Teesee’s Town: Mavis Staples to headline Chicago Tonight’s 25th anniversary gala

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Legendary Grammy-winning Mavis Staples, a true American treasure and icon whose signature voice of the Civil Rights Movement belts out message songs in a style all her own, performs at the Harris Theatre in Millennium Park on April 17 for a silver celebra

Legendary Grammy-winning Mavis Staples, a true American treasure and icon whose signature voice of the Civil Rights Movement belts out message songs in a style all her own, performs at the Harris Theatre in Millennium Park on April 17 for a silver celebration of our town’s cultural, artistic and political life honoring Chicago Tonight’s 25th anniversary, WTTW and WFMT. Also featured is a variety of artists, all with strong ties to Chicago: Billy Corgan of Smashing Pumpkins, for a once-in-a-lifetime collaboration with Mavis, Chicago Symphony Orchestra, Second City performers, 7-year-old piano prodigy Emily Bear and other surprise celebrities. Limited $125 tickets include the onstage celebration and a post reception. Call (773) 509-5525 or e-mail ask@wttw.com.

And more on Mavis: she performs at “Matteson Fest” on June 12 in the south suburbs. From Oct. 17-24, she headlines the Legendary Rhythm & Blues Cruise, “Bluesin’ 2009 Pacific,” striking out from San Diego on Holland America’s intimate Ms Veendam and hitting Mazatlan, La Paz and Cabo San Lucas, Mexico. Call (888) BLUESIN (258-3746).

Lunch Time – Bridge, whist, bingo, shopping and lots more are on Saturday’s agenda when National Women of Achievement hosts its 20th Annual Scholarship Luncheon at the Oak Lawn Hilton, so says Dr. Helen Davis Gardner. NWA’s president is Dr. Susan Frazier; Dr. Carrie Filer Davis, executive board member and past national president. Call Rose Carter (773) 785-0915 for reservations.

Curtain Call! – Innovative hip hop theatre pioneer and award-winning actor, rapper, playwright and educator Will Power’s original musical adventure, Honey Bo and the Gold Mine, is playing (through June 5) at eta Square, 7558 South Chicago, as part of ShowFolk, the daytime series for youngsters of all ages, including teens and the “young at heart.” Bobby Andrews directs; Wanda Bishop is musical director. Admission: $6; $5 for groups. Call (773) 752-3955 or visit http://www.etacreativearts.org.

When an unscrupulous land developer threatens to bulldoze 13-year-old Honey Bo’s neighborhood, she’s determined to prevent it. She travels to the Haunted Gold Mine, battling misers, soulless soul singers and her own fears to discover the gold within. It’s penned and scored by Power, a new shining star who has been called “electrifying” (Newsday) and “dynamic performer” (Variety). He received the prestigious Theatre Communications Group Peter Zeisler Memorial Award, Joyce Award, New York Foundation for the Arts Fellowship, Jury Award for Best Theatre Performance at the HBO US Comedy Arts Festival and Drama Desk nomination for Best Solo Performance.

Power’s signature energetic dance movements and rhythmic singing is incorporated in this urban tale that captures the essence and importance of what it means to be a part of a community. In storytelling narrative, he uses symbolic characters – Big Daddy Miser, Soulless Soul Singers, Queen Abundance – to teach us to find the courage within ourselves to stand up for one another.

Congrats – to Chicago award-winning playwright, producer and conceptual theater artist Ifa Bayeza on her nomination from the Mystery Writers of America for an Edgar Award in the category of “Best Play“ for "The Ballad of Emmett Till," which was staged in 2008 at the Goodman Theatre. The Edgars are named after NMA’s patron saint, Edgar Allan Poe, and are considered the Oscars of the mystery genre. Winners will be announced April 30.

Bayeza, whose works for the stage include Amistad Voices, Club Harlem and Homer G & the Rhapsodies for which she received a Kennedy Center Fund for New American Plays Fellowship, is co-founder of DBA Studios, doing business artistically, creating innovative theater-based work to encourage dialogue among races, cultures and people. The company’s premiere production and her hip-hop musical, "Kid Zero," with music by Harvey Mason, has been seen by over 12,000 public school students in Chicago, St. Louis and New York.

She was the original dramaturg and set designer for her sister Ntozake Shange’s landmark production, "For Colored Girls Who Considered Suicide When the Rainbow Is Enuf." Awards include fellowships to the Tuck School Minority Business Executive Program and the Arna Bontemps Centennial Writer’s Fellowship. A graduate of Harvard Univ., Bayeza is a board member of the SonEdna Literary Foundation founded by Morgan Freeman and his former wife Myrna Colley-Lee.

Film Focus – Legendary filmmaker Melvin Van Peebles (he’s my sexy new man, you know! LOL) makes his way back here Friday, 6 p.m., to present the Chicago premiere of his film, "Confessionsofa Ex-Doofus-Itchy-Footed Mutha," at the historic Parkway Ballroom, 45th and King Dr., followed by an intimate dialogue with media sis Bonnie De-Shong about his career and his film, which premiered in ‘08 at the Tribeca Film Festival in NYC. In the film, Van Peebles embraces the new age of digital filmmaking to portray a fanciful version of himself growing tired of life at home when only 10 years old and deciding to run away and see the world. The $25 per ticket event event, hosted by Chef Cliff Rome, one of the creators of the Parkway Picture Show series, includes popcorn and free parking. There’ll be a cash bar. The film launches the first of five screenings as part of the new series. Purchase tickets online at parkwayballroom.eventbrite.com.

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