Gwendolyn Brooks Offspring to Offer Live Theater Initiatives

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Gwendolyn Brooks

“The Tiger Who Wore White Gloves,” Nora Brooks Blakely’s musical based on Gwendolyn Brooks’ book Launches Initiative

Bean Soup Times recently learned that eta Creative Arts Foundation and the Chicago Teachers Union Foundation (CTUF) are partnering to present a new initiative connecting literature to drama. The 2017 “Live” Theater Initiative for families will be launched with “The Tiger Who Wore White Gloves,” a musical play by Nora Brooks Blakely based on the book by her mother, celebrated Illinois poet laureate, Gwendolyn Brooks.

Targeted to families, the initiative is designed to encourage early childhood reading, to introduce youngsters to live theater and reinforce youth as part of the eta culture. eta has served as a center for the development and training of artistic aspirations of youth since its inception. The initiative is also designed to bring attention to Gwendolyn Brooks’ contributions to children’s literature as the city closes out the Centennial Celebration of the first African American to win a Pulitzer Prize for poetry.

“We are proud to partner with the Chicago Teachers Union Foundation on this initiative which links reading to drama for the purpose of fostering the magic of words and images in early learning,” said Kemati Porter, producing artistic director of eta. “Any family member can read this book with children then share the dramatic dimension “live” theatre adds to that reading exercise.”

The 2017 “Live” Theater Initiative will encourage students throughout the city of Chicago to read Gwendolyn Brooks’ book which has a powerful message about self-acceptance. They can then attend a live performance of “The Tiger Who Wore White Gloves,” making the connection between literature and live theater. “Tiger” opens on the eta Mainstage October 20 and runs through December 23, 2017. Previews begin October 15.

“The Chicago Teachers Union Foundation is very excited to be collaborating with eta on this important project,” said Carmen Curet, Executive Director for CTUF. “It has great potential as an intervention strategy against violence. We want families to read this book at home, at local libraries, in schools and churches, and then join the theater community for an extended experience of what the work can and does become.”

Nora Brooks Blakely was the producing artistic director and primary playwright for Chocolate Chips Theatre Company in Chicago for 29 years. Her readings and lectures have been conducted in several states. Ms Blakely taught for eight years in the Chicago Public Schools and spent over 20 years teaching drama and writing workshops for students and teachers. Nora has also served on boards and committees for several youth and arts organizations. She is the daughter of two writers, Henry Blakely and Gwendolyn Brooks and founded Brooks Permissions, a company which manages her mother’s body of work and promotes its continued relevance in the 21st century. She is elated by the well-deserved year-long Centennial Celebration for her mother.

Gwendolyn Brooks, Illinois Poet Laureate from 1968 until her death in 2000 had a passion for poetry and youth. For 30 years beginning in 1969, she personally oversaw The Youth Poetry Awards to encourage young poets to write. She was intimately involved in every aspect of the competition, from supervising the selection process, speaking at the awards ceremony and corresponding with the hundreds of student poets, parents, teachers, and administrators impacted by this experience. Thousands of dollars of her own money was committed to the Awards. Gwendolyn Brooks summed up the contest best in a note from 1977: “All the children who entered the contest are winners . . . . They worked hard. They created. And that is what is important.”

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