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Showing posts with label American Blues Theater. Show all posts
Showing posts with label American Blues Theater. Show all posts

Wednesday, August 17, 2022

American Blues Theater announces casting for The World Premiere of Alma September 22 – October 22, 2022

ChiIL Live Shows On Our Radar 
September 22 – October 22, 2022  


By Benjamin Benne

Directed by Ana Velazquez

Featuring Jazmín Corona and Bryanna Ciera Colón  

American Blues Theater, under the continued leadership of Artistic Director Gwendolyn Whiteside, announces the World Premiere production of Alma, in cooperation with Center Theatre Group. The production will run at Rivendell Theatre Ensemble, 5779 Ridge Avenue in Chicago, September 22 – October 22, 2022. I'll checking out the opening performance September 29th, so check back soon for my full review. 

Tickets will be available beginning September 1 at (773) 654-3103 and www.amercanbluestheater.com.

Alma is the winner of the Blue Ink Award & National Latinx Playwriting Award and is presented in association with Chicago Latino Theater Alliance as part of the 5th Annual Destinos Festival.

Alma crossed the border 17 years ago in search of the American Dream. Now, on the eve of her U.S.-born daughter Angel’s SAT, Alma believes all their sacrifices and hard work will pay off. There’s one problem – Angel has very different plans for her future. Told in real time, playwright Benjamin Benne’s Alma is a heartfelt and complex exploration of the immigrant generation and their first-generation children.

The cast is: Jazmín Corona (Alma) and Bryanna Ciera Colón (Angel).

The creative team is: Tara A. Houston (scenic design), Rachel West* (lighting design / master electrician), Lily Walls* (costume design), Eric Backus* (sound design), Verity Neely (properties design), Gaby Labotka (fight & intimacy direction), Manny Ortiz* (technical director), Ana Maria Campoy (Spanish translations), and Shandee Vaughan* (production & stage manager).

*Denotes Ensemble Member or Artistic Affiliate of American Blues Theater

 

About the Artists

BENJAMIN BENNE he/him (Playwright) is newly graduated from the David Geffen/Yale School of Drama MFA Playwriting program and represented by Paradigm Talent Agency. He is a member of the Dorothy Strelsin New American Writers Group at Primary Stages and currently under commission from South Coast Repertory Theatre and Seattle Repertory Theatre. His plays include Alma (Center Theatre Group & ArtsWest; forthcoming: Curious Theatre Company & Central Square Theater) and In His Hands (Mosaic Theater Company). His work has been developed by the O’Neill National Playwrights Conference, Playwrights Realm, The Lark, The Public, Roundabout, Denver Center, The Old Globe, Two River, Boston Court Pasadena, New Harmony Project, SPACE on Ryder Farm, Pillsbury House Theatre, Parley, among many others. Benjamin has been the recipient of Portland Stage’s Clauder Competition Gold Prize, Arizona Theatre Company’s National Latinx Playwriting Award, Kennedy Center/KCACTF Latinx Playwriting Award, American Blues Theater’s Blue Ink Playwriting Award, Chesley/Bumbalo Playwriting Award, Playwrights’ Center’s McKnight Fellowship in Playwriting and Many Voices Fellowship. www.benjaminbenne.com

ANA VELAZQUEZ she/her (Director) is a Mexican American director and teaching artist in her native Chicago. Her directing experience is deeply tied to new play development and is often in collaboration with playwrights exploring underrepresented stories. Her directing credits include A Los Angeles Mural for Wrights of Spring Festival at The Theatre School at DePaul; I Come From Arizona staged reading for Vittum Theater’s grand reopening at Adventure Stage Chicago; La Ofrenda at Adventure Stage Chicago; Alma for Blue Ink Festival at American Blues Theater; El Pico for A Night of New Works at Something Marvelous; Macha for Tutterow Fellows Showcase at Chicago Dramatists; Oak & Pallets for Peacebook at Collaboraction; Los Frikis for El Semillero at Victory Gardens Theater; Meet Juan(ito) Doe (co-directed) at Free Street Theater; Everybody Loves Big E for Our Chicago Project at Collaboraction; Art House and The Scream for Scrapbook 2017 at Chicago Dramatists; Epic Tales with FEMelanin for Kid’s Fringe 2016 and Raisin Puffs for Black Lives, Black Words at Black Ensemble Theatre. She received the 2018 Alta Award for Outstanding Director of Play for Meet Juan(ito) Doe (co-directed). Ana is a PlayMakers Laboratory company member. Her teaching artist experience includes Disney Musicals in Schools and PlayBuild Youth Intensive Program with Goodman Theatre; TimeLine South Living History Program with Timeline Theatre and Young Playwrights Festival with Pegasus Theatre. Ana recently completed her second residency with Teatro Comunal, a new youth program created through We the Many with Arts Midwest and The Honeywell Foundation in Wabash & North Manchester, Indiana. She received her BA in Theatre from the University of Illinois at Chicago.

JAZMÍN CORONA she/her (Alma) previously appeared in Hurricane Diane (Theater Wit); Zulema (Goodman/Sones de Mexico); Roe (Goodman Theatre); Shrew’d and Macbeth (First Folio Theatre); I’m Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter and The Compass (u/s, Steppenwolf Theatre); 1776 (Porchlight Music Theatre); Women of 4G (Babes With Blades); A Work Of Art (Chicago Dramatists); Two Mile Hollow (First Floor Theater); Gender Breakdown (Collaboraction); Sherlock Holmes and the Case of the Christmas Goose (Raven Theatre). TV credits include Chicago Fire (NBC). 

BRYANNA CIERA COLÓN she/her (Angel) is making her American Blues Theater debut in ALMA as Angel. The Chicago based performer made her national tour debut in the hit holiday musical The Elf on The Shelf: A Christmas Musical (Ella) fresh out of high school. She then went on to do In the Heights (Yolanda, Nina US, Ensemble) at the Arts Center of Costal Carolina on Hilton Head Island right after. Some of her other credits include episodes in the critically acclaimed NBC TV series Chicago Fire and the FOX TV series The Big Leap.


Dates:  Previews September 22-25, 2022

Opens September 28 and 29, 2022

Runs through October 22, 2022


Schedule:        

Thursdays: 7:30pm

Fridays: 7:30pm

Saturdays: 3:00pm and 7:30pm

Sundays: 2:30pm

 

Location: Rivendell Theatre Ensemble, 5779 Ridge Avenue in Chicago

Ticket prices: $25-$45

Box Office: Buy online at www.amercanbluestheater.com or (773) 654-3103

Group Sales discounts and Blue Card Memberships available now by calling (773) 654-3103 or visiting www.amercanbluestheater.com


About American Blues

Winner of the American Theatre Wing’s prestigious National Theatre Company Award, American Blues Theater is a premier arts organization with an intimate environment that patrons, artists, and all Chicagoans call home. American Blues Theater explores the American identity through the plays it produces and communities it serves.

The diverse and multi-generational artists have established the second-oldest professional Equity Ensemble theater in Chicago. As of 2022, the theater and artists received 221 Joseph Jefferson Awards and nominations that celebrate excellence in Chicago theater and 44 Black Theatre Alliance Awards. The artists are honored with Tony Award and Pulitzer Prize nominations, Academy Awards, Golden Globe Awards, Emmy Awards and numerous other accolades.   


Thursday, June 30, 2022

August Wilson’s Fences Via American Blues Theater at Theater Wit July 1 Through August 6

ChiIL Live Shows On Our Radar

  American Blues Theater announces casting for

August Wilson’s Fences 

directed by Monty Cole

Cast includes Kamal Bolden, Manny Buckley, Shanésia Davis, Ajax Dontavius,

Martel Manning, William Anthony Sebastian Rose II, and Riley Wells

 July 1-August 6, 2022

 

American Blues Theater, under the continued leadership of Artistic Director Gwendolyn Whiteside, announces the cast of August Wilson’s Fences, directed by Monty Cole. The intimate and up-close production of the Pulitzer Prize-winning drama will play to a capacity of 60 people per performance

from July 1-August 6, 2022, at Theater Wit,1229 W. Belmont Ave. Tickets will be available beginning May 31 at (773) 975-8150 and www.americanbluestheater.com. I'll be out for opening night Thursday, July 7th, so check back shortly for my full review. 

This is the sensational drama about Troy Maxson, a former star of the Negro Baseball League, who now works as a garbage man in 1957 Pittsburgh. Excluded as a black man from major leagues during his prime, Troy’s bitterness takes its toll on his relationships with his wife and family.

The cast is: Kamal Bolden (Troy Maxson), Manny Buckley* (Gabriel), Shanésia Davis (Rose), Ajax Dontavius, (Cory), Martel Manning (Jim Bono), William Anthony Sebastian Rose (Lyons), and Riley Wells (Raynell).

The creative team includes Yeaji Kim (scenic design), Jared Gooding* (lighting design), Stephanie Cluggish (costume design), Rick Sims* (sound design), Verity Neely (properties design), Rachel Flesher (fight & intimacy design), Cara Parrish* (stage manager) and Shandee Vaughan* (production manager).

 *Denotes Ensemble Member or Artistic Affiliate of American Blues Theater

 

About the Artists

MONTY COLE he/him (director) is an award-winning theater and film writer-director from Oak Park, IL. He has directed for the Goodman Theatre, Steppenwolf, Center Theatre Group, The Playwrights Center, Oregon Shakespeare Festival, The Repertory Theatre of St. Louis, Victory Gardens Theater, the Center for New Performance, Cape Cod Theatre Project, Alley Theatre, and others. Recent projects include directing the workshop of world premiere Adrienne Kennedy play, Etta and Ella on the Upper West Side for the Center for New Performance in California. His re-interpretations of classics from Eugene O'Neill's The Hairy Ape to Hamlet have received awards and critical praise in Chicago. As a writer, his plays include American Teenager (a commission from the Goodman Theatre) and Black Like Me, an adaptation of the 1961 novel currently in development with The Repertory Theatre of St. Louis. Cole was one of four writers in the Goodman Theatre's Playwrights Unit and is currently an Artist in Residence at the Center for New Performance, a fellow at Hermitage Artist Retreat, and a Research Scholar of the Bridge to Faculty at UIC. In 2021, Cole directed three short films: SIX FEET APART by Isaac Gomez, SONS OF TOLEDO, written by Cole and Matt Foss, and his own short, WHOLE. SONS OF TOLEDO has appeared in film festivals around the world including winning Best African American Short at the Phoenix Film Festival, while the other two shorts are in post-production. Monty has a BA in Theatre Studies from Emerson College and an MFA Directing degree from the California Institute of the Arts. 

KAMAL BOLDEN he/him (Troy Maxson) A native of Peoria, IL, Kamal graduated from Bradley University with a degree in Business Administration-Entrepreneurship. Theatre: the lead role of Hero in Father Comes Home From The Wars Parts 1,2, & 3 (Goodman Theatre), Immediate Family directed by Phylicia Rashad (Mark Taper Forum), the title role of Chad Deity in the world premiere of The Elaborate Entrance of Chad Deity (Victory Gardens Theater), Jitney, The Misanthrope, and Home (Court Theatre), Coriolanus (Nashville Shakespeare), SS: Romeo & Juliet (Chicago Shakespeare). Off-Broadway: AUDELCO Award for Best Actor in Reparations at the historic Billie Holiday Theatre and a nomination for The Opponent at 59E59St Theatre. Film: Vacation Friends, The Night Before, Ravers, Keys to the City, Elvis & Nixon. Television: Series Regular on The Endgame (NBC), 61st Street, Chicago Fire, Insecure, The Resident, Law & Order SVU, Rosewood, NCIS, Major Crimes, Betrayal, Low Winter Sun, Boss, Lights Out.

MANNY BUCKLEY he/him (Gabriel) is a proud Ensemble member of American Blues Theater. He is a Chicago-based director, actor, playwright and teaching artist. Blues credits include It’s a Wonderful Life: Live in Chicago!, Six Corners, Looking Over the President’s Shoulder (Jeff Award Nomination-Best Solo Performance), and Dutchman/TRANSit (Black Theatre Alliance Award Nomination). Manny toured nationally as “Satchel Paige” in the original production of The Satchel Paige Story, and appeared in The Father (Helen Hayes Award Nomination) at Studio Theatre in Washington, D.C. He originated the role of “Carson” in Hit the Wall, which sold out extensions in Steppenwolf’s Garage Rep. Select Chicago credits include The Brothers Size, 1984, and Of Mice and Men (Steppenwolf); Dorian (House Theater); and Love’s Labor’s Lost (Chicago Shakespeare Theatre). Mr. Buckley is the recipient of a Black Theatre Alliance, and Black Excellence Award. He most recently directed Kingdom, an audio drama, with Broken Nose Theatre.

SHANÉSIA DAVIS she/her (Rose) returns to American Blues Theater where she was last seen in their co-production of Native Son with Court Theatre. As an actress, some of her credits include works at Steppenwolf, Northlight, Porchlight Music Theatre, Goodman, Congo Square, Mark Taper Forum, Cleveland Playhouse, CenterStage Baltimore, The Gift Theatre, Kansas City Rep, and Court Theatre, to name a few. She has been Jeff Award nominated several times and is a Black Theatre Alliance Award recipient, as well as Excellence in the Arts recipient. Film credits include Chicago Stories: Ida B. Wells, The Thing about Harry, Working Man, BLUEPRINT, External Rivals, Consumed, Damaged Goods, Cleveland Abduction, Morning Due, The Weatherman, Uncle Nino, Life Sentence, and Chicago Cab, among others. Television credits includes Emmy nominated Lovecraft Country (HBO), Proven Innocent (FOX), Empire (FOX), Chicago Fire (NBC), CRISIS (ABC), Detroit 187 (ABC), and series regular on Early Edition (CBS). She is a proud member of Equity and SAG/AFTRA unions as well as Artistic Associate of Congo Square Theater and Assistant Teaching Professor at Roosevelt University, CCPA. 

AJAX DONTAVIUS he/him (Cory) is a Chicago-based actor who is so excited to join this amazing production of Fences. Previously, Ajax has co-starred on NBC’s Chicago P.D. and will appear on the second season of AMC’s 61st Street. He was last seen on stage in Lifeline Theatre’s stage adaptation of Middle Passage as Rutherford Calhoun.

MARTEL MANNING he/him (Jim Bono) has appeared in Chicago in: Photograph 51 (Court Theatre), Her Majesty's Will (Lifeline Theatre), as well as Pillowman, Kentucky, and Hamlet (The Gift Theatre). Regional credits include: Romeo & Juliet - Juliet's Journey (Oregon Shakespeare Festival), Still Dance the Stars (New Light Theatre), Two Gentlemen of Verona (Michigan Shakespeare Festival). Martel received an MFA in Acting from the University of Houston Professional Actor Training Program and is represented by Shirley Hamilton Talent.

WILLIAM ANTHONY SEBASTIAN ROSE II he/him (Lyons) is a Chicago based actor most recently featured as King Henri Christophe in The House Theatre’s The Tragedy of King Christophe. He was last seen in an on-stage, in-person production with Broken Nose Theatre’s Labyrinth as a still wet behind the ears loan officer. He has also had the privilege of working with Kunoichi Productions virtual presentation of The True Tale of Princess Kaguya as the psychotic Emperor and power hungry but moronically pathetic Prince; a man searching for his truth in Victory Gardens Theater’s The First Deep Breath; a dilettante English lord fancying himself an amateur sleuth in Whose Body, Lifeline Theatre; a forgotten political prisoner fighting for change in We Are Pussy Riot, Red Tape Theatre. You can also see him on display now in the Chicago Maritime Museum exhibit as the founder of Chicago, Jean Baptiste Point du Sable. TV credits include Lovecraft County. Represented by Big Mouth Talent Agency.

RILEY WELLS she/her (Raynell) recently worked on a short film They Say Time Heals as Anisah as well as the CW’s television show 4400. Riley studies dance and acting at FieldCrest School of Performing Arts. She also studies voice and piano at the MuzicNet. For fun, Riley enjoys engineering, space, gymnastics.

Dates: Previews July 1-July 6, 2022

Opens July 7, 2022

Runs through August 6, 2022

Schedule:       

Thursdays: 7:30pm

Fridays: 7:30pm

Saturdays: 2:30pm (except, no 2:30pm show on July 9)

and 7:30pm (except, no 7:30pm show on August 6)

Sundays: 2:30pm

 

Location: Theater Wit, 1229 W Belmont Ave in Chicago

Ticket prices:  $25-$45, plus $2.75 Theater Wit venue fees

Box Office: Buy online at www.americanbluestheater.com or (773) 975-8150

Group Sales discounts and Blue Card Memberships available now by calling (773) 654-3103 or visiting www.americanbluestheater.com

 

About American Blues

Winner of the American Theatre Wing’s prestigious National Theatre Company Award, American Blues Theater is a premier arts organization with an intimate environment that patrons, artists, and all Chicagoans call home. American Blues Theater explores the American identity through the plays it produces and communities it serves.

The diverse and multi-generational artists have established the second-oldest professional Equity Ensemble theater in Chicago. As of 2022, the theater and artists received 221 Joseph Jefferson Awards and nominations that celebrate excellence in Chicago theater and 40 Black Theatre Alliance Awards. The artists are honored with Tony Award and Pulitzer Prize nominations, Academy Awards, Golden Globe Awards, Emmy Awards and numerous other accolades.

Saturday, March 5, 2022

Chicago premiere of Stand Up If You’re Here Tonight Via American Blues Theater at Theater Wit March 18 – April 9, 2022

 

ChiIL Live Shows On Our Radar 

American Blues Theater announces

Stand Up If You’re Here Tonight

written and directed by John Kolvenbach

featuring American Blues Artistic Affiliate Jim Ortlieb

March 18-April 9, 2022

**American Blues Theater honors healthcare workers, first responders, educators & support staff, and military personnel with complimentary and deeply discounted tickets. American Blues proudly supports NAMI Chicago and SAMHSA.**


American Blues Theater, under the continued leadership of Artistic Director Gwendolyn Whiteside, announces the Chicago premiere of Stand Up If You’re Here Tonight, written and directed by John Kolvenbach, featuring American Blues Theater Artistic Affiliate Jim Ortlieb. Stand Up If You’re Here Tonight runs March 18-April 9, 2022 at Theater Wit,1229 W. Belmont Ave. Tickets are available at (773) 975-8150 and www.americanbluestheater.com. I'll be out for the press performance March 19th. In the meantime check back early and often.

“You’ve tried everything. Yoga. Acupuncture. Therapy. You floated in salt water in the pitch black dark. You juiced, you cleansed, you journaled, you cut, you volunteered. You got a mattress that fitted itself to your fetal form. You ate only RINDS for three days and nights. You reached out, you looked within. You have tried. And yet here you are.”

So begins a new play by Olivier-nominated playwright John Kolvenbach in its Chicago premiere. American Blues Theater Artistic Affiliate Jim Ortlieb delivers a tour-de-force performance as a man desperate for connection, bent by isolation, and deeply in love with the audience itself.

Artistic Director Gwendolyn Whiteside comments, “We’re thrilled to present the Chicago premiere of John Kolvenbach’s latest work. He brilliantly captured our shared pandemic experience and given an injection of hope. We couldn’t be happier by the return of Artistic Affiliate Jim Ortlieb to our stage.”

 The creative team includes Michael Trudeau* (scenic / lighting design / TD), Rachel West* (master electrician), and Shandee Vaughan* (SM & Production Manager).

*Denotes Artistic Affiliate of American Blues Theater


About the Artists 

John Kolvenbach and Jim Ortlieb previously worked together Boston on Half ’n Half ’n Half (now titled The Marriage Play), for which Jim was awarded a 2012 IRNE Award for best lead actor. Most recently, they worked together on Stand Up If You’re Here Tonight, which opened in the summer of 2021 at The Harbor Stage and, simultaneously, in Los Angeles with VS. and Circle X.

John Kolvenbach he/him (playwright / director) On the West End: Love Song (Olivier nomination, Best New Comedy, directed by John Crowley) and On an Average Day (with Woody Harrelson and Kyle MacLachlan, also directed by Mr. Crowley.) Love Song premiered at Steppenwolf in 2006, directed by Austin Pendelton. It has been produced in New York, Zurich, Melbourne, Sydney, Wellington, Seoul and Rome. There have been over fifty productions in the U.S. Average Day was produced in Los Angeles by VS. (with Johnny Clark and Stef Tovar) and in Chicago by VS. and Route 66. Average Day has been produced in Tel Aviv, Buenos Aires, and Lisbon. Goldfish premiered at South Coast Repertory, then at the Magic Theatre in San Francisco, directed by Loretta Greco. The play was done in repertory with Mrs. Whitney, which was directed by the author. Most recently, Reel to Reel received its premiere at the Magic. Sister Play received its premiere at The Harbor Stage Company and at the Magic, both productions directed by the author. Stand Up If You’re Here Tonight opened in the summer of 2021 at The Harbor Stage and, simultaneously, in Los Angeles with VS. and Circle X. Other plays include: Fabuloso (premiered at WHAT, subsequent productions in San Juan and Zurich, in Spanish and Swiss German), Bank Job (Amphibian Stages) and Marriage Play or Half ‘n Half ‘n Half (Merrimack Rep.) Film: Clear Winter Noon, an original screenplay, was selected for the Blacklist in 2008.

 Artistic Affiliate Jim Ortlieb returns to American Blues Theater where he previously appeared in the title role in Scapin.

Jim Ortlieb he/him (Man) is a proud Artistic Affiliate of American Blues Theater and a member of the rare breed of middle-class actors. After studying with William Esper and Kathryn Gately at Rutgers University, Jim was invited by Lois Hall to teach in Chicago at Lois Hall Studio, a mainstay of professional studios in the 1980s. It was because of Lois that Jim Ortlieb was welcomed into the Chicago theater community.

When she retired, Jim renamed the school, Chicago Actors Project, which remained vibrant until 1989. During the ‘80s and onward, Jim acted with many Chicago theaters, including The Goodman (Candide), Pheasant Run (Sorrows of Stephen), Organic (M the Murderer), Wisdom Bridge (Only Kidding), Northlight (All in the Timing), and Steppenwolf (Picasso at the Lapine Agile, The Man Who Came to Dinner), Touchstone (Racing Demon, Indiscretions), Gare St. Lazare Players (Hughie), Bailiwick (An Uncertain Hour by Nick Patricca) and as a member of American Blues Theater he played the title role in Scapin. Ortlieb’s new found family of Chicago artists lead him all over the world. When Bob Meyer of the Gare St. Lazare Players moved to Europe to spend more time with his son, Charlie, Jim traveled there to collaborate on numerous productions with Bob and the extensive group of expatriated English speaking artists in Paris, Ireland, and England such as Hughie, The Homecoming, Faith Healer, and Requiem for a Heavyweight. Malcolm Ewen brought Jim to the Weston Playhouse in Vermont where he did Guys and Dolls, The Mikado, Candide, and Tartuffe. In the midst of the IATSE strike in 1999, Jim, his wife and two children moved to Los Angeles where they have lived ever since. Other acting credits include on Broadway in Aaron Sorkin’s The Farnsworth Invention, Of Mice and Men with James Franco and Chris O’Dowd directed by Anna Shapiro, and Guys and Dolls with Lauren Graham and Oliver Platt, the first National Tour of Billy Elliot the musical for two years in Chicago and in Toronto. In 2012 Ortlieb was nominated for an IRNE award for his lead performance in Half ’n Half ’n Half (now titled The Marriage Play) by John Kolvenbach. That relationship continues through today with Stand Up If You’re Here Tonight! His film and TV credits include: Drunkboat with John Malkovich and John Goodman and directed by Bob Meyer, Flatliners, Home Alone, A Mighty Wind, Contagion, Chain Reaction, The Onion Movie, Latter Days, Bug, and Magnolia. His television credits include Station 19, American Horror Story, 911: Lone Star, How to Get Away With Murder, Grey’s Anatomy, West Wing, The Closer, Roswell, Six Feet Under, Gabriel’s Fire, and The Shield. Jim has done more than 75 commercials and voiceovers in his 45 years as an actor all of which has helped pay the bills. Both of Jim’s daughter returned to Chicago where they both graduated from DePaul University. Grainne (grahn-yah) Ortlieb, a Theatre School grad, remains in Chicago with the community the whole family calls home.

Schedule:   

Dates: March 18 – April 9, 2022                 

Thursdays: 7:30pm

Fridays: 7:30pm

Saturdays: 4:30pm (except, no show March 19) and 7:30pm

Sundays: 2:30pm


Additional performance on Wednesday, April 6 at 7:30pm.

 Location: Theater Wit, 1229 W Belmont Ave in Chicago

 Ticket prices: $25-$45, plus $2.75 Theater Wit venue fees

Box Office: Buy online at www.americanbluestheater.com or (773) 975-8150

Group Sales discounts and Blue Card Memberships available now by calling (773) 654-3103 or visiting  www.americanbluestheater.com.

 

About American Blues

Winner of the American Theatre Wing’s prestigious National Theatre Company Award, American Blues Theater is a premier arts organization with an intimate environment that patrons, artists, and all Chicagoans call home. American Blues Theater explores the American identity through the plays it produces and communities it serves.

 

The diverse and multi-generational artists have established the second-oldest professional Equity Ensemble theater in Chicago. As of 2022, the theater and artists received 221 Joseph Jefferson Awards and nominations that celebrate excellence in Chicago theater and 40 Black Theatre Alliance Awards. The artists are honored with Tony Award and Pulitzer Prize nominations, Academy Awards, Golden Globe Awards, Emmy Awards and numerous other accolades.

Sunday, February 16, 2020

REVIEW: Roan @ The Gates at American Blues Theater

American Blues Theater Presents the Chicago Premiere of 
Roan @ the Gates
Written by Christina Telesca Gorman
Directed by Lexi Saunders
Featuring Brenda Barrie and Jasmine Bracey

January 31 – February 29, 2020




Guest Review 
By Catherine Hellmann 

How well do you really know your spouse or significant other? Are you sure their job is legit?? How far would you go to keep your partner safe? Is it a flaw in the relationship to not divulge some information? Is not being completely upfront a form of lying? Should your partner know your passwords? 


Wow. All of these thought-provoking questions (and more!) arise in American Blues Theater’s Chicago premiere of Roan @ the Gates

This intense two-person show raises all these issues in its 80-minute running time. Brenda Barrie plays Roan, who does “something” in IT for the government. She’s very sketchy on the details of her job, including telling her wife Nat where she travels for work. Nat, a civil-rights attorney, pushes the issue one night before Roan departs again in the morning. Roan is very evasive about her duties and location to Nat’s growing consternation. 

Now, in all fairness, Roan never LIES outright to her spouse...but neither does she give full disclosure to what she does for a living or where she is going; she won’t even tell Nat how long her next flight is...hmmm...does this reveal dishonesty or a lack of trust? It’s interesting that Nat is an attorney who must always deal with client confidentiality, so why wouldn’t she back off when Roan is evasive about her employer? 

 But Nat is persistent in all matters. There is a great character reveal story about an auto dealership ripping the couple off with a repeated repair until the warranty on their brand-new car is expired. Nat says she hopped onto a car in the showroom and announced to a crowd of potential customers how these cars are “pieces of shit” which she calls the “sermon on the Passat.” She warns Roan that “people take advantage of other people. That’s what they do.” 

   Not to reveal too much of the plot’s secrets, but yes, all hell breaks loose once Roandeparts the country and is detained in Moscow, Russia. (The playwright, Christine Telesca Gorman, was inspired by events surrounding Edward Snowden.) Roan’s evasiveness was intended to protect Nat and keep her safe from knowing too much. 

Roan is called a traitor by her enemies and a whistleblower by her admirers, including Nat. Either way, she is not able to return to the U.S. Much of the dialogue is communicated through technology in Skype and messaging. We all know how difficult it can be to read tone in a text. As Roan exclaims to Nat in an IM, “Are you OMGing me?!”  Nat retorts: “Don’t you Allcaps me!” That exchange sounded like any couple in a disagreement, not separated by an ocean and government espionage.  

Roan is privvy to the continuous monitoring and collecting that is happening to all Americans every moment we use technology. She says the “NSA is harvesting data.” You sign into Netflix? You order from Amazon? You call an Uber? Yeah, well, you are being watched, according to Roan. Her prediction is eerie and creepy: “It’s not information they are collecting; it’s leverage.” Remember that quote next time you order lingerie online or send your friends an off-color joke…


Being a two-woman play, the actors need to be fantastic to pull this off. Both women do a fabulous job, but Jasmine Bracey as Nat is a revelation. I loved watching her facial expressions revealing every emotion as she reads her messages from Roan. 

Nat suggests joining Roan in Russia, but being a lesbian and biracial couple won’t fly in the land of Putin, where homosexuals were banned from the Sochi Olympics in 2014. More layers added to this complex story. 

There was a post-show discussion with a professor from Northwestern, Dr. Michele Kerulis. She addressed the topic “Privacy vs Secrecy,” which was illuminating. There will be other special events to coincide with this play as well. 

Great play for discussion over drinks afterwards. Maybe you should pay the tab in cash...      

Catherine Hellmann is a teacher, writer, and theater junkie. She has tried to inspire urban and rural middle schoolers for over twenty years. A mother of three, she is thrilled to once again claim Chicago as home.  



American Blues Theater continues its 2019-2020 Season with the Chicago Premiere of Roan @ The Gates, written by Christina Gorman* and directed by Lexi Saunders. Roan @ The Gates runs January 31, 2020 – February 29, 2020 at Stage 773, 1225 W. Belmont Ave. in Chicago.  

Nat is an outspoken civil rights attorney; Roan, the quiet one, is an NSA analyst who isn’t even allowed to tell her wife the location of her next business trip. A long-time couple confronts questions about their marriage they never thought to ask as their personal relationship collides with national security.

“This play’s drama teeters on the balance between marriage vows and the required oath to the Constitution by some federal employees,” notes Artistic Director Gwendolyn Whiteside. “Christina Telesca Gorman made this topic personal, intimate, and poignant. As you weigh Roan’s decisions in this perilous situation, try not to think about all the data points collected on you today: point-of-sale purchases, web addresses visited, social media posts, cell-phone tower pings, and municipal and private businesses’ video and audio recording devices. If you haven’t heard this battle cry yet, you will: data rights are human rights.”

The cast of Roan @ The Gates includes Brenda Barrie (Roan) and Jasmine Bracey (Nat).

The creative team includes Sarah E. Ross* (scenic), Jared Gooding* (lighting), Lily Walls* (costumes), Eric Backus* (composer/sound design), Amanda Barth (props), and Charlie Baker (intimacy). The production and stage manager is Shandee Vaughan.* 

*Denotes Ensemble and Artistic Affiliates of American Blues Theater

Roan @ The Gates is recommended for audiences ages 12+.

About the Artists

CHRISTINA TELESCA GORMAN (Playwright) is a proud Artistic Affiliate of American Blues Theater. Her plays include Fidelis (The Public Theater); American Myth (American Blues Theater, Theatre Artists Studio); Roan @ the Gates (Alley Theatre’s Alley All New Festival); On the Outs (Ensemble Studio Theater); Split Wide Open (NYC Summer Play Festival); Sorin: A Notre Dame Story (University of Notre Dame, national tour); Just Knots (national and international theatres, winner of Samuel French Off-Off Broadway Festival Plays 34th Series); Sacred Ground (Stella Adler Studio); and DNA (Prospect Theatre Company, Hangar Theatre). Her plays have been produced and/or developed at Geva Theatre Center, Capital Repertory Theatre, New Harmony Project, Lark Play Development Center, Troy Foundry Theatre, Stageworks/Hudson, Playwrights Foundation, and Berkshire Playwrights Lab. Christina is an inaugural member of The Public Theater Emerging Writers Group and a WP Theatre Playwrights Lab alumna. She is published by Samuel French and Smith & Kraus.

LEXI SAUNDERS (Director) is a queer director, performer, and teaching artist originally from Los Angeles. Recent Chicago directing credits include Power in Pride (About Face Theatre); The Departure (Haven Theatre); Eurydice (Jedlicka Performing Arts Center); Missed Opportunities (Cuckoo’s Theatre Project); Grounded (Theater of Thought); Fifty Shades of Shakespeare ((re)discover theatre); Super (Mudlark Theater); and various other works and staged readings at Victory Gardens, Gift Theatre, Chicago Dramatists, 2nd Story, Something Marvelous, and Pride Films & Plays. She has assistant directed for Steppenwolf Theatre, Victory Gardens, Steep Theatre, Jackalope Theatre, and La Jolla Playhouse; and was honored to be selected for Victory Gardens’ 2016 Directors Inclusion Initiative and Haven Theatre’s 2017 Directors Haven. Lexi is an Artistic Associate with About Face Theatre, where she currently directs the Outreach Ensemble touring a queer devised show to schools and events throughout the Midwest. Upcoming productions include Laced by Sam Mueller at About Face Theatre. She holds a BA in Theatre from UC San Diego.  

BRENDA BARRIE (Roan) is thrilled to return to American Blues Theater where she last performed in Six Corners. Select Chicago credits include United Flight 232 (House Theatre); The Downpour (Route 66); Mother Road (Goodman Theatre); Middletown, Sex with Strangers, and Okay Bye (Steppenwolf Theatre); Julius Caesar and Elizabeth Rex (Chicago Shakespeare Theater); Memory, Aunt Dan and Lemon, How I Learned to Drive, and Waiting for Lefty (Backstage Theatre); The Ruby Sunrise (Gift Theatre); Mrs. Caliban and Mariette in Ecstasy (Lifeline Theatre); A Streetcar Named Desire (Metropolis); and Caravaggio (Silk Road Rising). Brenda is a company member with the House Theatre, where she’s excited to perform the title role in Henry V later this spring. She’s received four Joseph Jefferson Award Nominations for Principal Actress and two Nominations for Ensemble. Television credits include Chicago Code, Chicago P.D., Chicago Med, and Chicago Fire. She received her BFA in Theatre from the University of Indianapolis and studied theatre at the University of Ulster, Northern Ireland.

JASMINE BRACEY (Nat) is thrilled to be making her American Blues Theater debut. Chicago credits include: A Christmas Carol, How to Catch Creation, Lottery Day (u/s performed) (Goodman Theatre); A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Shakespeare’s Greatest Hits (Chicago Shakespeare Theater); and Animal Farm (Steppenwolf Theatre). Regional credits include:  Shakespeare In Love, Truth: The Testimonial of Sojourner Truth (Hope Summer Rep); An Octoroon (Berkeley Repertory Theatre); You Can’t Take It with You (Alley Theatre); As You Like It (The Acting Company); Clybourne Park, To Kill a Mockingbird, Wit, The Little Foxes, O Beautiful, Our Town, A Midsummer Night’s Dream (Resident Ensemble Players); Macando (Guthrie Theater); and Antony and Cleopatra (Pennsylvania Shakespeare Festival). She holds a MFA from the University of Delaware.


Dates: January 31 – February 29, 2020
Previews: January 31 – February 5, 2020
Press Performance: Friday, February 7, 2020 at 7:30pm
Regular Run: February 8 – 29, 2020

Schedule: Thursdays:  7:30pm
Fridays:  7:30pm
Saturdays:  3pm (except February 1 and 8) & 7:30pm (February 29)
Sundays:  2:30pm

Additional performances on Wednesday, February 5 at 7:30pm, Monday, February 24 at 7:30pm and Thursday, February 27 at 2:30pm

No performances on Saturday, February 1 at 3pm; Saturday, February 8 at 3pm; or Saturday, February 29 at 7:30pm

Free post-show discussions follow Sunday performances.

Touch Tour and Audio Described Performance on February 16 at 2:30pm

Open Captioned Performance on February 23 at 2:30pm

Location: Stage 773, 1225 W. Belmont Ave. in Chicago

Ticket prices: $19 - $39
Box Office: Buy online at AmericanBluesTheater.com or by calling 773.654.3103.

Subscriptions
All main stage performances take place at Stage 773, 1225 W. Belmont Ave. The Blue Card – the most affordable ticketing offer for the 2019-2020 season is available now at AmericanBluesTheater.com or by calling 773.654.3103. 

About American Blues Theater
Winner of the American Theatre Wing’s prestigious National Theatre Company Award, American Blues Theater is a premier arts organization with an intimate environment that patrons, artists, and all Chicagoans call home.  American Blues Theater explores the American identity through the plays it produces and communities it serves.

The diverse and multi-generational artists have established the second-oldest professional Equity Ensemble theater in Chicago.  The 32-member Ensemble has 600+ combined years of collaboration on stage. As of 2019, the theater and artists received 213 Joseph Jefferson Awards and nominations that celebrate excellence in Chicago theater and 38 Black Theatre Alliance Awards. The artists are honored with Pulitzer Prize nominations, Academy Awards, Golden Globe Awards, Emmy Awards and numerous other accolades.  

Thursday, May 16, 2019

Casting Announced: American Blues Theater's The Spitfire Grill July 12 – August 17, 2019

ChiIL Live Shows on our radar
American Blues Theater Announces Casting for
The Spitfire Grill
Based on the Film by Lee David Zlotoff



Book by James Valeq & Fred Alley
Lyrics by Fred Alley
Music by James Valeq
Directed by Tammy Mader
Music Direction by Malcolm Ruhl

Featuring Dara Cameron, Ian Paul Custer, Karl Hamilton, Donterrio Johnson,
Jacquelyne Jones, Gabrielle Lott-Rogers, and Catherine Smitko

July 12 – August 17, 2019

American Blues Theater announces casting for the Chicago revival of The Spitfire Grill, based on the film by Lee David Zlotoff, with book by James Valeq and Fred Alley, lyrics by Fred Alley and music by James Valeq. The Spitfire Grill, directed by Tammy Mader with music direction by Malcolm Ruhl, runs July 12 – August 17, 2019 at Stage 773, 1225 W Belmont Ave in Chicago. I'll be out for the press opening July 19th, so check back shortly after for my full review.

A feisty parolee follows her dreams, based on a page from an old travel book, to a small town in Wisconsin and finds a place for herself working at Hannah's Spitfire Grill. The New York Times calls THE SPITFIRE GRILL “a soul satisfying...work of theatrical resourcefulness” and The Wall Street Journal heralds its “soaring melodies”. 

The cast of The Spitfire Grill includes Dara Cameron* (Shelby Thorpe), Ian Paul Custer* (The Visitor), Karl Hamilton (Caleb Thorpe), Donterrio Johnson (Sheriff Joe Sutter), Jacquelyne Jones (Percy Talbott), Gabrielle Lott-Rogers (Effy Krayneck), and Catherine Smitko (Hannah Ferguson).

The creative team for The Spitfire Grill includes Sarah E. Ross* (scenic design), Jared Gooding* (lighting design), Lily Grace Walls (costume design), Rick Sims* (sound design), Mary O'Dowd (props design), Shandee Vaughan* (production manager), and Kate Ocker (stage manager).

Musicians include Ian Paul Custer* (piano), Greg Hirte (violin), Malcolm Ruhl (accordion), Scott Sedlacek (guitar / mandolin), and Magdalena Sustere (cello).

*American Blues Theater Ensemble and Artistic Affiliates. 



Dates:                          
July 12 – August 17, 2019 
Previews: July 12 – 14, 2019
Press Opening: Friday, July 19, 2019 at 7:30 p.m.
Regular Run: July 20 – August 17, 2019

Schedule:                      
Thursdays:  7:30pm
Fridays:  7:30pm
Saturdays:  3:00pm & 7:30pm
Sundays:  2:30pm

Blues Views: 
free post-show discussions follow Sunday performances

Additional performances on July 17 at 7:30pm and August 14 at 2:30pm
& 7:30pm

No performances on July 13 or 20 at 3:00pm nor August 17 at 7:30pm

Location:                      
Stage 773, 1225 W. Belmont Ave. in Chicago

Ticket prices:                
$19 - $39
Box Office: Buy online at AmericanBluesTheater.com or by calling 773.654.3103.

Save the dates:




About American Blues Theater  
Winner of the American Theatre Wing’s prestigious National Theatre Company Award, American Blues Theater is a premier arts organization with an intimate environment that patrons, artists, and all Chicagoans call home.  American Blues Theater explores the American identity through the plays it produces and communities it serves.  
  
The diverse and multi-generational artists have established the second-oldest professional Equity Ensemble theater in Chicago.  The 36-member Ensemble has 600+ combined years of collaboration on stage. As of 2018, the theater and artists received 204 Joseph Jefferson Awards and nominations that celebrate excellence in Chicago theater and over 36 Black Theatre Alliance Awards. The artists are honored with Pulitzer Prize nominations, Academy Awards, Golden Globe Awards, Emmy Awards and numerous other accolades.    
  
American Blues Theater programs and activities are made possible, in part by funding by The MacArthur Funds for Arts & Culture at Prince, the Shubert Foundation, The Chicago Community Trust, SMART Growth Grant, Gaylord & Dorothy Donnelley Foundation, the Illinois Arts Council Agency, Anixter Foundation, Actors’ Equity Foundation, and the Chip Pringle Fund. ComEd is the Season Lighting Sponsor.

Monday, March 25, 2019

OPENING: Chicago Premiere of The Absolute Brightness of Leonard Pelkey Via American Blues Theater at Stage 773 March 29 – April 27, 2019

ChiIL Live Shows on our radar

American Blues Theater Presents
the Chicago Premiere of  
The Absolute Brightness of Leonard Pelkey
by James Lecesne 
directed by Kurt Johns
featuring Joe Foust


March 29 – April 27, 2019

I'll be out for the press opening April 4th, so check back soon for my full review.

American Blues Theater continues its 2018-2019 Season with the Chicago Premiere of The Absolute Brightness of Leonard Pelkey, by James Lecesne and directed by Kurt Johns. The Absolute Brightness of Leonard Pelkey runs March 29 – April 27, 2019 at Stage 773, 1225 W Belmont Ave in Chicago.  

Ensemble member Joe Foust* portrays every character in a small Jersey Shore town as he unravels the story of Leonard Pelkey, a tenaciously optimistic and flamboyant fourteen-year-old boy who goes missing. A luminous force of nature whose magic is only truly felt once he is gone, Leonard becomes an unexpected inspiration as the town’s citizens question how they live, who they love, and what they leave behind. 

The creative team includes Grant Sabin* (scenic), Jared Gooding* (lighting), Travis Bihn (costumes), Eric Backus* (sound), Kevin Rolfs (props), and Shandee Vaughan* (production manager / stage manager).

*Denotes Ensemble and Artistic Affiliates of American Blues Theater

Featuring: Ensemble Member Joe Foust* (solo performer)

Creative Team: Grant Sabin* (scenic), Jared Gooding* (lighting), Travis Bihn (costumes), Eric Backus* (sound), Kevin Rolfs (props), and Shandee Vaughan* (production manager / stage manager)

Dates: March 29 – April 27, 2019 
Previews: March 29 – April 3, 2019
Press Opening: Thursday, April 4, 2019 at 7:30 p.m.
Regular Run: April 5 – 27, 2019

Schedule: Thursdays:  7:30pm
Fridays: 7:30pm
Saturdays: 3:00pm & 7:30pm
Sundays: 2:30pm

Town Halls: free post-show discussions follow Sunday performances

Additional performances on April 3 & 15 at 7:30pm and April 24 at 2:30pm

No performances on March 30 or April 6 at 3:00pm or April 27 at 7:30pm 

Location: Stage 773, 1225 W. Belmont Ave. in Chicago

Ticket prices: $19 - $39
Box Office: Buy online at AmericanBluesTheater.com or by calling 773.654.3103.



About American Blues Theater  
Winner of the American Theatre Wing’s prestigious National Theatre Company Award, American Blues Theater is a premier arts organization with an intimate environment that patrons, artists, and all Chicagoans call home.  American Blues Theater explores the American identity through the plays it produces and communities it serves.  
  
The diverse and multi-generational artists have established the second-oldest professional Equity Ensemble theater in Chicago.  The 36-member Ensemble has 600+ combined years of collaboration on stage. As of 2018, the theater and artists received 204 Joseph Jefferson Awards and nominations that celebrate excellence in Chicago theater and over 36 Black Theatre Alliance Awards. The artists are honored with Pulitzer Prize nominations, Academy Awards, Golden Globe Awards, Emmy Awards and numerous other accolades.    
  
American Blues Theater programs and activities are made possible, in part by funding by The MacArthur Funds for Arts & Culture at Prince, the Shubert Foundation, The Chicago Community Trust, SMART Growth Grant, Gaylord & Dorothy Donnelley Foundation, the Illinois Arts Council Agency, Anixter Foundation, Actors’ Equity Foundation, and the Chip Pringle Fund. ComEd is the Season Lighting Sponsor. 

Tuesday, January 22, 2019

OPENING: Chicago Premiere of On Clover Road Via American Blues Theater at Stage 773 Through March 16, 2019

American Blues Theater Presents
the Chicago Premiere of  
On Clover Road 
By Steven Dietz 
Directed by Halena Kays
Featuring Ensemble Members Gwendolyn Whiteside and Philip Earl Johnson


February 1 – March 16, 2019

**On Clover Road is recommended for ages 14+**

I'll be out for the press opening February 7th, so check back soon for my full review. Halena Kays is one of my favorite directors so I'm eager to see her take on this edgy thriller and intense subject matter.

American Blues Theater continues its 2018-2019 Season with the Chicago Premiere of the thriller On Clover Road, by Steven Dietz and directed by Halena Kays. On Clover Road runs February 1 – March 16, 2019 at Stage 773, 1225 W Belmont Ave in Chicago.  

At an abandoned motel on a desolate American road, a mother meets with a cult deprogrammer, believing she will be reunited with her runaway daughter. On Clover Road features Joseph Jefferson Award winners and American Blues Theater Ensemble members Gwendolyn Whiteside and Philip Earl Johnson. DC Metro Arts says this smart, harrowing, edge-of-your-seat thriller will “consume your attention for its full 90 minutes, and you'll leave the theatre fully entertained."  

The cast of On Clover Road includes Philip Earl Johnson* (Stine), Gwendolyn Whiteside* (Kate Hunter), Jon Hudson Odom (Harris McLain), Grace Smith (A Girl), and Caroline Phillips (A Girl).

The creative team includes Lizzie Bracken (scenic), Alison Siple (costumes), Alexander Ridgers (lighting), Rick Sims* (sound), Mary O’Dowd (props) and Shandee Vaughan* (production manager). The stage manager is Kate Ocker.

*Denotes Ensemble and Artistic Affiliates of American Blues Theater


Featuring: Philip Earl Johnson* (Stine), Gwendolyn Whiteside* (Kate Hunter), Jon Hudson Odom (Harris McLain), Grace Smith (A Girl), and Caroline Phillips (A Girl)

Creative Team: Lizzie Bracken (scenic), Alexander Ridgers (lighting), Alison Siple (costumes), Rick Sims* (sound), Mary O’Dowd (props) and Shandee Vaughan* (production manager). The stage manager is Kate Ocker.

Dates:
February 1 – March 16, 2019
Previews: February 1 – 6, 2019
Press Opening: Thursday, February 7, 2019 at 7:30 p.m.
Regular Run: February 8 – March 16, 2019

Schedule:
Thursdays:  7:30pm
Fridays:  7:30pm
Saturdays:  3:00pm & 7:30pm
Sundays:  2:30pm

Town Halls: free post-show discussions follow Sunday performances

Additional performances on February 6 & 18 at 7:30pm and March 13 at 2:30pm and 7:30pm

No performances on February 2, 9 & 23 at 3:00pm or March 15 & 16 at 7:30pm 

Location:
Stage 773, 1225 W. Belmont Ave. in Chicago

Ticket prices:
$19 - $39
Box Office:
Buy online at AmericanBluesTheater.com or by calling 773.654.3103.



About American Blues Theater  
Winner of the American Theatre Wing’s prestigious National Theatre Company Award, American Blues Theater is a premier arts organization with an intimate environment that patrons, artists, and all Chicagoans call home.  American Blues Theater explores the American identity through the plays it produces and communities it serves.  
  
The diverse and multi-generational artists have established the second-oldest professional Equity Ensemble theater in Chicago.  The 36-member Ensemble has 600+ combined years of collaboration on stage. As of 2018, the theater and artists received 204 Joseph Jefferson Awards and nominations that celebrate excellence in Chicago theater and over 36 Black Theatre Alliance Awards. The artists are honored with Pulitzer Prize nominations, Academy Awards, Golden Globe Awards, Emmy Awards and numerous other accolades.    
  
American Blues Theater programs and activities are made possible, in part by funding by The MacArthur Funds for Arts & Culture at Prince, the Shubert Foundation, The Chicago Community Trust, SMART Growth Grant, Gaylord & Dorothy Donnelley Foundation, the Illinois Arts Council Agency, Anixter Foundation, Actors’ Equity Foundation, and the Chip Pringle Fund. ComEd is the Season Lighting Sponsor. 

Friday, November 30, 2018

Welcome five new American Blues Theater Ensemble members

Welcome five new American Blues Theater Ensemble members
Elyse Dolan, Jared Gooding, Philip Earl Johnson, Chuck Smith, and Wandachristine,
 and new Artistic Affiliate Zachary Stevenson


American Blues Theater announces the addition of five new Ensemble members and one new Artistic Affiliate to the Blues family. Joining the Ensemble is director, designer and Associate Producer Elyse Dolan, who directed several works in past Ripped and Blue Ink festivals; designer Jared Gooding, lighting designer of Buddy – The Buddy Holly Story; actor Philip Earl Johnson, who is slated to appear in the upcoming Chicago premiere of Steven Dietz’s On Clover Road; director Chuck Smith, director of the recent American Blues production of Pearl Cleage’s Flyin’ West; and actress and playwright Wandachristine, who won many awards for her solo performance Beauty’s Daughter. Actor Zachary Stevenson has been named an Artistic Affiliate. Stevenson recently made his Chicago debut as “Buddy Holly” in American Blues Theater’s Joseph Jefferson Award-winning musical Buddy – the Buddy Holly Story, in which he also won a Jeff Award for Performance in a Musical.

“We are thrilled to announce the addition of these incredible artists into the Ensemble and Artistic Affiliates. We’ve enjoyed amazing collaborations with all of these artists over the years and are so excited to deepen our commitment to making great art together. We look forward to the amazing work we have planned with this extremely talented group in upcoming seasons,” comments Gwendolyn Whiteside, Artistic Director of American Blues Theater.

About the Artists

ELYSE DOLAN is a proud Ensemble member of American Blues Theater where she is also the Associate Producer. She has directed several short plays in past Ripped festivals, staged readings in the annual Blue Ink Festival, and has been Assistant Director on a handful shows including Six Corners (dir. Gary Griffin) and Little Shop of Horrors (dir. Jonathan Berry). Her directing work has been seen across Chicago at The New Colony (where she is also their Director of Education), Broken Nose Theatre, Prop Thtr, Commission Theatre, Babes with Blades, 20% Theatre Company, Pride Films & Plays, and more. She has also served as Assistant Director on productions at Raven Theatre, Oracle Theatre, 16th Street Theater, and Redtwist Theatre. She also does set dressing and properties design for the annual production of It’s a Wonderful Life: Live in Chicago! Elyse holds a B.A. from Denison University.

JARED GOODING is a proud Ensemble member of American Blues Theater where he has designed lighting for Flyin’ West, Buddy – The Buddy Holly Story, This Wonderful Life, Beauty’s Daughter, and The Columnist. His other design credits include the Associate Design of Lookingglass Alice (Lookingglass Theatre Company), serving as the Lighting Assistant for The Wiz Live on NBC, designs for Victory Gardens Theater, Milwaukee Repertory Theater, UIC Theatre, Writers Theatre, Strawdog Theatre, The Hypocrites, TimeLine Theatre, Madison Children's Theatre, Definition Theatre, Windy City Playhouse, Sideshow Theatre, First Floor Theater, About Face Theatre, MPAACT, Pegasus Theatre, Next Theatre, Congo Square Theatre, Citadel Theatre, ETA, and Fleetwood Jourdain Theatre. He is a company member with MPACCT. He spends his off time managing a DJ company for Chicago area bars.

PHILIP EARL JOHNSON is a proud Ensemble member of American Blues Theater where he performed in David Auburn’s Chicago premiere of The Columnist and upcoming Chicago premiere Steven Dietz’s On Clover Road. He has appeared Goodman Theater in Enemy of the People, Talking Pictures, The Actor and Brutality of Fact. Other Chicago credits include: A Christmas Story at The Paramount Theatre; Danny Casolaro Died For You at TimeLine Theatre Company; The Dance of Death and Old Glory at Writers Theatre; The Royale and The Big Meal (Jeff Award for Best Ensemble) at American Theatre Company; Tartuffe, Skylight, James Joyce's The Dead and The Mystery Cycle at Court Theatre; Picasso at the Lapin Agile at Steppenwolf Theatre Company and The Conquest of The South Pole at Famous Door Theatre. He was in the first national tour of Angels in America: Millenium Approaches and Perestroika, launching at The Royal George Theatre. He has spent 10 seasons at the Illinois Shakespeare Festival appearing in many productions including the title roles in Macbeth, Cyrano De Bergerac, Coriolanus and Antony and Cleopatra. Other regional credits include A Moon for The Misbegotten at Laguna Playhouse and Just Men at Stella Adler Theatre. Recent television credits include “Empire”, “Chicago Med”, “Chicago Fire”, and “Mind Games”. When not in Chicago, he tours the country with his European-style clown act MooNiE: Juggler Ropewalker, Foolish Mortal!

CHUCK SMITH is a proud Ensemble member of American Blues Theater where he directed Pearl Cleage’s Flyin’ West and Leroi Jones’ Dutchman. He is a member of Goodman Theatre’s Board of Trustees and is Goodman Theatre’s Resident Director. He is also a resident director at the Westcoast Black Theatre Troupe in Sarasota, Florida. Goodman credits include the Chicago premieres of Pullman Porter Blues; By the Way, Meet Vera Stark; Race; The Good Negro; Proof; and The Story; the world premieres of By the Music of the Spheres and The Gift Horse; James Baldwin’s The Amen Corner, which transferred to Boston’s Huntington Theatre Company, where it won the Independent Reviewers of New England (IRNE) Award for Best Direction; A Raisin in the Sun; Blues for an Alabama Sky; August Wilson’s Two Trains Running and Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom; Objects in the Mirror; Having Our Say; Ain’t Misbehavin’; the 1993 to 1995 productions of A Christmas Carol; Crumbs From the Table of Joy; Vivisections from a Blown Mind; and The Meeting. He served as dramaturg for the Goodman’s world-premiere production of August Wilson’s Gem of the Ocean. He directed the New York premiere of Knock Me a Kiss and The Hooch for the New Federal Theatre and the world premiere of Knock Me a Kiss at Chicago’s Victory Gardens Theater, where his other directing credits include Master Harold... and the Boys, Home, Dame Lorraine, and Eden, for which he received a Jeff Award nomination. Regionally, Mr. Smith directed Death and the King’s Horseman (Oregon Shakespeare Festival), Birdie Blue (Seattle Repertory Theatre), The Story (Milwaukee Repertory Theater), Blues for an Alabama Sky (Alabama Shakespeare Festival), and The Last Season (Robey Theatre Company). At Columbia College he was facilitator of the Theodore Ward Prize playwriting contest for 20 years and editor of the contest anthologies Seven Black Plays and Best Black Plays. He won a Chicago Emmy Award as associate producer/theatrical director for the NBC teleplay Crime of Innocence and was theatrical director for the Emmy-winning Fast Break to Glory and the Emmy-nominated The Martin Luther King Suite. He was a founding member of the Chicago Theatre Company, where he served as artistic director for four seasons and directed the Jeff-nominated Suspenders and the Jeff-winning musical Po’. His directing credits include productions at Fisk University, Roosevelt University, Eclipse Theatre, ETA, Black Ensemble Theater, Northlight Theatre, MPAACT, Congo Square Theatre, The New Regal Theater, Kuumba Theatre Company, Fleetwood-Jourdain Theatre, Pegasus Players, the Timber Lake Playhouse in Mt. Carroll, Illinois, the University of Illinois in Champaign-Urbana, and the University of Wisconsin in Madison. He is a 2003 inductee into the Chicago State University Gwendolyn Brooks Center’s Literary Hall of Fame and a 2001 Chicago Tribune Chicagoan of the Year. He is the proud recipient of the 1982 Paul Robeson Award and the 1997 Award of Merit presented by the Black Theater Alliance of Chicago.

WANDACHRISTINE is a proud Ensemble member of American Blues Theater. She has starred on many stages throughout the country in such notable productions as the touring company of Fences, The Vagina Monologues, Gees Bend, and Thyestes just to name a few. She was recognized for her work in the acclaimed production of Old Settler; for which she was a Supporting Actress nominee for the prestigious Joseph Jefferson Award and a Best Actress nominee for the noted Ruby Dee/Black Theater Alliance Award as well. Once again she was recognized for her work in another acclaimed production, produced by American Blues Theater, Beauty’s Daughter and this time she won the Ruby Dee/Black Theater Alliance Award for her solo performance.  Earlier this year she toured in Dani Gurira’s (“Black Panther” and “Walking Dead”) production of Familiar.  Now she’s hard at work appearing in the new staging of A Wonder in My Soul at Baltimore Center Stage. On film she’s worked alongside of Whoppie Goldberg in “Clara’s Heart”, starred in the hit comedy as Mrs. Jones, in the film “Me and Mrs. Jones” with Kym Fields, and Birdie on “Chicago PD”.  Her voice can be heard daily in numerous television and radio commercials, along with a few animated characters, for such shows as “The PJ’s”, “The Justice League” and “Scarface” the video game. She’s written her first fiction novel, “I LOVE YOU MORE…THAN SHOES!”, which is about four actresses over 50 still trying to make it in Hollywood. As a playwright, she now has two plays that will be produced soon; “One Day?” and “Sammy, Harry, Oscar and Me…Morris”, this one will be directed by another Blues Ensemble member Chuck Smith.

ZACHARY STEVENSON is a proud Artistic Affiliate of American Blues Theater who recently made his Chicago debut as “Buddy Holly” in American Blues Theater’s Joseph Jefferson Award-winning musical Buddy – the Buddy Holly Story, in which Zach also won a Jeff Award for Performance in a Musical. Originally from Vancouver Island, Canada, Zach recently relocated to Chicago after spending the last few years being based in Kansas City, MO. Select credits include: Million Dollar Quartet (Paramount Theatre – “Carl” U/S), Hair (CanStage), Ring of Fire (Chemainus Theatre Festival / Western Canada Theatre), Hank Williams: The Show He Never Gave (Blue Bridge Repertory), Urinetown (Belfry Theatre), Red Rock Diner (Arts Club Theatre), Assassins (Quintessence), and over ten productions of Buddy - The Buddy Holly Story throughout the US and Canada, for which he’s been nominated for a Jessie Richardson Award and Ovation Award. Zachary has also had the pleasure of music directing several productions, including Million Dollar Quartet (Arts Club), and Ring of Fire (Chemainus Theatre Festival), as well as performing in countless headlining concerts across North America. Off stage, Zach is busy writing a one-man show about the 1960s folksinger and activist, Phil Ochs.

About American Blues Theater 
Winner of the American Theatre Wing’s prestigious 2016 National Theatre Company Award, American Blues Theater is a premier arts organization with an intimate environment that patrons, artists, and all Chicagoans call home.  American Blues Theater explores the American identity through the plays it produces and communities it serves. 

The diverse and multi-generational artists have established the second-oldest professional Equity Ensemble theater in Chicago.  The 33-member Ensemble has 600+ combined years of collaboration on stage. As of 2018, the theater and artists received 195 Joseph Jefferson Awards and nominations that celebrate excellence in Chicago theater and over 35 Black Theatre Alliance Awards. The artists are honored with Pulitzer Prize nominations, Academy Awards, Golden Globe Awards, Emmy Awards and numerous other accolades.   

American Blues Theater programs and activities are made possible, in part by funding by The MacArthur Funds for Arts & Culture at Prince, the Shubert Foundation, The Chicago Community Trust, SMART Growth Grant, Gaylord & Dorothy Donnelley Foundation, the Illinois Arts Council Agency, Anixter Foundation, Actors’ Equity Foundation, and the Chip Pringle Fund. ComEd is the Season Lighting Sponsor.


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