True life tales of a childhood in Niagara Falls

David Kodeski

UIC staff member David Kodeski performs “True Life Tales from the Honeymoon Capital of the World,” Oct. 16 at Stage 773, based on his life growing up in Niagara Falls. Musician Naomi Ashley will perform songs composed for his stories.

When people hear that David Kodeski is from Niagara Falls, they’re surprised that anyone actually lives there.

“They seem to think it’s just a big touristy waterfall — in Canada, no less — where people go to get married,” he said.

Tales from his childhood there are the stuff of “True Life Tales from the Honeymoon Capital of the World (some of which are true),” to be performed Oct. 16, 17, 23 and 24 at Stage 773, 1225 W. Belmont.

Kodeski, assistant to the vice provost for planning and programs, will be on stage with musician Naomi Ashley, who will perform songs she composed based on his stories. The two will be accompanied by musicians playing accordion, violin, bass, guitar and drums.

Some of his Niagara Falls stories are true, Kodeski said.

“Some are how I remember things; memory is completely fallible. And some I have to make up out of whole cloth to make the story flow,” he said.

One tale, “Mr. Forgione and the Barefoot Hippie,” concerns a postal worker in the neighborhood who chases then-teenaged Kodeski and a friend with a two-by-four because they’ve been picking on his daughters.

Kodeski peeks into the postman’s home to discover great quantities of mail. “Judging by the stacks of these circulars, samples and coupons, it is fairly obvious that Mr. Forgione didn’t always deliver all the mail all of the time,” he said.

In another “True Life Tale,” Kodeski works one hot summer at the Fantasy Island theme park, wearing a bear costume in a production of “Goldilocks and the Three Bears.”

“My parents were pleased because I was putting my theater arts degree from Niagara County Community College to good use,” he said.

“We were not gentle bears, mostly because the woman who lip-synced Goldilocks was a stick-in-the-mud pain. She was majoring in television and radio journalism and when I see the boxes of hair that are news anchors today, I can see that she could very easily have gone on to become a TV news anchor. A TV news anchor in a very small market.”

A couple of Kodeski’s stories have aired on National Public Radio.

He read “Niagara (you should have been Yosemite)” on “This American Life,” and “Another Lousy Day” on “All Things Considered.”

The latter is based on the diaries and scrapbooks of a factory worker named Dolores, who lived in the McKinley Park neighborhood. Years after her death, Kodeski found the items in a Chicago resale store.

Many of her observations invoked the mantra “another lousy day,” hence the title of the story.

“I’m posting her diary entries daily on Facebook,” Kodeski said. “She’s kind of a hit on social media.”

Kodeski is a founding member of the local performance ensemble BoyGirlBoyGirl. The performers perform original monologues about a news article, drawing on their own experiences. Each comes up with 15 minutes of material; four or five pieces make up the show.

The pieces are “generally funny, but often have a darker core to them,” he said.

He has also performed with local theater companies Lucky Pierre, Theater Oobleck, the Encyclopedia Show and the Pansy Kings and was an ensemble member of the Neo-Futurists, known for “Too Much Light Makes the Baby Go Blind.”

Recently he’s been putting on a series of one-night-only shows, “Happy to See Me,” with Ashley, her band and fellow BGBG ensemble members. The next performance, Nov. 16 at the Hideout, a Chicago bar, “asks the musical question, ‘Wouldn’t it be great if we could just roll up Columbus Day, Yom Kippur, Veteran’s Day, Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Christmas into one day and get them all over with at once?’”

Kodeski won the 1999 After Dark Award, and with his husband, fellow BGBG member Edward Thomas Herrera, the 2007 James Grigsby Award.

He earned a bachelor’s degree from Davis and Elkins College in West Virginia. In his job at UIC, where he’s worked since January 2013, Kodeski is working on the campus strategic plan and the reaccreditation process for the Higher Learning Commission. “We work with the chancellor’s office and the provost’s office,” he said.

For 10 years he was a producer for the Siskel and Ebert TV show. He also worked in continuing medical education and spent another 10 years working in bookstores.

“My parents are the only ones in their family who graduated from high school,” the Lincoln Square resident said.

“It’s a big deal that I and my siblings went to college. I imagine their children will get advanced degrees.”

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Campus, Staff