Lester N. Coney, Mesirow Financial’s bon vivant executive vice president, is adding “playwright” to his already impressive resume. He’s one of a trio of respected high-profile Chicagoans tapped to pen an original play to be perform

Lester N. Coney, Mesirow Financial’s bon vivant executive vice president, is adding “playwright” to his already impressive resume. He’s one of a trio of respected high-profile Chicagoans tapped to pen an original play to be performed for one-night-only at Victory Gardens Theater’s “Chicago Stories” benefit on May 1 at the Four Seasons Hotel. Joining Coney are Henry Bienen, Northwestern Univ. president, and Leigh Bienen, senior lecturer at Northwestern’s School of Law, a.k.a. Chicago’s power couple of higher education.

Some 500 VIPs and supporters will cheer on the first-time celebrity playwrights on their first-ever opening and closing night. Artistic director Dennis Zacek directs the 10-minute plays and casts them with actors from Victory Gardens’ stages. New this year: a surprise world premiere play and a special tribute to Marcelle McVay, outgoing managing director, who has announced her departure from VG after 34 years – 27 as its administrative leader.

Coney is chair emeritus of Goodman Theatre, a member of President Barack Obama’s National Finance Committee and one of the most influential African Americans, so named by Who’s Who in Black Chicago, and received the 2007 King Legacy Award from the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Boys & Girls Club of Chicago. Additionally, he’s the founding chair of Congo Square Theatre Co., chair emeritus of City Year Chicago and a trustee at The School of the Art Institute of Chicago and the DuSable Museum of African American History.

At one of the city’s most dramatic spring gala benefits, guests will enjoy pre-show cocktails and appetizers, extravagant silent and live auctions, a raffle and gourmet dining. Proceeds will help underwrite costs of producing world premieres, providing education programs for Chicago Public Schools, offering assistive devices and services to those with disabilities and making theater available to the underserved.

Benefit tickets are $300; tables of 10 start at $3,000. For reservations, call (773) 549- 5788, ext. 2140.

Links’ Lore – An exciting evening of casino games, silent auction, gourmet dinner and dancing is on the agenda at the Lake Shore Chapter of The Links’ 2009 benefit gala, Mardi Gras Mambo, on April 4 at the Hyatt Regency Hotel. Joan Boston and Sandra Starks McCollum are co-chairing the yearly $100 per ticket fundraiser that will provide educational, cultural and financial support to enrich the lives of youth residing on the West Side of Chicago, through college scholarships, mentoring and career guidance programs. Funds will also provide exposure to the arts for low-income students, assistance for homeless women at Pacific Garden Mission and educational and recreational opportunities for children in Africa in addition to supporting the national and international programs of The Links. ABC 7’s Harry Porterfield will emcee.

The chapter is led by Vicki Hill Brooks, president, and among other officers and members: Regena Glenn- Caldwell, Barbara M. Scott, Paula R. Jones, Natalie R. Puryear, Lauren W. Gore, Carrie Lapsky Davis, Ernita R. Cooper, Jacqueline Triche Atkins, Gwendolyn Harden, Gwendolyn Kenner-Johnson, Lula M. Ford, Carol Hillsman Sagers, Shelli Williams Hayes, Rita D. Wilson, Deveeree Morgan, Ida E. Cross-Pruitt, Sondra L. Few, Donna Simpson Leak, DeLois Mix, Jala Anderson-McKee and Barbara E. Pinder. In keeping with the theme, guests are encouraged to wear colorful Mardi Gras masques!

Movie Magic – Home Box Office (that’s HBO, you know!) partners with DuSable Museum on Thursday to host the Chicago preview showing of the HBO series, “The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency,” which stars vocalists Jill Scott and Anika Noni Rose (of "Dreamgirls" fame). It’s a series of 10 novels by British author Alexander McCall Smith. The eponymous agency is located in Gaborone, capital of Botswana, and its founder is a Batswana woman, Mma Precious Ramotswe, the stories’ protagonist and main detective (Jill). The episodic novels are as much about the adventures and foibles of different characters as they are about solving mysteries. Anika will greet guests at DuSable Museum. The series premieres Sunday, 8 p.m., on HBO. Tune in!


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