Ex Fabula logo

“Bonus” Recap

by Ex Fabula bloggers Kimberly Ousley and Hanna Gichard

Season five continues to thrive. This month Ex Fabula returned to the Times Cinema to uncover what exactly defines a ‘Bonus’. The always lovely and delightful Leah Delaney served as emcee for the evening. Continue reading ““Bonus” Recap”

December Storytelling Spectacular Recap!

By Ex Fabula Blogger: Anton Teubner

Photos by: Artemio Photography 

The road from the John Michael Kohler Arts Center to Turner Hall is long, but we finally returned to Milwaukee this past Thursday to open our 2012-13 season. The event went off without a hitch thanks to the tireless crew at Turner Hall and the generous support from 91.7 WMSE, 89.7 WUWM, Transfer Pizzeria & Café, and YELP! But of course, the evening wouldn’t have been worthwhile without you, the lovely audience, for whom we share these true and personal stories.

The theme for the evening was “Game On.” An ironic choice for our non-competitive story spectacular, but what the heck. The storytellers were hand-selected crowd favorites from years past, and boy did they bring their game. Luckily, everyone was a winner that night.

Turner Hall Stage


Tracy Lehrmann knocked out the crowd in the first round with her story about finding the will to fight after a harrowing encounter with an intruder in her apartment. Left with a glorious rage, she took up sparring with an inspiring and relentless coach, and eventually fought her way to the Golden Glove Boxing Championship. “Leave it all in the ring,” her coach told her before the match, “Don’t take any of it home with you.” After a cathartic fight that went to decision, she moved on but her story reminds us that true heart is found in the ability to endure tremendous amounts of pain and then keep going. And on Thursday night, Tracy, who will henceforth be known as the Queen of the Dramatic Pause, left it all on stage. She didn’t take any of it home.

Andrew Larsen took up the stage and brought us into the elaborate and perhaps misunderstood world of live role-playing games. His story revealed the unexpected joy that can come when our plans and actions have unintended consequences. As game-master, the player tasked with inventing the story of the game, Andrew led his compatriots on a two-year quest through his created universe based off a twist on traditional superhero mythology. Before the epochal battle was fought, a player struck a secret deal to kill-off his character (albeit for a self-serving end). Like a Russian chess wizard, Andrew constructed the players’ movements through the battle and forced a sacrifice that resulted in an unexpected display of compassion. Indeed, we live most fully through the characters we create, in games or in life, and find purpose in power of a story to bring out the best in us.

“When does a dream begin?” asked Evelyn Prevenas of the crowd. For Evelyn, it began 20 years ago when her son asked if she’d come along to watch him attempt a parachute jump. This seemingly innocuous event planted a seed in Evelyn’s mind that sprouted 12 years later. After again witnessing the glee on her son’s face following another successful dive, Evelyn made up her mind to take a leap of her own. The next year she found herself on the rattling tin floor of a Cessna climbing the sky, filled with the fear of all 10,000 feet between her and the ground below, and decided that chickening-out simply wasn’t an option. Well, six more jumps followed and Evelyn has since lead groups from the local senior center jump and even the mayor of Sheboygan (not the one in all the headlines). If you have a dream, large or small, even some scary like skydiving or challenging as a marathon, step out of your comfort zone and take the leap. You’ll never regret it.

Our next storyteller, Tom Dillon, was inspired by Churchill’s old chestnut, “If you find yourself in Hell… keep going.” Tom took that advice to heart when he found himself in his own personal hell: St. Sebastian’s Catholic School. He endured the taunts of his classmates until grade 5 before joining the basketball team to turn things around. Now Tom was no stranger to competitive sports… he also bowled in a league with his Aunt. And he made it three practices before coach announced that their games would be played at the very same time as his bowling league. His mother, not the most tactful woman, summarized his dilemma for him: “Who are you going to let down?” In case anyone has forgotten the sublime cruelty of children, the only thing worse than telling your classmates with a face full of tears that you’re quitting the team is having your mother do it for you. We can only hope the he and his aunt won the league that year.



Frank & Mary Koczan brought back the fight to the second half with their story about fighting The Man. After finding the perfect home in lovely little Haven, WI, their dreams were dashed when they heard on the wind about the new neighbor coming to town: a nuclear power plant. Newcomers to the game of environmental advocacy, they were roused by the upcoming birth of their first child and utilized their talents as music teachers to write the movement’s protest anthems. Shivering in the night, they led a chorus to the tune of Rosin the Bow, “Power plants need water for cooling / And that’s why their future is stark / Just who do they think they’ll be fooling / When Lake Michigan glows in the dark.” The next year, with their newborn child in their arms, they celebrated the announcement that the WI Power & Light were scrapping their plans and the town of Haven would never face the dangers of a nuclear catastrophe.

Katy Richtor


Somewhere floating around Milwaukee is an esoteric scrabble cheat-sheet. Vowel dumps, obscure “Q” words, and a host of two-letter gems. Katy Richter tracked down the underground scrabble club leader guarding the list and decided she wouldn’t leave until she had a copy of her own. Now, underground scrabble is not your grandmother’s Sunday afternoon board game. After accidentally challenging the group’s self-proclaimed master “Bob” (whose cocky attitude made him more of a “Richard”) and crushing him, she was roped into match, after match, after match. Luckily, she made a daring escape during a scheduled bathroom break (that’s right, scheduled), but was still invited back the next month. They couldn’t get their game on without her.

Tom Strini


Proudly donning his orange and black soccer kit, Tom Strini rounded off the evening with a moving collection of vignettes revealing how his athletic history has threaded his career with luck and chance. From his first ratty flannel uniform sponsored by “Comet Cleaners” to the princely polyester pinstripes sponsored by the local barbershop, he grew up in love with the magic of sports. But in high school, when his Dad wouldn’t cough-up the $10 insurance coverage for the football team, Tom took his drive to another passion: the theater. After all, you didn’t need special insurance to act in Oklahoma! This turn of events blossomed into a 27-year career as Music and Dance critic for Milwaukee’s own Journal Sentinel. Over the years, Tom has never given up the thrill of competing on the pitch, reminding us that we are often more ourselves during our days off than our days on.

Stage bow


If you want to be part of Ex Fabula, let us know! We have loads of chances to volunteer ranging from helping to run the live shows to working on one of the committees that keep things copacetic in between shows.  Also, be sure to stop in for our next show at The Times Cinema in Washington Heights on January, 15 for stories on the theme “Do Over.”

Terminal Milwaukee: Frontier Radio Recap

by Ex Fabula blogger, Steph Kilen

Ex Fabula tackled a new frontier with a live, on-air radio event, the latest in theTerminal Milwaukee series on Thursday, March 29. About 25 people gathered in the WMSE studio lobby to listen to stories of “frontier radio” while what we believe to be the rest of Milwaukee and beyond tuned in to listen on their radios.

[slideshow]All Photos: © Kathrine Schleicher 2012 – www.ellagraph.com

We’ve been all over Milwaukee with Tom Crawford, series centerpiece, and he welcomed us “back to the mothership” at the WMSE studio. Clearly in his element, Tom shared how he went from sometimes over zealous WMSE fan boy to station manager, while the other storytellers told stories of the magic of WMSE and radio in general.

Hal Rammel, host of the WMSE show Alternating Currents, told of the joy of playing or hearing “just the right song at just the right moment” on the radio as illustrated by a call from a listener. The woman had called when she just happened to hear an avant garde piano piece Hal was playing while running through her dial. It turns out she hadn’t heard the song in 60 years, the last time being when she wanted to play it for her piano recital but her teachers hadn’t allowed it.

Brent Ghode talked about hosting a metal show on WMSE on June 6, 2006 and the huge disappointment of the skip in Iron Maiden’s “Number of the Beast.”  Despite the photo, no props remains a part of the Ex Fabula rulebook, but hey, it was live radio – anything goes.

Paul Cebar delighted listeners by telling us about the particulars of tuning in a crystal radio as a child and the “thrill of pulling sound of the air.” And finally, Julie Cudahy, “den mother of WMSE” told of her journey through adolescence and music, across the country and to WMSE.

Throughout the broadcast, historian John Gurda, the glue of Terminal Milwaukee, gave historical perspective on radio in Milwaukee, the downtown and Cathedral Square area,  and Milwaukee School of Engineering.

You don’t have to take my word about what you missed, this time you can hear for yourself. The full show is available for download in the WMSE archives (you’ll want the 3/29 show).

Next up: The Terminal Milwaukee grand finale, Saturday, April 28, at Alverno’s Pitman Theater.

Our New Series, “Terminal Milwaukee”

We at Ex Fabula are so proud to announce the details of our new project, “Terminal Milwaukee”. The project is a seven event series that will lead audiences through five distinctive neighborhoods of Milwaukee following the dynamic life story of Tom Crawford, a standout storyteller from Ex Fabula All Stars 2010 and self-described “terminal” Milwaukeean.

Through the “Terminal Milwaukee” series, we will see Milwaukee through the eyes of a lifelong resident, Tom Crawford, and visit the neighborhoods he grew up in and worked in over the years. He has worked as a longshoreman on Jones Island, a baker’s apprentice and a hide washer in a tannery. He began in radio in 1983 and eventually became Station Manager of WMSE, where he currently works as a community linchpin. Tom Crawford’s visceral personal stories are gripping, vivid and filled with detail and affection for the neighborhoods they are set in. Accordingly, each event will also feature storytellers preselected from residents of those neighborhoods. Milwaukee historian John Gurda will contribute historical vignettes to each event to fill out the evening. Throughout the course of the series, audience members will have the opportunity to share their memories and experiences in the neighborhood. The series will be documented in audio and video form and these will be shared throughout the year long project.

The series kicks off at Ex Fabula ALL STARS 2011 season finale on June 2nd at Turner Hall. In addition to Tom’s story on the evening’s theme of “Secrets and Lies”, this kick off will include the unveiling of the project’s video trailer. The first neighborhood event will take place at Club Garibaldi at 8 pm on Saturday July 23rd, and the theme will be “All in a Day’s Work”.  On Friday September 9 at 8 pm, Satin Wave will host an event with a theme of “Barber Shop”. Sherman Perk will host “Intersections” on Saturday November 5 at 8 pm. In 2012, the series travels to Kochanski’s Concertina Beer Hall for an event on the theme of “Generation Gap” on Saturday January 28 at 8 pm. Then on Thursday March 29, 2012 at 6 pm 91.7 WMSE will host an event in studio which will be broadcasted live; the theme will be “Frontier Radio”. The series will resolve in a final live storytelling and musical event, presented in cooperation with Alverno Presents; the theme of “Terminal Milwaukee” will come to life on Saturday April 28, 2012, at Alverno’s Pitman Theatre.

Admission to most events will be free with donations accepted to support this project as well as Ex Fabula’s mission of building community by connecting storytellers with audiences.

“Terminal Milwaukee” is funded in part by a major grant award from the Wisconsin Humanities Council. The Wisconsin Humanities Council supports and creates programs that use history, culture, and discussion to strengthen community life for everyone in Wisconsin. The WHC receives funding from the National Endowment for the Humanities and the State of Wisconsin.

For more information about the “Terminal Milwaukee” series, email Amy Schleicher, Project Director, at (amy at exfabula dot com).

LISTEN! Ex Fabula WMSE Radio Show

Two more Ex Fabula Radio Shows are springing up, featuring stories from our last event at Stonefly with the theme of “Emergency!”  Storytellers will include Lauren Poppen, Brooke Maroldi, and Anja Notanja – that evening’s winner.

To catch these radio shows, tune into WMSE for lunch on Wednesday, April 6th, during the Milwaukee Midweek show airing at noon, or for breakfast on Sunday, April 10th, before Dewey’s Radio Show at 8:30am.

Also, don’t forget that the next Story Slam is coming up quickly: Tuesday, April 12th, at 8pm at the Bay View Brewhaus. You won’t want to miss stories on the theme “Theory & Practice.”

Ex Fabula Awarded Wisconsin Humanities Council Grant, Embarks on Project to Highlight Local Tales Told by Your Neighbors

We are proud to announce today that Ex Fabula has received a major grant award from Wisconsin Humanities Council to help fund our upcoming special community storytelling project – Reclaiming Milwaukee’s Narrative. The project is a seven event series that will lead audiences through five distinctive, but underappreciated, neighborhoods of Milwaukee– following the dynamic life story of Tom Crawford, a regular Ex Fabula storyteller and “terminal” Milwaukeean.

The Wisconsin Humanities Council supports and creates programs that use history, culture, and discussion to strengthen community life for everyone in Wisconsin. The WHC receives funding from the National Endowment for the Humanities and the State of Wisconsin.

In the fall of 2009, the five founders of Ex Fabula began organizing live events in Milwaukee to provide meaningful shared experiences for individuals from different communities in the city. The fledgling organization was called “Ex Fabula” – Latin for “from stories”. Through Reclaiming Milwaukee’s Narrative, Ex Fabula seeks to build a greater awareness of the diverse and rich Milwaukee culture often bypassed in these neighborhoods, building a stronger sense of community between Milwaukee natives through the social power of story.

Each event in the series will take place in one of the featured neighborhoods where Tom and other neighborhood natives will share their true personal stories in the Ex Fabula tradition; during which, noted Milwaukee historian John Gurda will weave threads of the neighborhood’s culture and history into the background. The series will resolve in a live radio show on WMSE and a final live storytelling event at Alverno’s Pitman Theatre in April 2012.

A documentary of the project is planned of the featured Milwaukee neighborhoods.  Partnering with Ex Fabula in the endeavor are WMSE and Alverno Presents. Events will also be held at Turner Hall and four yet-unnamed sites in each of the featured neighborhoods.

Turner Hall, Photo by Kat Berger

The trailer for the Reclaiming Milwaukee’s Narrative project will be unveiled at the Ex Fabula ALL STARS grand finale event on June 2nd at Turner Hall, serving as the kickoff event for the series.
Until June 2nd, Ex Fabula has two remaining storyslams in their second season: March 16th at the Stonefly Brewery in Riverwest, and April 12th at the Bay View Brew Haus.

For more information about Ex Fabula or the Reclaiming Milwaukee’s Narrative project, go to www.ExFabula.com or call Amy Schleicher, Project Director, at 414-840-3930.

LISTEN! WMSE Radio Show: Spectacular Preview

The December Spectacular is this Saturday night at Turner Hall.

For anyone who missed Ex Fabula Radio on WMSE featuring stories from four of our Spectacular storytellers last week, we’ve posted the audio here for you to enjoy. Featuring stories from Cindy Grover, Emmett Gross, Lisa Gatewood and Amie Losi. Also telling at the Spectacular will be Dan Niederloh, Grant Hagen, Deaduri Gales and ONE randomly chosen volunteer storyteller from the audience! Click the link below to listen.

Ex Fabula WMSE Radio Spectacular Preview Dec 1, 2010:

Thank you to WMSE for production and recording of these stories.

A Turner Hall crowd for 2010 Ex Fabula All Stars
The crowd at Turner Hall in May 2010 at ALL STARS. Photo by Kat Berger.



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


Listen!! WMSE 91.7 at Noon. Ex Fabula Radio Show: ‘Coming Home’


Do you have the hankerin’ to Tell your favorite 5 minute story relating to our theme, ‘Confessions’?? Maybe you wanna sit down and listen to all the ‘ juicy’ stories. If so, come on down to Stonefly Brewery for our Fall Season Kick Off event, next Wednesday, 10/13!