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Northwestern football star kicks off ‘Imagine U Storytime’ lineup

The family friendly virtual series announces April programming

EVANSTON, Ill. --- It’s not often a defensive lineman graces the stage of Northwestern University’s Wirtz Center for the Performing Arts. When Wildcat Joe Spivak (’21) isn’t tackling his opponents, he’s exercising his love for storytelling as a theatre minor. The Darien, Ill., native will join the Wirtz Center and Northwestern department of theatre’s “Imagine U Storytime” lineup with an original story April 4.

“A lot of people think my favorite part about football is making a play or tackling someone… it’s not,” Spivak said. “The best part about football is the relationships you form. That is the same reason I love storytelling. Stories connect us and allow us to take a walk in someone else’s shoes and bring us closer.”

Spivak’s original story, “The Tale of Tafa,” shares the importance of smiling, inspired by his father’s daily reminder that “the smile is what lets people see what’s inside.” While he looks back fondly on the stories his father used to tell him about his days playing football, Spivak credits Rives Collins, department chair of theatre at Northwestern’s School of Communication, with introducing him to the power of storytelling.

The “Imagine U Storytime” series aims to provide engaging content for families to enjoy together at home, as well as highlight the talented students, faculty and alumni in the theatre for young audiences training program.

Airing on the Wirtz Center YouTube channel, the weekly video series continues until June with stories, including “Let’s Imagine with Harold and the Purple Crayon!” and a Korean folktale titled “The Tale of Shimcheong.” New videos are posted at 6 p.m. on Sundays and remain online for streaming.

“Imagine U Storytime” began in April 2020 as a way to connect community members through the arts during the global pandemic.

“It has been remarkable to see what our story artists have created to delight young audiences,” said Lynn Kelso, Imagine U founder and creative mentor. “We are very excited to return to continue to share these artistic gifts with our families in these challenging times.”

Upcoming “Imagine U Storytime” programs:

"The Tale of Tafa”
Sunday, April 4, 6 p.m. CDT

Summer is over, and that means the first day of school is right around the corner for Tafa the Shark. Excited to learn new things and meet new fish, Tafa bolts to school but struggles with making new friends and fitting in. During this reading by Joe Spivak (’21), join Tafa in his first days of school and follow him to the stage of the annual back-to-school talent show where he reminds all of us about the power of a smile.

"The Tale of Shimcheong” (A Korean Folktale)
Sunday, April 11, 6 p.m. CDT

When young Shimcheong is given a chance to cure her father’s blindness, she takes it, even though it means sacrificing herself. But the magical journey that follows goes beyond what Shimcheong or anyone else could have ever imagined. Her adventure forces her to have courage and conviction. Through loyal Shimcheong’s story, told by Claire Kwon (’22), with illustrations by Peach Sahasakul (’22) and music by Julia Riew, we learn how to be brave in any situation and how precious our relationships truly are.

“Let’s Imagine with Harold and the Purple Crayon!”
Sunday, April 18, 6 p.m. CDT

Harold is a curious young boy who creates a world of his own using his two best tools: a purple crayon and his imagination. Join Matthew McGrory (’24) in traveling with Harold throughout his day, all while learning how to activate your creativity and problem solve. Come with a piece of paper and your favorite colorful writing tool. 

"The Berenstain Bears and the Tooth Fairy"
Sunday, April 25, 6 p.m. CDT

Ever wondered what it was like to be the tooth fairy? Come hear Ilana Abusch (’22) perform the classic story “The Berenstain Bears and the Tooth Fairy,” and learn how to go on tooth missions like a tooth fairy. 

“Imagine U Storytime” is inspired by the popular Imagine U performance series geared toward families with young children. The frequently sold-out productions take well-known children’s classics and adapt them for the stage. The program includes an opportunity to meet the cast, participate in workshops and receive a take-home program with activities related to the production themes.