Spotlight: First Folio reading series showcases works by Alfred Tennyson, O. Henry

  • First Folio Theatre artistic associate Nick Sandys reads Alfred Tennyson's "Ring Out, Wild Bells" as part of the theater's online reading series.

    First Folio Theatre artistic associate Nick Sandys reads Alfred Tennyson's "Ring Out, Wild Bells" as part of the theater's online reading series. Courtesy of David Rice

Posted12/23/2020 6:00 AM

Winter delights

First Folio Theatre's family-friendly winter reading series continues with artistic associate Nick Sandys reading Alfred Tennyson's "Ring Out, Wild Bells." Part of Tennyson's elegy for Arthur Henry Hallam, the poem was reportedly inspired by the poet hearing church bells ringing on New Year's Eve. Also this week, artistic associates Heather and Mark Chrisler read "The Gift of the Magi," O. Henry's short story about an impoverished young couple and their selfless expressions of love for each other.


Streaming online through Jan. 3 at First Folio's YouTube channel.

Heather and Mark Chrisler, First Folio Theatre artistic associates, read O. Henry's "The Gift of the Magi" as part of the theater's winter reading series.
Heather and Mark Chrisler, First Folio Theatre artistic associates, read O. Henry's "The Gift of the Magi" as part of the theater's winter reading series. - Courtesy of David Rice
Women of Steel

Steel Beam Theatre's Women of Steel livestream series showcasing accomplished women from history, literature and theater continues with best-selling children's writer Beatrix Potter, author of "The Tales of Peter Rabbit." Paddy Lynn portrays the 19th-century writer and conservationist.

7 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 27. Performances continue monthly through January. $10. See

NYE laughs

Comedian Calvin Evans, of Comedy Central's "Southside" as well as "Chicago PD" and "Shameless," headlines a virtual New Year's Eve performance livestreamed from Zanies Rosemont.

Livestreamed at 8 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 31, and rebroadcast at 10:30 p.m. $10 for the livestream, $25 for the VIP experience. See or

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In other news

• Lookingglass Theatre Company in collaboration with WBEZ added additional air dates for the audio version of "Her Honor Jane Byrne," Lookingglass ensemble member J. Nicole Brooks' drama about the late Mayor Jane Byrne's decision to move into the Cabrini-Green Homes in 1981. The show's March premiere was cut short by the COVID-19 pandemic. The new air dates are 8 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 27, and 11 a.m. Friday, Jan. 1. Tune to 91.5 FM or see

• In the wake of COVID-19-related theater closings, The Show Girls, comprised of Chicago-area actresses over 50, created a web series titled "What Did Clyde Hide?" about women attending the Zoom funeral of a Hollywood director who died mysteriously. Episodes are available for free at However, The Show Girls are soliciting donations for The Actors Fund, which offers financial assistance to performing artists and entertainers, particularly seniors and immunocompromised individuals.

• Shattered Globe Theatre announced a new digital initiative SGT: Voices. Established in response to the COVID-related theater closures to amplify the voices of Black, Indigenous and People of Color artists, the new series showcases works by singer/songwriter Betty LaVette and writer Maya Angelou among others. See

• Applications will be accepted from Jan. 1 to Feb. 28 for the 16th Annual Johnny Mercer Songwriters Project sponsored by the Johnny Mercer Foundation and the American Music Theatre Project at Northwestern University. The summer 2021 virtual songwriting workshop is open to aspiring songwriters between the ages of 18 and 30 working in any musical style. The 12 applicants selected will spend a week attending virtual writing sessions and master classes. The program's alumni include Tony, Oscar and Golden Globe Award winners Benj Pasek and Justin Paul; Fred Ebb Award winners Sam Willmott, Shaina Taub, Ben Bonnema and Christopher Staskel; Latin Grammy Award winners Obed Bermudez and singer/actress Jennifer Pena among others. For guidelines and to apply, see

• The McAninch Arts Center at the College of DuPage received a Partner in Excellence Grant of $44,500, from the Illinois Arts Council Agency. The PIE program recognizes organizations that bring high-quality arts activities to diverse communities throughout Illinois and provides general operating support to designated organizations. The program places a priority on access to arts programs for rural, underserved and multicultural audiences. The MAC is one of 31 arts, education and culture organizations -- including The Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago Symphony Orchestra, the Goodman Theatre, The Joffrey Ballet and Steppenwolf Theatre Company, among others -- to receive the PIE grant.

• Dr. John Ransford Watts, former dean of The Theatre School at DePaul University from 1979 to 1999, died Dec. 14 in Mundelein. He was 90. A teacher, designer, director and school scholar, Watts was responsible for re-establishing the Goodman School of Drama after it moved from the Art Institute of Chicago to DePaul University in 1978. During his tenure, Watts helped transform DePaul's theater school into one of the premiere conservatories in the country. "Watts' work to secure the position of the school within DePaul, attract high-quality staff and faculty, and develop a sophisticated curriculum led to top 10 conservatory rankings, the construction of our new facilities, and amazing creative accomplishments by our alumni," said current Theatre School Dean John Culbert in a prepared statement.

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