Columbia College Chicago alumni and students are in the cast and creative team of Nora Brooks Blakely‘s musical The Tiger Who Wore White Gloves, running through December 23 at ETA Creative Arts Foundation, 7553 S. South Chicago, on Chicago’s South Side. The show is adapted by Blakely from a poem by her mother, Pulitzer Prize-winning poet and Columbia College Honorary Doctorate recipient Gwendolyn Brooks HDR ’64. This exuberant musical concerns Taji, a young tiger who’s always feeling outclassed. Taji’s friends — including Kapeni, a crybaby crocodile addicted to soap operas — help him realize that the best person to be is always yourself. Izaiah Harris, a student in the Columbia College Chicago Music Department‘s BA Program in Music with a Concentration in Contemporary, Urban and Popular Music and a Teaching Artist Minor, plays Taji the tiger. The cast also includes Columbia alum Mondisa Monde ’14, a graduate of the Columbia College Chicago Theatre Department‘s BA Program in Musical Theatre, as Kapeni the Crybaby Crocodile. Columbia alum Alexis Willis ’16, a graduate of the Theatre Department’s BA Program in Theatre, is an understudy. The Tiger Who Wore White Gloves is co-directed by Columbia College alum Aaron Mitchell Reese ’12, a graduate of the Theatre Department’s Theatre Directing program.
Gwendolyn Brooks, whose poetry inspired this musical written by her daughter, was the first African-American writer to receive the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry, when she won the award in 1950 for her poetry collection Annie Allen. In 1964, Columbia College Chicago bestowed its first Honorary Doctorate on Brooks, who also taught at the college. She served as Illinois’ Poet Laureate from 1968 until her death in 2000, and was also the first African-American woman inducted into the American Academy of Arts and Letters.