StoryArk~People Make the Difference

The Board and our Advisors are exceptional

Stephani Atkins: Executive Director

Stephani Atkins is the Founder and Artistic Director for StoryArk. She also serves as the executive producer and host of the radio podcast Voices in the Valley uploaded every Saturday morning. In addition, Ms. Atkins leads the HUSH Audio Drama Team as writing mentor and executive producer of #HUSHpodcast. As an artist, Ms. Atkins works on literary art projects that are realized on multiple formats (video, audio, web, print and other media). She is a freelance writer of marketing and advocacy materials. Prior to StoryArk, Stephani worked as a marketing director, substitute taught middle school English, and served as a director of student programming for both large and small non-profit educational programs. She graduated from Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois with a liberal arts degree that focused on journalism, American culture and secondary education.

Ellen Eigner: Programming Director

Ellen Eigner recently retired from Stillwater Public Schools after teaching for 30 years. She has taught all grade levels at some point in her career and has received the “Excellent Educator Award” from the Wisconsin Center for Academically Talented Youth. She also earned the District 834 Teacher Recognition Award. She has received numerous grants from major corporations like Toyota, Qwest, and AT&T. Ms. Eigner has served on a curriculum committee at Science Museum of Minnesota for opening of Catalhoyuk archaeological exhibit, created language arts curriculum at the request of author Lisa Westbrook Peters for her picture book, Our Family Tree, and written award winning interdisciplinary curriculum for ToyotaTime, combining chess, math, music and movie-making. She has also written award winning interdisciplinary curriculum for Computer Learning Foundation contest and presented at multiple professional workshops on the topic of "Unit Design for Curriculum Differentiation" She has been published several times in educational publications and is working at publishing her first children’s novel, titled “Lost and Never Found.”

Highlighted Consultants:

Kristin Wesloh: Consultant Underwriting and Sponsorship

Thanks to a grant from the Metropolitan Regional Arts Council, Story Ark was able to hire Kristen Wesloh, Director of Institutional Giving at American Public Media (including MPR), to help us move Voices in the Valley from a for-profit advertising system to a nonprofit underwriting and sponsorship model.

Dina Chapman: LA Screenwriter and #HUSHpodcast Writing Consultant

Ms. Chapman was recently interviewed on Voices in the Valley about how to write a television series by student director Lee Menzel and Head Writer Emma Atkins. The HUSH Audio Drama Team is modeling their creative process on scriptwriting methods for episodic television, and so the interview focused on tips from television writing that could be applied to radio. Ms. Chapman was so impressed with the HUSH Team that she volunteered to be a writing consultant for #HUSHpodcast. Currently, Ms. Chapman works as a staff writer for CMT’s half-hour comedy “Still the King” and just sold to CMT her hour-long comedic pilot “His Wives and Daughters.” Among her extensive credits, Ms. Chapman wrote, directed and produced “Rhinoskin: the Making of a Movie Star,” a critically acclaimed mockumentary that screened at 17 international film festivals and was selected by The New York Foundation for The Arts and the Tribeca Film Center as one of eight films to “Best Exemplify American Independent Filmmaking.”

Chris Kohtz: Radio and Podcast

Chris Kohtz is the founding owner of The Wedge & Wheel, an artisan cheese shop/cheese bar in Stillwater. Before opening Wedge & Wheel, Mr. Khotz worked in on-air and online content production, business development and distribution work in classical, news, documentary and station management for local and national radio and television. He served as Director of National Program Distribution for American Public Media and producer of A Prairie Home Companion, Marketplace and Splendid Table.

Tracy Maurer: Novel and Publishing

Tracy Maurer is an accomplished and award-winning author of more than 100 books for children and young adults. Ms. Maurer leads workshops, classes and hands-on sessions for students of all ages at the Loft Literary Center, schools, libraries and other learning environments. Since 2009, Ms. Maurer has been the LILA Liaison to the Minnesota Twins Diversity Department.

The StoryArk Board:

Renee Cveykus (Secretary)

Renee Cveykus is a Principal Regulatory Affairs Specialist at Medtronic. Before joining Regulatory, Renee held various Information Technology and Quality positions, eventually teaching and leading Lean and Six Sigma at Medtronic. Renee was one of Medtronic’s first Certified Master Black Belts and holds the record for most completed Kaizens (30+) within Medtronic.

Julie Finch

Julie Finch is a trademark, copyright, social media, business and licensing lawyer with broad experience in corporate, government and private practice. Ms. Finch has been in-house counsel for Honeywell; an Assistant Attorney General for the State of Minnesota; and a partner at Hinshaw & Culbertson and Rider Bennett. She has served as an adjunct professor at the William Mitchell Business Law Clinic, the College of St. Catherine and the University of St. Thomas.

Steve Forseth (Treasurer)

Steve Forseth, now retired, has had a storied career in the arts, sports and business. He taught art at the secondary level for 14 years and currently judges the Minnesota State Fair 4H Fine Arts Competition. In sports, Mr. Forseth has been the Head Track Coach at Stillwater High School and served as the Assistant Track and Field Coach at the University of Minnesota coaching 6 collegiate athletes to 14 national championships, including helping train an athlete who made the 1992 Olympic team. In his corporate life, Mr. Forseth worked for almost 30 years at Tierney Brothers in sales and management.

Brenda Hudson

Brenda Hudson, founder of Voiced Life, is a teacher, editor, writer, and a credentialed journaling instructor. For nearly ten years she worked abroad in journalism at NBC News in London and New York and at the BBC World Service Television in London. She regularly offers adult and youth writing workshops at the Loft Literary Center, where she received the 2016 Excellence in Teaching Fellowship

Jim Link

Jim Link is the founder of Idea-Link, Inc., a Minnesota company that specializes in the generation, refinement and marketing of new ideas. In addition to his consulting, Jim is an author, trainer and sought-after keynote speaker. His first book, Idea-Links: The New Creativity, won numerous national awards.

Beverly Petrie

Beverly Petrie is the executive director of The Partnership Plan, an independent nonprofit foundation for the Stillwater Area Public School District. She has a background in journalism and communications and was an award-winning writer and editor for newspapers and magazines in Iowa and Minnesota.

Michael Smith (Chair)

Michael Smith is a regional director for Huntington Learning Centers, Twin Cities. Before moving to the US, Michael led an entrepreneurial program for a British Community College that initiated a wide range of businesses designed to engage students in their chosen field of study. One of these businesses, a marketing agency called MAD Creative, was recognized at the European level for its innovative approach to engage and develop creative students.

#HUSHpodcast Professionals:

Calyssa Hall: Director

Calyssa Hall is the Artistic Director for the Zephyr Theater in Stillwater and has worked for many years as a freelance director, stage manager, musician, production coordinator, lighting designer, and technicial for professional and community theaters throughout the greater Twin Cities area. She graduated Summa Cum Laude in music and musical theater from the University of Wisconsin – River Falls. Ms. Hall has taught drama in the Stillwater Area School District and has directed community education theater programs in Inver Grove Heights and South St. Paul. In 2013, she founded the company that is now known as Only a Dim Image Productions and will further its mission through the creation of The Zephyr Theater.

Alan Frechtman: Recording Producer and Foley Mentor

Alan Frechtman worked with Garrison Keillor on Prairie Home Companion as far back as its origin as American Radio Company of the Air (ARCA). For Prairie Home, his responsibilities included a number of technical roles including VIP of Special Projects, Producer, and even a little writing and performing. He toured internationally with Prairie Home Companion while freelancing as a Live Producer for Minnesota Public Radio. He currently works as the Stage Manager and Head Carpenter at the Fitzgerald Theater and as Stage Manager for the Minnesota State Fair at the Carousel Park Stage. In addition, since 2000, Mr. Frechtman has worked with students at Wayzata High School on their theater productions.

Randal Berger: Acting Coach

Randal Berger (SAG-AFTRA/AEA) has worked professionally as an actor, director, producer and educator since 1988. He received his BFA from Texas Christian University and thereafter began his career in Dallas/Ft. Worth. Since moving to the Twin Cities in 1991 Randal has performed on stage at The Old Log, The Ordway, The Fitzgerald, The Music Box, Pillsbury House, The Margolis Brown Company, The Minneapolis Theatre Garage, and The Playwright’s Center. He has also produced, performed and directed productions for the MN Fringe Festival. He is a founding member of The Burning House Group Theater Company (BHG) and has performed, directed, produced and taught with them since 1994. In addition to his teaching capacity with BHG, Randal has taught classes for Upstream Arts; Randal’s voiceover credits include the lead role of Kyle Katarn in Star Wars: Dark Forces audiobook trilogy series. He has performed in numerous on-camera and voiceover commercial campaigns for Hardy’s, Best Buy, Home Depot, and Mall of America, to name a few. His feature films credit include Herman USA and Ode to Joy, as well as starring in the 48-hour Film Festival’s "Best Film"Buddy Buddy.

Jenna Yaron: Producer and Production Mentor

Jenna Yaron is the operational and production manager of KLBB 1220-AM and the producer of each week’s episode of Voices in the Valley. In addition, Jenna produced the first episode of HUSH, “Don’t Cry Over Cold Tea” and has been a part of HUSH Audio Drama Team from its inception.

StoryArk Matters

StoryArk provides a variety of creative programming for youth, allowing them to tell their story through their chosen medium - whether that be a novel, poetry, film, song, podcast or anything else they can dream up. Student initiated and student led, each project is imagined, designed, and developed by youth. Professional authors, screenwriters, filmmakers, musicians, producers, directors and actors share their expertise and experience, helping students gain new skills in their craft and empowering them to become their best creative selves.

StoryArk is a 501c(3) tax exempt organization that seeks to serve the greater good.

Empower student voices; equip teen artists to succeed