Coming Together Performers
Michael M. Canaris (PhD, Fordham, 2013) specializes in Catholic theology, interreligious dialogue, and immigration studies. He has written or edited a number of books, well as a number of other scholarly and popular works, including penning a weekly column on church and social issues for the Catholic Star Herald newspaper in New Jersey for almost a decade. He played an integral role in a substantial Ford Foundation grant exploring undocumented students in the 28 Jesuit Colleges and Universities, whose findings were presented in the United States Senate, along with the overwhelming majority of the Jesuit university presidents. He serves on the Loyola Dreamer Committee and helps coordinate the Institute’s programs in the United Kingdom and Italy, where he holds dual citizenship.
Nestor Gomez was born in Guatemala and has lived in Chicago since the mid 80’s. He started telling stories as a way to get over his stuttering. He currently holds the record for most Chicago Slam wins ever (over 25 of them) he is also a two time Chicago Moth Grand Slam winner. He has told stories all over Chicago and as far at New York City, El Paso Texas and San Francisco. He is the curator, producer and host of the 80 Minutes Around the World, Immigration stories a storytelling show about immigrant and allies, for more information check out his website nestorgomezstoryteller.com However if you ask him he will tell you that his greatest achievement is making his mother and family proud and winning the heart of his wife "sweet Mel."
Chris Trani is a stand-up, storyteller, and documentary filmmaker who uses his gifts and talents to educate & entertain audiences worldwide. Chris has traveled America, Scotland, Finland & more to perform his stand-up comedy and screen his documentary film, An American House. Chris seeks to entertain and advocate for immigrants worldwide. Winner of National Public Radio’s The MOTH and the SNUBFEST Comedy Festival for Storytelling in 2015, Chris has shared the stage with TJ Miller, Pat McGann, and Roy Wood Jr. of The Daily Show. In his free time he likes to sleep!
Sam Porretta has appeared in Despacito (Gift Theatre); Mendacity, Sandy Simon (Collaboraction); Julius Caesar (Straw Dog); Balm in Gilead (Hypocrites); Hunchback, Rachel’s Love (Redmoon); Squat (Trap Door) He is a member of Collaboraction Theatre where he has designed & directed for numerous productions such as G.I.F.T., Sketchbook, Carnaval, Guinea Pig Solo, and Suffering City. Television credits include Empire (Fox); Crisis (NBC); and Cleveland Abduction (Lifetime). He can currently be seen as Chief Hatcher on Chicago Fire (NBC).
Ekeng Bassey is a Nigeria born and bred vocalist and media enthusiast. He began a career in Journalism after graduating with a BSc. in Mass Communication from Covenant University - a private Christian institution run by nondenominationals - in 2007. January 2013, Bassey landed a job as a TV Host on a daily show that was syndicated in more than 40 countries in Africa called EL Now - aired on EbonyLifeTV - Africa’s First Global Black Lifestyle and Entertainment Network. Summer 2015, fleeing persecution for his sexual identity, Ekeng Bassey against all odds, left his job, family, friends and relatives to seek salvation and a better life in America. He currently resides in Chicago, works as a stylist and tells stories, occasionally, that more often than not leave his audience in awe.
Originally from Sandwich, IL, Drew Baxter received his BM in Trombone Performance from Lawrence University. Drew currently holds an administrative position at The Chicago High School for the Arts, and performs with a variety of ensembles throughout Chicago. While he most frequently performs in a traditional orchestral setting, Drew is also an active member of the Chicago Balinese Gamelan and Shed, a six-piece heavy metal group based in Logan Square.
Jason Chen is a recent Midwest transplant hailing from eastern Taiwan. Presently, Jason has been introduced to the musician’s circle in the city of Chicago primarily as a collaborative pianist while finding his way into various creatively driven experiences, including experimental viola/accordion duo Haiga, a publication in It’s All Trumped Up: A Collection of Short Stories from Around the World, and frequent performances at local venues in the Edgebrook and Nils vicinity. Jason spent four years at the Boston Conservatory and two years at Indiana University studying piano performance among other things.
Hal Christine is a trans writer and performer based in Chicago. They have worked with SITI Company in New York and studied at the Moscow Art Theatre School. Hal’s original plays often include found text, ensemble devising, and a strong focus on the body. Hal also works in a coffee shop and has a penchant for quality donuts. They are a proud graduate of Skidmore College.
Elisabeth Johnson is a classical, folk and world music musician. A violinist, multi instrumentalist, writer/poet, creative and seasoned music teacher, she’s traveled the world performing, teaching and living. She recently moved back to Chicago after an adventure in Oakland, CA where she founded and ran a small music studio, Mynah Music.
Elisabeth is not only a chamber and orchestra musician performing with Filmstock Quartet, Renovo String Orchestra, Chicago Folks Operetta and Rockford Symphony, but performs world music with The Chicago Klezmer Ensemble, Anemos, a Greek folkloric music and dance troupe, as well as with her own groups, Solaranja, a Brazilian Choro ensemble, and her singer/ songwriting project, Lizzy and the Zoetropes.
Sarah Morrow is a community music program manager and freelance chamber musician in Chicagoland. Originally from Coweta Oklahoma, Sarah found a passion using music as a vehicle for social change while observing the consistent positive impact of music on her and community and the demonstrated success of students who have participated in community music programs. Her belief in the power of music lead Sarah to explore el sistema inspired programs in the US, becoming the focus of her studies; Sarah has a Bachelor of Arts in horn performance from Northeastern State University and a Master of Music in horn performance from the University of Oregon.
Wannapa Pimtong-Eubanks is a Butoh Artist, movement coach, choreographer, and actress. She is an artistic company member at Erasing the Distance. She recently conceived and produced Through My Daughter’s Eyes as part of the 2016 PopUp Series. Her venues include Goodman Theatre, Raven Theatre, Chicago Cultural Center, The Athenaeum Theatre, MCA, Links Hall, Ruth Page Center for the Arts, and the Dance Center of Columbia College Chicago (Dance/USA showcase 2011). She is also a Thai Dialect Coach (King & I at Stage 773 for Porchlight Music Theatre). Wannapa has recently been part of Laura Crotte’s theatre group to present the “Day of the Dead” show for students in Chicago schools. Her previous work also includes experience as a TV Stage Manager and Producer, and Assistant Director in commercial film production in Thailand.
Leah Stevens is an accomplished performer and teacher in the Chicago area. She has been named First Prize for the National Flute Association’s Flute Orchestral Audition and Second Prize for the Piccolo Orchestral Audition in Minneapolis this past August, as well as a prizewinner for the Flute Society of Saint Louis and Music Teacher’s National Association Young Artist Competitions. She is professionally involved with several orchestras, including Lincoln’s Symphony Orchestra in Nebraska, Quincy Symphony Orchestra in Illinois, and the Lexington Philharmonic in Kentucky.
Nicole Tuma studied flute performance at Rutgers University and UW-Madison, where she also studied voice. Her work has been featured at the National Flute Association and Wisconsin Flute Club festivals, as well as the Chicago and Elgin Fringe Festivals and Everything That Rises, a storytelling show scored with live music. Nicole sings regularly at churches throughout Chicago, including at Old St. Pat‘s where she is a soprano soloist and section leader. She loves working with kids a few days each week as a PK-8 General Music teacher, and in the summer she co-coordinates and teaches the Grant Park Music Festival’s Classical Campers educational program.
Greg Van Hyfte
Greg Van Hyfte is a nonprofit consultant, yogi, and social entrepreneur with a knack for performance and creative arts. In college he wrote, directed, and acted in a black box production, The Legacy Stops Here, at the University of Redlands and played Martirio in La Casa de Bernarda Alba at IES Madrid. In his native Chicago, Greg performed in Night of 100 Drag Queens 2004 - 2008 and won the 2004 Worldwide Drag Federation title. He studied voice with Louise Cloutier and enjoys performing at open mic nights. Greg is also an avid poet and photographer and now appreciates opera thanks to his partner and their Shih-Tzu-Pekingese.
Lilianna is an accomplished Chicago based classical and jazz cellist with primary focus on cello solo and chamber music performance. She received her Master‘s Degree in Cello Performance at Roosevelt University’s Chicago College of Performing Arts. Lilianna has appeared with classical, jazz, new music and international music ensembles in the Chicago area and abroad. She has performed with the Illinois Philharmonic, The Paderewski Symphony Orchestra, Lira Ensemble, and she was a principal cellist of The New North Shore Chamber Orchestra. Lilianna is a regular studio musician and she released three of her own CDs, ‘My Christmas’, ‘Edited to Form’ and ‘Episodes 1-12’.