NORMAL — Underwood Park on Saturday was the venue for a telling of Aesop's Fables by the Illinois Voices Theatre Seedling Encore program. The not-for-profit group is made up of adult actors with disabilities who participate in an eight-week workshop to
develop, rehearse and perform a theatrical showcase.
"It's such a huge blessing," said Deb Presley, the parent to Payten Presley, a cast member. "This is one of the only opportunities they have to be on stage, and you don't see it that often in communities."
The program usually puts on two shows a year. They do three or four workshops in the spring, a summer camp in July and other events throughout the year. Due to the pandemic, this the first show they've been able to perform live since.
"Aesop's Fables" started in March of 2020, but was shut down due to COVID-19.
Fables performed included "The Tortoise and the Hare," "The Fox and the Sour Grapes" and "The Fox and the Lion's Skin." The cast was made up of Christy Bates, owl; Kristin Crumrine, fox; Mindie Crutcher, fox; Sara Mathes, donkey; Presley, hare; and James Walker, tortoise.
Aesop is played by Seedling Encore Director Diane Walker, a retired teacher from Metcalf.
Audience members watch Aesop's Fables performed by the Illinois Voices Theatre Seedling Encore program at Underwood Park in Normal on Saturday.
"It's great that we're back to live performances. We love it," she said. "I love having my son James in the show. He plays the tortoise. He loves to act and I just wanted to give him and others the same opportunity."
"Diane has done such a good job with the program," Presley said. "She has teaching experience, theater background and experience with individuals who have disabilities."
The theater company will also have a Christmas show called "All Together Now," with musical numbers and dancing with Seedling actors and staff. The show will take place Nov. 12-14. The Seedling Theatre allows individuals of all ages to participate.
"It's just not the same when you don't have the audience," said Artistic Director Donna Anhalt. "You get the energy back into them and when people laugh, it makes them feel like they're doing a good job," she said.
48 Olympic athletes with Illinois ties
Aisha Praught-Leer, Jamaica: 1,500-meter run
The Moline native and former Illinois State runner will be competing in her second Olympics in a new event. After finishing 14th in the 3,000-meter steeplechase in 2016, she will run in the 1,500 this year.
Alyssa Naeher, United States, soccer
The Red Stars goalkeeper has been on two World Cup-winning teams — as the backup to Hope Solo in 2015 and as the No. 1 goalkeeper in the U.S. team’s run to the 2019 championship. The 33-year-old Connecticut native has played with the Red Stars for six years.
Andrea Filler, Italy, soccer
The former Northwestern softball player and current director of operations for Wildcats softball and field hockey will be an infielder for the Italian softball team. Filler formerly played professionally in Italy and for the Chicago Bandits.
Casey Krueger, United States, soccer
The Naperville Central grad originally was named an alternate but joined the full squad after roster rules changed, allowing teams to select 18 players each game from a pool of 22. Krueger, née Short, who played at Florida State, has been a defender with the Red Stars since 2016.
Darryl Sullivan, United States: High jump
The Marion native finished second at the Olympic trials with a jump of 7 feet, 7¾ inches, which tied his personal best. The 23-year-old Tennessee graduate, who finished fourth in the high jump at the NCAA Championships in June, will make his first Olympic appearance.
David Kendziera, United States: 400-meter hurdles
Kendziera, a Mount Prospect native, was a 10-time All-American at Illinois. The 26-year-old ran a personal-best time of 48.38 seconds to earn a spot on his first Olympic team.
David Robertson, United States, baseball
The former White Sox closer spent 12 seasons in the majors, including 2½ in Chicago from 2015-17. After signing a two-year, $23 million contract with the Philadelphia Phillies before the 2019 season, Robertson pitched in only seven games before injuring his elbow and undergoing Tommy John surgery later that year. He hasn’t pitched in the majors since.
DeAnna Price, United States: Hammer
The Carbondale native set two American records at the Olympic trials, becoming the second woman to ever top 80 meters with her throw of 80.31 meters (263 feet, 6 inches). Poland’s Anita Włodarczyk holds the world record of 82.98 meters. Price, a two-time NCAA champion at Southern Illinois, finished eighth in 2016 in Rio.
Eddy Alvarez, United States, baseball
The former Chicago White Sox minor leaguer could become just the third American to medal at the Winter and Summer Olympics if the U.S. team makes the podium. In 2014, Alvarez was part of the 5,000-meter short track speed skating relay team that won silver. The infielder spent five seasons in the Sox farm system and now is in Triple A with the Miami Marlins after playing in 12 major-league games for the team in 2020.
Edwin Jackson, United States, baseball
The former major-league pitcher of 17 seasons made 30 starts in 2010-11 for the White Sox and 58 starts and 82 appearances for the Cubs from 2013-15. He last pitched in a major-league game for the Detroit Tigers in 2019.
Eliza Stone, United States: Saber
The Chicago native, who has a brother and sister who also fence, was the 2013 NCAA saber champion at Princeton. She since has competed on the world stage and won bronze at the 2018 senior world championships. This is her first Olympics.
Evita Griskenas, United States, rhythmic gymnastics
The Orland Park native and Sandburg graduate was the 2021 U.S. ball champion and the all-around, clubs and ribbon silver medalist. She trains at North Shore Rhythmic Gymnastics Center and will be making her Olympic debut.
Felicia Stancil, United States: BMX racing
The Lake Villa native and former Grayslake North student began BMX racing when she was 4 and won her first world title at age 9. She competed for Marian University in Indianapolis and was the 2019 USA Cycling Elite National Champion.
Gwen Berry, United States: Hammer
The former Southern Illinois thrower will be making her second Olympic appearance. She failed to qualify for the hammer finals in Rio in 2016, with her throw of 229 feet, 4 inches placing her 14th.
Jewell Loyd, United States, women’s basketball team
The former Niles West and Notre Dame guard will make her first Olympic appearance in the middle of the best season of her career. Loyd, a two-time WNBA All-Star whom the Seattle Storm drafted No. 1 overall in 2015, is averaging 17.5 points, 4.2 rebounds, 4.2 assists and 1.2 steals per game.
Jordan Wilimovsky, United States: 10-kilometer
The 2017 Northwestern graduate placed fifth in the 10-kilometer open-water swim in Rio and now has a chance to win his first medal in Tokyo. Wilimovsky, who also was fourth in the 1,500-meter freestyle in Rio, qualified in July 2019 for the Tokyo Games in the 10K marathon event, which debuted at the Olympics in 2008.
Jordyn Poulter, United States, volleyball
The former Illini setter was an All-American in her 2018 senior season. At 23 entering her first Olympics, she is the youngest member of the U.S. volleyball team.
Josh Zeid, Israel, baseball
The Chicago Cubs rehab pitching coordinator and pitching analyst has a history playing for Israel, including pitching in the 2017 World Baseball Classic. Zeid, a 34-year-old Connecticut native, made 48 relief appearances over two seasons with the Houston Astros in 2013 and 2014.
Julie Ertz, United States, soccer
The two-time World Cup winner now will add a second Olympics to her resume. The 29-year-old midfielder/defender has played in only one game this season because of an MCL sprain but still made the U.S. roster with hopes she’ll be ready for Olympic play.
Kelsey Card, United States: Discus
The former Carlinville athlete will be making her second Olympic appearance. Card, who still owns the IHSA discus state-meet record and was the 2016 NCAA champion at Wisconsin, didn’t qualify for finals in the 2016 Games in Rio.
Kelsey Robinson, United States, volleyball
Robinson, the former Wheaton St. Francis and Nebraska standout, was a member of the 2016 U.S. Olympic team that won bronze. She has been on the U.S. women’s national team since 2014
Kent Farrington, United States: Show jumping
The 40-year-old Latin grad is the top-ranked American in the world at No. 5. He helped the 2016 team win silver in Rio and also finished fifth individually.
Kevin McDowell, United States
The Geneva grad grew up competing in triathlon, but his career was derailed for a couple of years when he was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma in 2011. He recovered and became a seven-time Triathlon World Cup medalist and the 2017 USA Triathlon elite national champion. This will be his first Olympics.
Laura Zeng, United States, rhythmic gymnastics
Zeng was the 2021 U.S. all-around champion and also took gold in hoop, clubs and ribbon. The Libertyville graduate finished 11th in the all-around competition at the 2016 Olympics in Rio, which tied her for the best U.S. finish since Valerie Zimring in 1984. She trains at North Shore Rhythmic Gymnastics Center.
Lauren Doyle, United States, rugby
The Macon Meridian and Eastern Illinois grad is making her second Olympic appearance after helping the U.S. team to a fifth-place finish in 2016. She’s also a former track athlete.
Maggie Shea, United States, sailing
The New Trier graduate grew up sailing on Lake Michigan, sailed at Connecticut College and now will make her Olympic debut. Shea and teammate Steph Roble won bronze in the 49erFX World Championship in 2020.
Michelle Bartsch-Hackley, United States, volleyball
The Collinsville High School and Illinois grad is on her first Olympic team after she was an alternate in 2016. She helped the Illini’s run to NCAA runner-up in 2011. She has been a member of the women’s national team since 2015.
Mitch Glasser, Israel, baseball
The White Sox drafted the Latin product in the 39th round of the 2012 draft. He played in the Sox organization for one season before playing in Australia and in the American Association of Professional Baseball. He’s also an assistant baseball coach at Chicago State.
Nefeli Papadakis, United States, judo
Papadakis, a Gurnee native who attended Warren and College of Lake County, is making her Olympic debut at 78 kilograms. The three-time medalist at the Pan American Championships has been coached by her dad, Steve.
North Shore Rhythmic Gymnastics team, United States: Rhythmic gymnastics team competition
Based out of Chicago’s north suburbs, this team is made up of Isabelle Connor (Manhattan Beach, Calif.), Camilla Feeley (Wheeling), Lili Mizuno (Northbrook), Elizaveta Pletneva (Wheeling) and Nicole Sladkov (Vernon Hills). They are the third U.S. rhythmic gymnastics team to compete in Olympic competition. With a different set of athletes, North Shore Rhythmic Gymnastics also competed in Rio in 2016 but finished last in the Olympic qualifying round.
Pedrya Seymour, Bahamas: 100-meter hurdles
Seymour will be making her second Olympic appearance for the Bahamas after finishing sixth in the 100-meter hurdles in 2016 in Rio. She was a three-time All-American at Illinois before she transferred to Texas for her final season, when she finished fourth in the 100 hurdles at the NCAA championships.
Rajeev Ram, United States: Men’s doubles
The Illinois alum, who won the 2003 NCAA doubles championship and helped the Illini to the team championship that year, returns to the Olympics after winning silver in the mixed doubles competition with Venus Williams in Rio in 2016. He will pair with Frances Tiafoe in the men’s doubles competition this year.
Raven Saunders, United States: Shot put
Saunders won NCAA indoor and outdoor shot put titles in her freshman year at Southern Illinois before transferring to Mississippi, where she won two more national championships. She made her Olympic debut in 2016 in Rio, where she finished fifth.
Ryan Murphy, United States: 100- and 200-meter backstroke
Murphy was born in Palos Heights but moved to Florida as a kid. He is a three-time Olympic gold medalist, winning the 100- and 200-meter backstroke and the 400 medley relay in 2016 in Rio.
Sandi Morris, United States: Pole vault
The 2016 silver medalist in Rio was born in Downers Grove before her family moved to South Carolina when she was 4 years old. She won silver with a vault of 15 feet, 11 inches, in 2016 and is the American outdoor record-holder in the event.
Thomas Detry, Belgium, golf
Detry, the 2015 Big Ten golfer of the year at Illinois, makes his Olympic debut. He teamed with former Illini teammate Thomas Pieters to win the 2018 World Cup of Golf championship for Belgium.
Thomas Jaeschke, United States, volleyball
The former Wheaton Warrenville South player, who helped Loyola to back-to-back NCAA championships in 2014 and 2015, makes his second Olympic appearance. He played for the 2016 team that won bronze in Rio.
Thomas Pieters, Belgium, golf
The Illinois alum will make his second Olympic appearance after finishing fourth in 2016 in Rio. Pieters was the 2012 NCAA individual champion and helped the Illini finish as the NCAA runner-up in 2013.
Tierna Davidson, United States, soccer
The 22-year-old defender is in her third season with the Red Stars and was the youngest player on the 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup-winning team. After the California native helped Stanford to the NCAA title in 2017, she became the No. 1 pick in the 2019 NWSL draft.
Tim Federowicz, United States, baseball
Federowicz played in 17 games for the Chicago Cubs during the 2016 season. The catcher has made appearances for six teams over eight major-league seasons and now is with the Los Angeles Dodgers’ Triple-A team.
Tim Nedow, Canada: Shot put
The former DePaul thrower will be making his second Olympic appearance. The Brockville, Ontario, native, who won multiple Big East titles in the shot put and discus at DePaul, didn’t make the finals in his first trip to the Olympics in 2016.
Tomáš Satoranský, Czech Republic, men’s basketball team
The Chicago Bulls guard was the tournament MVP in the Olympic qualifying tournament after leading the Czech Republic with 16 points, 5.5 rebounds and 5.5 assists per game. Satoranský, 29, averaged 7.7 points and 4.7 assists in 58 games this season, his second with the Bulls and fifth in the NBA.
Tori Franklin, United States: Triple jump
The Downers Grove South graduate is the American record-holder in the indoor and outdoor triple jump. She qualified for her first Olympics by placing second at the trials with a jump of 47 feet, 1½ inches.
Tyson Bull, Australia: Horizontal bar
Bull, who was an All-American on the horizontal bar at Illinois, qualified for the Olympics in 2019 at the World Championships when he earned a score of 14.366 on the horizontal bar and finished seventh in the event final. He will be the first Illini gymnast to compete in the Olympics since Justin Spring in 2008.
Zach LaVine, United States, men’s basketball team
Just a few months after he was named to his first NBA All-Star team, the 6-foot-5 Bulls guard was picked for his first Olympic team. LaVine, 26, averaged 27.4 points, five rebounds and 4.9 assists per game last season, his fourth with the Bulls and seventh in the NBA.
Zach Ziemek, United States: Decathlon
Ziemek finished seventh in the 2016 Olympics in Rio and was the 2018 U.S. national champion. The Lake Park and Wisconsin graduate had a personal best of 8,471 points in the decathlon at the Olympic trials to finish third.
Olivia Smoliga, United States: 400-meter freestyle relay
The Glenbrook South graduate won gold at the 2016 Rio Olympics in the 400-meter medley relay. After finishing third in the 100 freestyle at the Olympic trials, she will be a part of the 400 freestyle relay in Tokyo.