Personal Stories Project WE ALL HAVE A STORY TO TELL Review–LGBTQ Seniors’ Share History

Personal Stories Project
Personal Stories Project Leader, Susan Lieberman, introduces the performance while actors Jeannie Afelder (left) and Ted Hoerl (right) look on

Personal Stories Project, We All Have a Story to Tell peeks into the ever resilient lives of six seniors: Janet Anne, Linda, Stefanie, Eva, Raymond, and Sandi.

As the Personal Stories Project leader, Susan Lieberman worked closely with these seniors at the Center on Addison to turn significant moments in their lives into brief, compelling narratives. The stories were then turned over to a director and actors for a rehearsed, script-in-hand presentation.

"People often don't know that they have powerful stories," Lieberman comments. "They view their lives as messy and inconclusive -- which lives tend to be. But sitting around a conference table for two months, the six participants mined more than a few gems to share, first with each other and then with Monday afternoon's audience."

Well directed by Ronn Smith, actors Jeannie Affelder and Ted Hoerl competently deliver their monologues using just the right amount of expression and diction that brought to life each vignette’s wide range of deeply felt emotions.

Personal Stories Project hosts moving stories

Ronn Smith the director notes, “Everyone has a story to tell. But the courage with which these six individuals told their stories--and their willingness to share them publicly--moved me deeply. I was moved as both the director and a member of the LGBT community. I just wish we had more opportunities to learn from these and other LGBT elders, especially in these difficult times. I think they have a lot to teach us, regardless of our age or gender or sexual preference."

At first the six ten-minute vignettes seem to have nothing in common other than the past lives of these diverse LGBTQ seniors. But careful dissection leads to an interwoven complexity of self-acceptance despite bigotry, self-doubt, discrimination, and the overall resolve to live life on one’s own terms. Through their stories they display strength, some loudly, some quietly, each in their own unique way mirroring the often difficult struggles of the coming out process that LGBTQ individuals of all ages potentially face.

Personal Stories Project
Todd Williams, Center on Addison's Senior Services Manager, introduces the special event (seated left to right Jeannie Affelder and Ted Hoerl)
Personal Stories Project
Standing from left to right, Stefanie, Janet Anne, Linda, Sandi, Eva, Raymond. Seated Jeannie Affelder , Ted Hoerl. Kneeling Susan Lieberman, Ronn Smith

LGBTQ seniors share

We All Have a Story to Tell focus is on six LGBTQ seniors, but one didn’t need to be LGBTQ or a senior to admire the seniors’ tenacity and to reflect on one’s own struggles, fears, challenges, and hopefulness that creates a bond of human spirit.  We heard an account by a lesbian of being in a gay bar when the police came to raid it.  We heard a father talk about his long journey and four decades marriage as he struggled to keep his trans identity hidden, to no avail.  We heard of more than one grandparent who made the difference in a painful coming out story, being the one whose love was unconditional and unshaken, and also a neighbor who played the same role.  These vignettes and more, including short descriptions of each writer’s personal hero. 

The six senior authors sat in the front row of the Center on Addison, at times hugging each other to give support when their emotions took over.  All the audience in fact seemed deeply moved, mentioning how powerful the works were in conversations following the performance in an informal get together hosted by the Center on Addison.


Amy Munice, Editor/Publisher of Picture this Post which is also one of the sponsors of the Personal Stories Project and who was in the audience for this performance commented, “This show needs another performance and in a larger venue.  These seniors speak for all of us determined to follow our own path.  For anyone who has ever experienced wanton cruelty – and isn’t that most of us—these are incredibly inspiring stories of perseverance.


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Photos courtesy of Personal Stories Project.

About the Author:

Steven Braun,Volunteer Engagement Committee Leader and Volunteer Trainer at Center on Halsted was born and raised suburbanite, now 30 years Chicago urbanite. Steve is a real estate entrepreneur and germane to these pages, also a member of, advocate for, and friend to the LGBTQ Community. When not volunteering, writing, or at the gym, Steve can be found watching "House Hunters."





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