with her aunt and uncle and a cousin who became her “instant sister.” After some months of initial disagreements, Deaduri and her cousin bonded over finding the hidden presents and a visit from a “bilingual, tipsy” and not-so-well-disguised Santa.  While the girls knew it was their uncle, they, along with the rest of the family and even the elderly neighbors were “caught up in the magic” of Christmas and believed, right there on the front yard.

Having quickly returned to their seats, the audience was ready for the last two stories. Emmett Gross’ stories were not about gifts, but were offered up as gifts to the audience for use as their own, should they ever want to use them. A generous man, Emmett handed out three glowing tales of his own personal embarrassment: getting stuck in the baby swing at a park at 12-years old; randomly vomiting all over himself as a Junior in high school; and not-so-brilliant idea of giving the finger when featured on the hockey game Jumbotron.

Lisa Gatewood wrapped up the evening with the tale of her tangle with the Girl Scouts of America and a real desperate housewife. An under-privileged girl living in White Fish Bay, Lisa’s grandparents gave her the gift of Brownie handbook, Brownie sash and the fees to join. Thrilled to be aboard the “mother ship” of grade school social activities, she eventually realized that the troop leader was deliberately delaying her badge acquisitions thus preventing her from continuing on in the organization. Her one and only “Math Fun” badge, however, could not begin to serve her the way the life lessons she learned from the experience have.

It’s hard when you’re having fun on Christmas Eve to be told that you must go to bed in order for Santa to come. At the end of the night, all the stories were told but the audience lingered just a while, hoping to catch a little something more. Luckily, we need only wait a month for more gifts. See you January 11 at Stonefly Brewing Co.!

Announcing The Final Four!

Last week, in order to break the unbearable tension leading up to our December Spectacular on this Saturday at Turner Hall, we announced four of the storytellers. For those still waiting with half-bated breath, here are the remaining four storytellers:

Dan Niederloh
Dan has always loved cooking, traveling and connecting with people. He draws from a rich journal of experiences, including cheffing in London, hitchhiking through Europe and raising a family in Hawaii, for his storytelling inspiration.

Grant Hagen
Grant is a proud cheesehead who collects hats. He’s been married for 27 wonderful years and has 3 daughters, 2 Bob’s (son-in-laws) and 3 grandkids.

Deaduri Gales
Deaduri is a business development consultant who moonlights as a playwright (”M,” a collection of Mothers) and documentary production manager (”Mark My Words”). She also serves as the Regional Coordinator for the Stillwaters Collective/Scholastic Arts & Writing Awards Competition.

Scheduled as the first performer of the night, this storyteller was born and raised in Milwaukee after moving here in high school. Their stories are largely inspired by their Indiana Jones-esque travel adventures, as well as their regular ol’ everyman/everywoman experiences. Their LinkedIn profile suggests a recent job history as varied as short-order cook and daytrader—as well as no job experience whatsoever. This storyteller will be randomly selected from audience volunteers before the show, which made writing this profile challenging. THIS STORYTELLER COULD BE YOU!

In keeping with our popular tradition, the night will also feature Ultrashort Stories from the audience.

$10 tickets are available at and at the Pabst Theatre box office. The doors will open at 7 pm and seating is general admission.

LISTEN: Ex Fabula Radio on WMSE: Spectacular Preview (upcoming) and Death Defying (full audio available now)

Ex Fabula will be back on the WMSE airwaves on Wednesday, Dec 1 at 12:00 noon for a 30 minute long Spectacular Preview – featuring some of our featured Spectacular storytellers’ stories from previous events as we lead up to the December Spectacular at Turner Hall, Dec 11 8pm. Be sure to tune in to get an audio glimpse of the spectacular storytellers we’ll have.

Today we’ve got previously aired episode of the Ex Fabula WMSE radio show – the theme was Death Defying and featured some great stories pulled from a variety of previous events. This episode featured stories from Drew Brhel, Grant Hagen, Jeanie Dean and Karen Kolberg.

Click below to listen to Death Defying – originally aired on WMSE in September 2010. Thanks to WMSE and Jeremy Kuzniar for producing our radio show!

Jeanie Dean at Ex Fabula – Photo by Kat Berger


Drew and Grant on Luck: A High Frequency Media Video

Ex Fabula 5 brought two people together to tell lucky stories of crashes: Drew Brhel in a car and Grant Hagen in a chopper! High Frequency Media gave us this black and white version of the night told through their stories. We’ll be sharing dynamic Grant Hagen’s full length audio story as well for your listening pleasure – so check back here!

We recommend full-screen view.

Want to see previous videos? Click on “Ex Fabula Video” in the category cloud to the right.

Ex Fabula 5 Luck Recap!

The crowd turned out again on March 24 to listen to fellow Milwaukeeans share true stories from their lives at Ex Fabula 5 at Mo’s Irish Pub in Wauwatosa. The theme of the night was “Luck”. Co-founder and MC Leah Delaney introduced the night’s storytellers, some of whom being drawn from audience volunteer hat. We’ll be posting some selected stories from the event over the next few weeks.

A storyteller being drawn at random from the hat – Photo by Adam Ryan Morris

Marcella Kearns kicked off the night with a Solo story about attempting to win the affections of a man using her super power of winning scratch off tickets.  The next two Solos, both randomly drawn from the hat, happened to both focus on crashes. First, Drew Brhel talked about an extremely lucky car accident after his friend had an epileptic brownout; the ambulance in the lane next to them was “fortunate icing on a very lucky cake.” Then, Grant Hagen recounted a helicopter crash in Vietnam. “Airplanes want to fly,” he mused. “Helicopters don’t. They want to crash. …When you don’t have hydraulics, they don’t work very well.”

For the Terkel of the night, Matt Sabljak interviewed his friend Clif Phelps. They met several years ago via Mosaic, an organization that combats racism by bringing people of difference races together. Clif shared accounts of a couple of kids he has known through Running Rebels Community Organization. One initially reluctant student ended up become an A student who attended Tuskegee University. The other was on his 9th year of a 12 year sentence in prison. Then, Dan Zarwell recounted tale of an incident with some drunken skinny-dippers that were running from the police and the lengths he and his roommate Jim went to in order to free one of them from the trunk of a confiscated car. Following him was authentic Irishman and luck-skeptic Padraig de Burca took the stage to share a tale straight out of an action movie; “running down a dark alley after a fugitive, late at night – life doesn’t get any better than that,” he fondly recalled.

An appreciative audience member – Photo by Adam Ryan Morris

The last section of stories started with Stacy Williams-Ng had to promise to her mother that she would not contact her biological mother. When she was 18, her dad told her birth mother’s name and she was able to locate a picture. Stacy wondered if that was all she would know until a chance encounter with a birth family relative luck in a college class. Then she was faced with the momentous decision of what to do with this stroke of luck.

Anthony Umlauf – Photo by Adam Ryan Morris

Anthony Umlauf bought a 1973 cutlass for $50 and had it for a year. One day he realized it was on fire as he was driving. Not wanting to pay for a tow, he drove the car while it continued to burn from Kenosha to Twin Lakes. He sold the car for scrap and managed to make back his $50.

The Rashomon ended the night with James Carlson and Jenn Turner of Bucketworks telling two sides of an “urban spelunking” adventure, during which they discovered an abandoned building full of antiques and artistic creations. The highlight was a 30 foot, yellow, beer-drinking robot made out of pieces of cranes, backhoes, and other industrial equipment. “We will not give the coordinates,” James quipped, while simultaneously giving the impression that he would be delighted to share them with anyone who asked.

James Carlson tells his side of the story while Jenn Turner looks on in the Rashomon – Photo by Adam Ryan  Morris

The audience provided many memorable Ultra Shorts read by MC Leah Delaney that will be posted here over the next few weeks. The end of night audience vote was awarded to Drew Brhel’s lucky epilepsy car crash story. Drew picked up a 5 CD Set from World Café contributed by sponsor WUWM and bragging rights. He’s also invited to participate in Ex Fabula ALL-STARS on May 14, where winners from this season’s events and a few special guests will face off to tell all-new, longer format stories on the theme “EPIC FAIL” at Turner Hall.

Winner of the Audience Crown Drew Brhel taking in the glory – Photo by Adam Ryan Morris

Storytellers have just one chance left to compete for an All-Star storytelling slot on April 13 at Stonefly Brewing Company in Riverwest, just a few blocks from where Ex Fabula held its first event at the Art Bar. The theme of Ex Fabula 6, the final event of the first season of Ex Fabula, will be “Stranger in a Strange Land”.

,The brilliant guys at High Frequency Media captured our event and will be sharing another short film version of a story or two with us soon. We can’t wait to see what they’ll create from the night.

Selected stories from the March event, graciously recorded by WMSE’s Ryan Schleicher, will be posted here in the upcoming weeks. Drew’s winning story will be aired on WMSE – check back soon for more information!

Thank you to Adam Ryan Morris for the lovely photography of the evening! More photos coming soon on our Facebook page!