By RENEE TOMELL - comp:000049183ad5:000000023d:5016 new
Jenny Riddle — as herself (Submitted photo)

From current woman of the hour Mary Todd Lincoln to Eleanor Roosevelt and Jackie Kennedy, Jenny Riddle of Elmhurst slips into character to share the personal lives of three remarkable first ladies.

The free program begins at 7 p.m. Thursday, March 14, in the Berwyn Public Library, 2701 S. Harlem Ave. Register at or call the library at 708-795-8000.

'First Ladies'

Spoiler alert: A musical finale showcases the recent secretary of state. Riddle is well-known as a dramatic book reviewer for the one-woman shows she bases on the real lives of subjects of current, best-selling books.

Learn more about the artist

Want to unravel the enigma of her inspiration? Here's an excerpt from our 2012 feature on Riddle:

In Character was born in 2000, when Jenny Riddle of Elmhurst first slipped into costume and character to give dramatic book reviews. She now has dozens in her repertoire.

In one program last year, she portrayed another trio of personalities in “It’s the Journey — Not the Destination,” highlighting Alinea chef-owner Grant Achatz, who overcame tongue cancer and went on to write “Life, on the Line”; Jane Borden’s “I Totally Meant to Do That,” about how a Southern debutante survives in New York City; and Erma Bombeck’s “Forever, Erma.”

How do you pick your characters?

I spend a lot of time perusing newspapers and other sources, … reading about what books are hot and what everybody’s talking about. I’ll find a character that appeals to me. I heard (Grant) interviewed on NPR. He had lost the taste in his tongue when he went through cancer. (It’s about) how he got it back. Audiences have so responded to his story.

How do you describe what you do, and is it tough portraying men?

I’m not saying that I am that person. It’s the suggestion of a character that’s important. If you retell the story well enough, people get into the character. With Grant, … a wonderful Second City improv guy coached me. It gave me the confidence.

Who’s one of your favorite roles?

Barbara Walters. I didn’t realize what a pioneer she was for women until I read that book (“Audition”).

You have a close collaborator.

For most of my book reviews, I add a song parody at the end. For this one, it’s based on ‘Accentuate the Positive.’ My mom (Madge Cloud of Elmhurst) and I co-wrote the words to fit the three books. My mom co-writes all my programs with me. We have had so much fun doing these. Reviewing books … is such a great way to have academic entertainment. People can learn something and be entertained and passionate about it. And at the end, … I do a 10-minute review of my favorite current reads. I can include books that I would never review as a whole show.

You’d like to expand your programming to audiences in the business community.

I always have to be working on new books. Next … is Steve Jobs.

More info

To learn more about Riddle and her programs, visit