Well-deserved grants to three worthy arts companies

Meier Foundation winner Nick Sandys

YEAR’S END always brings accolades in the form of always-welcome grants, and there are three to acknowledge, starting with the generosity of The Helen Coburn Meier and Tim Meier Charitable Foundation.

The Meier Foundation, which quietly has been making substantial no-strings-attached gifts to mid-career artists for the past six years, announced the three 2011 recipients. They are:

Actor/director/fight choreographer Nick Sandys, artistic associate with Remy Bumppo and First Folio as well as a professor at the Theatre School at DePaul University; Composer/musician Jeff Kowalkowski, who has collaborated with many performance and music ensembles; Visual artist Wesley Kimler.

Each receives $33,333.33 (that’s $25,000 plus 33% for income tax).

Choreographer Carlos Dos SantosTHE JOFFREY BALLET announces the winners of the Second Annual Choreographers of Color Award: Carlos dos Santos, Jr., Ray Mercer, and Bennyroyce Royon.

Each receives a $2,500 stipend and 30 hours of rehearsal time to work on a new piece with Joffrey Academy trainees, to be presented at the Harris Theater for Music and Dance on March 11, 2012.

RAVEN THEATRE snagged a prestigious NEA grant to support “The Big Read,” an initiative designed to “restore reading to the center of American culture.” (Well, now that Oprah’s left the airwaves, somebody has to do it!)

The company will use the grant to create their first bilingual project, derived from “Sun, Stone, and Shadows: 20 Great Mexican Short Stories,” to be developed with input from the Edgewater and Rogers Park communities. 

A free kick-off party 3:30 p.m. on Saturday, Nov. 19, takes place at the Rogers Park branch of the Chicago Public Library, 6907 N. Clark Street.

HYDE PARK, the cradle of improv in America, goes back in time on Monday, Nov. 21, with a re-enactment of the first performance of the Compass Players, the forerunners to Second City.

From 7-9 p.m. at Jimmy’s Woodlawn Tap, 1172 E. 55th St., you can watch a contemporary group of performers channel Elaine May, Paul Sills, David Shepherd, Barbara Harris, and other improv pioneers, circa 1955.

Court Theatre’s Drew DirIt’s a collaboration with local re-enactment experts, Pocket Guide to Hell, Drew Dir of the Court Theatre, who also plays Sills, and improv artist Meredith Milliron.

A TRIBUTE to another beloved Second Citizen receives tribute: Mary Siewert Scruggs, who headed the writing and education programs at Second City, until her sudden death at age 46 from a heart attack last January, is honored with The Mary Siewert Scruggs Works by Women Festival.

The programs consist of sketches, songs, and scenes created by women students, graduates, and instructors at the Training Center.

It runs Nov. 25-Dec. 16 at Donny’s Skybox, 1608 N. Wells St. Click here for ticket information.

THE LEAGUE OF CHICAGO THEATRES tackles the evergreen problem of finding performance and rehearsal spaces by launching ChicagoSpaces.org. 

The free database of venues that will be searchable by location, rate, seating capacity, equipment, and much more.  So far, more than 80 locations are listed, with more to come.

The project was developed with Fractured Atlas, a nonprofit that serves a national community of artists and arts organizations.

PLAYWRIGHTS’ POSSIBILITIES: On Saturday, Nov. 19, 2 p.m., Tony Adler, culture editor for the Chicago Reader, hosts a panel discussion in conjunction with the Chicago Book Expo.

The topic is “Playwrights as Writers,” posing the question “Why aren’t the people who write for theater thought of as part of the literary community?”

The Goodman’s Tanya PalmerThose making the case for R-E-S-P-E-C-T for playwriting include novelist/playwright Joe Meno; Neo-Futurists founder Greg Allen; Goodman Theatre director of new play development Tanya Palmer; and playwright Marisa Wegrzyn. It takes place at the Uptown Goldblatt’s Building (formerly Borders Books), 4720 N. Broadway.

AND FOR SCRIBES with a taste for science, Fox Valley Repertory announces its 2nd Annual Collider New Play Festival, which allows three playwrights the chance to partner with scientists from nearby Fermilab to create a world premiere. Submissions can be made online through Jan. 1, 2012. Click here for details and to submit online.

AND OUR CONDOLENCES to the family and friends of actor, singer, and proud union ironworker, Daniel Patrick Loftus, who passed away earlier this month. A memorial will be held on Sunday, December 4, 1-4 p.m. at the Local #63 Union Hall, 2525 W. Lexington, Broadview.

Kerry Reid is a freelance theater critic and arts journalist. Her work appears regularly in the Chicago Tribune and Chicago Reader. Please send news items to kerryreid@comcast.net.