Words in the Wind

Two concert-style performances of children's books by some of C-U's best actors and musicians. 7 pm Thursday, Nov. 14, and 7 pm Tuesday, Nov. 19

Lisa Dixon and Kent Conrad performing at last year's Words in the Wind

Lisa Dixon and Kent Conrad performing at last year's Words in the Wind

Some of Champaign-Urbana’s best actors will offer two presentations this year of Words in the Wind, their concert-style readings of children’s books. The first will take place at 7 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 14, at Faith United Methodist Church, 1719 S. Prospect Ave., Champaign. Then the actors will present a more casual, encore performance at the Station Theatre, 223 N. Broadway Ave., Urbana, at 7 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 19.

Both shows, organized by University of Illinois associate professor of theater Tom Mitchell, will raise funds for Illinois Public Media’s Book Mentor Project. A suggested donation of $10 per person or $20 per family will be requested at the door.

“The performances are created for adults, but children might enjoy them as well,” Mitchell said. “It’s a chance for grown-ups to take secret pleasure in enjoying the concise stories and playful language in books that we only get to read when we are kids or parents with kids.” As in past years, he said, the performances will feature surprisingly funny and sometimes profound children’s books performed by excellent actors and musicians.

The second performance this year will give the actors a chance to share the excitement about the Book Mentor Project with a wider audience, he said. “Mostly, we have found that it is fun to perform these books, and we like to work together, so this gives us a second chance to do it,” he said. Performers include Kent Conrad, Gary Ambler, Barbara Evans, Cara Maurizi, Christine Sevec-Johnson, Mindy Manolakes, Cameron Cornell, Angela Marcum, David Butler and Kay Holley. Three volunteers in the Book Mentor Project, Barbara Ridenour, Jessica Holmes and Joe Murphy, will present “Caps for Sale” by Esphyr Slobodkina.

Other performances will include the books "How to Make a Night" by Linda Ashman; “The Man Who Lived in a Hollow Tree" by Anne Shelby and Cor Hazelaar; and "Cool Daddy Rat" by Kristyn Crow.

Illinois Public Media’s Book Mentor Project recruits and trains volunteers from local businesses, community service organizations and student groups. Book mentors visit Head Start and early childhood classrooms where they read a book and do a related activity with the children. Then each child gets to take home a copy of the book, with about 5,000 books provided to 720 families yearly. The project also reaches children and families through online games and videos, DVDs, mobile apps, classroom math and science kits, and family nights.