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Arts
Report for America is a national service program that places journalists into local newsrooms to report on under-covered issues and communities. This year's cohort has been placed with more than 160 local news organizations across 45 states and Puerto Rico, including two journalists right here at WNIJ. We are thrilled to announce the addition of JuanPablo Ramirez-Franco to our news team, and a new role for WNIJ reporter Yvonne Boose.Yvonne Boose covers artistic, cultural, and spiritual expressions in the COVID-19 era. This includes how members of community cultural groups are finding creative and innovative ways to enrich their personal lives through these expressions individually and within the context of their larger communities.Juanpablo Ramirez-Franco covers substandard housing and police-community relations. An audio producer and journalist based out of Chicago, he’s also been a bilingual facilitator at the StoryCorps office.He will continue Sarah Jesmer’s award-winning work at WNIJ covering issues of social justice and identity. Jesmer earned a top award from the Illinois Associated Press for reports including: Inside DeKalb County's Unincorporated Apartments; Wigs, Lipstick & Sparkles: The Thriving Drag Scene In Northern Illinois; and Kish College: Anonymous Letters And A Controversial Investigation.These reporting positions come at a time when local journalism is already reeling from years of newsroom cuts and unforeseen challenges brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic.Both positions are partially funded by a grant from Report for America. WNIJ must raise an additional $30,000 in local matching funds. Support these important voices in our community by donating to WNIJ’s portion here.Yvonne and Juanpablo’s stories on our community will be collected below.

Aurora Theater Will Once Again Welcome Live Audiences

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Paramount Theatre
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A historic northern Illinois theater is kicking off the return of live audiences, the first since the onset of the pandemic, with a musical centered around shoes.  

Jim Jarvis is the vice president of programming and sales at the Paramount Theatre in Aurora. He says the theater wanted to open with a show that had a powerful message coming off the heels of 2020.  

“And if there is ever a show, that is, you know, such a beautiful message about acceptance,” he said, “and one love and people taking care of each other and learning about each other, it’s ‘Kinky Boots.’” 

The musical was originally scheduled to show right before the pandemic hit.

“I think we've sold 43,000 tickets in advance to this show,” he said. “And I will say it's amazing how wonderful the patrons have been and majority of those folks, probably 40,000, 41,000 have stuck with us at this point.” 

This musical shows how a shoemaker connects with a drag queen through the adoration of shoes. 

Kinky Boots performances start Aug. 18 and run through Oct. 17. Jarvis says the venue created several different seating scenarios to accommodate any unforeseen changes in the Restore Illinois Reopening Plan. 

Jarvis is asking the community to support all the arts, especially ones that are coming out of a bleak financial year.  

"Whether it's theater, or whether  you've got a local community theater place for live music somewhere in your area," Jarvis added. "I would say that, you know, support all of those, we've all been without any kind of income for the last 56 you know, weeks." 

Tickets for "Kinky Boots" can be purchased online or by calling the theater's box office. 

  • Yvonne Boose is a current corps member for Report for America, an initiative of the GroundTruth Project. It's a national service program that places talented journalists in local newsrooms like WNIJ. You can learn more about Report for America at wnij.org.