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Former Chicago actor Harry Lennix, whose screen credits range from Robert Townsend's The Five Heartbeats and Spike Lee's Get On the Bus to recurring roles on such TV series as ER, 24, and the hilarious Little Britain USA (in which he played an Obama-like American president forced to fend off the outrageous sexual advances of the British prime minister), will participate as a special guest artist in a benefit for Pegasus Players on Monday, January 3. The event will feature readings of winning scripts from Pegasus's 2010 Chicago Young Playwrights Festival, a competition open to teen playwrights around the Chicago area. As previously reported here, the once seemingly moribund Pegasus has been revitalized by a new partnership with Hull House Association, "whose mission of reaching out to the underserved perfectly complements Pegasus's commitment to youth and community education," according to Pegasus's new board president, playwright David Barr. The event begins with a pre-performance reception at 6:30 PM at Lookingglass Theatre, 821 N. Michigan, 708-720-0413. Tickets are "pay what you can," with a $25 suggested donation to benefit the Chicago Young Playwrights Festival. Tickets may be purchased at the door (box office opens at 6:15 PM or at www.ovationtix.com/trs/pr/796825.
Lennix, a Chicago native who studied theater at Northwestern University and once worked as a Chicago public schoolteacher, got his start in local theater at Pegasus, appearing in the 1987 Young Playwrights Festival before taking off-Loop theater by storm with his blistering performance as the ill-fated jazz musician Levee in Pegasus's 1988 Chicago premiere of August Wilson's great drama Ma Rainey's Black Bottom. The production, presented at the Edgewater Presbyterian Church (now home of City Lit Theater), was the first professional staging of one of Wilson's plays in Chicago. Lennix reprised his role in Goodman Theatre's 1997 staging of the play; his other Chicago stage credits include a memorable 1989 portrayal of Malcolm X in Jeff Stetson's The Meeting at the Chicago Theatre Company, the title role in Court Theatre's 1992 Othello, Walter Lee in Goodman's 2000 revival of A Raisin in the Sun, and shows at Northlight, Stage Left, Lifeline, and the fabled Wisdom Bridge Theatre.