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At The Chicago Academy For The Arts AIDS Benefit, Gifted Students Perform For A Good Cause

The 23rd Annual Chicago Academy of the Arts AIDS Benefit promises to be a must-see event.

Grania McKirdie, a senior at the Chicago Academy for the Arts, will be performing at the school's annual AIDS Benefit this weekend.

CHICAGO — Grania McKirdie was made for this.

During her first performance in a local production of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, she knew that her place was on the stage, connecting with people through art.

That artistry will be on full display this weekend at the Chicago Academy for the Arts AIDS Benefit. Now in its twenty-third year, the Benefit — created by Academy alum and songwriter Justin Tranter — gives students like 17-year-old McKirdie the chance to share their talents.

“It’s our version of a homecoming because our school doesn’t have sports,” said McKirdie, who lives in Oak Lawn with her parents and five siblings. “We come together in the first couple weeks of September, we put together a show where anyone can sing, or dance, or recite poems or monologues, anything under the sun. We encourage people to be creative.”

McKirdie, along with several classmates, will be performing Neil Young’s “Philadelphia,” a song from the eponymous 1994 film starring Denzel Washington and Tom Hanks.

Students from every department participate; 40 on stage and dozens of others behind the scenes.

“Everyone’s been asking me how to help, whether it’s running the bake sale or handing out t-shirts, or running tech. It’s been really great, because the more people involved the more fun it is,” said McKirdie, who plans to major in theater and English when she goes to college next year.

A student performance from a past AIDS Benefit event. PROVIDED.

Every year, the benefit sets its fundraising goal at $10,000, a number they’ve managed to easily surpass in recent years. After costs, all proceeds go to the Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation.

“It might be time to change the goal,” she said.

“Being involved in theater has made me an all-around better person. I’m more empathetic, more understanding of others, and it really helps with my academics, too,” said McKirdie, who is working on a project of her own, an adaptation of a 15th Century English play “The Summoning of Everyman.”

The event itself runs 90 minutes, with three performances; one Friday night and two Saturday. All performances will take place at the school, 1010 W. Chicago Ave. Tickets are $24.

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