Nonprofit MEMA motivates CPS kids’ music appreciation

LONGTIME MUSIC PROMOTER Jeanne Warsaw-Gazga plans to give Chicago public school students a taste of “Glee” with a retro twist.

Her new nonprofit, MEMA, (Motivation Encouragement Music Appreciation) brings music education and social history to public school kids through the “Got the Music in Me” program, which blends classic socially conscious songs of the 1960s and ‘70s with scripts created by the kids that relate the music to their own experiences.

Though still in its early stages, the plan, according to Warsaw-Gazga, is to have both an after-school and daytime curricula in place that will provide the kids with “20 to 50 songs, with lyrics – nothing explicit. The idea is that they’ll journal about the music and get to a point where it resonates with their lives, and can then bounce ideas off each other in groups to create scenes related to the message in the songs.”

The program will also provide snapshots of the historical moment that created the songs in the first place, including the Vietnam War and the civil rights movement of the 1960s.

PLAYWRIGHT DARREN M. CANADY has won the 2012 M. Elizabeth Osborn New Play Award for an emerging playwright for his script Brothers of the Dust, which premiered with Congo Square Theatre Company last May.

Canady’s play concerns two African American brothers fighting over their ancestral home in 1950s rural Arkansas. The Osborn Award, administered by the American Theatre Critics Association, will be presented to Canady, along with the $1,000 purse, at ATCA’s June conference in Chicago

THE LEAGUE OF CHICAGO THEATRE announces five finalists for the 2012 Broadway in Chicago Emerging Theater Award.  The winner receives $5,000, professional consultation and a marketing and advertising support package.

The finalists are: Berwyn’s 16th Street Theater; Red Tape Theatre; Sideshow Theatre Company; The Music Theatre Company of Highland Park; and Theatre Seven of Chicago.

The winning company will receive its award at the League’s annual gala, set for May 14.

Other honorees for that evening will include Charles Newell, artistic director of Court Theatre, for the Artistic Leadership Award and Brian Dennehy and Nathan Lane, who are appearing in the Goodman Theatre production of Eugene O’Neill’s The Iceman Cometh beginning April 21, as recipients of the 2012 Tribute Award.

Etel BilligCONDOLENCES TO THE FAMILY and friends of Etel Billig, a longtime actress and director on Chicago stages who co-founded the Equity-affiliated Illinois Theatre Center  in south suburban Park Forest with her late husband, Steve, in 1976.

Billig died after suffering a brain aneurysm at the theater she loved (and where she either directed or appeared in over 120 productions) on March 28.

The company’s upcoming production of Showtune, a revue built around the music of Jerry Herman and featuring Billig’s son Jonathan as music director, will open on Wednesday, April 18. Herman’s musicals celebrate indomitable women such as Dolly Levi and Mame Dennis.

It should be a fitting tribute to Billig’s legacy.

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