Long Grove sixth-grader and her Glenview mentor star in 'Six Stories Up in Defiance'

Ashley Kruzel, a sixth-grader from Long Grove, and her adult mentor Nadia Stodder of Glenview are lost in a video game that goes terribly wrong. They are part of the cast of Tellin' Tales Theatre's production of "Six Stories Up in Defiance - a Video Game Musical."

The show was filmed live and runs virtually through Nov. 21, on Vimeo. Running time is approximately 60 minutes. Tickets are available at

What makes the "Six Stories Up" productions unique is that six middle school students and six adult mentors write and star in a play following a different theme each year.

The students tap into their own lives and experiences for inspiration. The cast includes members with and without disabilities.

Since its inception in 1996, marking 2021 as its 25th anniversary, Tellin' Tales Theatre has worked to shatter the barriers between the disabled and nondisabled worlds through the power of personal storytelling.

Nadia Stodder of Glenview is an aerial teacher at Aerial Dance Chicago. She has been involved in theater her whole life. In 2012 and 2013, Stodder was a middle-school age apprentice in "Six Stories Up in the Windy City" and in "Six Stories Up, Up and Away." For "Six Stories Up in Defiance - A Video Game Musical," she is now one of the adult mentors.

Stodder's apprentice is Ashley Kruzel of Long Grove, a sixth-grader who is home-schooled. Kruzel has been involved in improv classes and in School of Rock as a vocalist. Stodder enjoyed working with Kruzel on "Six Stories Up" and said, "Between her natural affinity for acting and her very real songwriting, I would not be surprised to see Ashley popping up on the big screen someday."

The cast for "Six Stories Up in Defiance - a Video Game Musical" includes middle school apprentices Henry Kephart (Oak Park), Ashley Kruzel (Long Grove), Jordyn Norberg (Highland Park), Paloma Sagel-Vidal (Chicago), Tiernan Tijalli (Glencoe), Naomi Reid (Baltimore, Maryland) and adult mentors Tekki Lomnicki (Chicago), Stephen Donart (Chicago), Nadia Stodder (Glenview), Mary Hobein (Woodridge), Kim D. Smith (Chicago) and Robert Teverbaugh (Chicago).

Founded in 1996, Tellin' Tales Theatre was conceived by Tekki Lomnicki, Michael Blackwell and Nancy Neven Shelton to promote and support a society where people of all abilities are accepted and equal, regardless of perceived ability.

The mission of Tellin' Tales Theatre is to shatter barriers between the disabled and nondisabled worlds through the transformative power of sharing personal narratives.

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