“TOP LIST – Highest Rated Shows in Chicago” –Theater in Chicago
“WHIP-SMART! THREE & 1/2 STARS (out of 4)! American Blues Theater production is so darn on-the-money! Delicious and admirably honest couple of hours…Deftly explored, intimate, classy, involving, well-acted production.” –Chris Jones, Chicago Tribune
“FIVE STARS (out of 5)! MUST SEE ‘STORY’! Incredible production! American Blues Theater, one of Chicago’s pioneers, just keeps getting stronger. Masterful set designed by Sarah E. Ross and solid lighting by Sarah Hughey!” –Alan Bresloff, Around the Town
“This production culminates in a knock-down, drag-out that leaves welts.” –Tony Adler, Chicago Reader
“HIGHLY RECOMMENDED! You’d be hard pressed to find a finer acted play than ‘Collected Stories’! Mary Ann Thebus and Jessica Thebus put their subtle touches on this marvelous drama.” –Tom Williams, Chicago Theatre Review
“[Carmen Roman & Gwendolyn Whiteside] Together, these two talented women plow this strikingly raw and honest production. Co-directors [Mary Ann & Jessica Thebus] ensure that each moment is infused with a deep sense of honesty and investment.” –Zach Freeman, Newcity Chicago
“You won’t want this story to end! The emotions are intense…the lines are drawn. The climax becomes a personal moment for the audience. THREE & 1/2 STARS (out of 4)!” –Katy Walsh, Chicago Theatre Beat
“Perfected Stories! Thriving performances…two actresses at the top of their game and directors who flood the stage with nuance. Both Roman and Whiteside are the epitome of what critics refer to when we say ‘multi-layered’.” –Tony Frankel, Stage & Cinema
Our Pink Preview audiences LOVE “Collected Stories”.
Collected Thoughts on Collected Stories
by Tyler Tidmore
High spirits and positive energy are beaming out of the Richard Christiansen Theater at the Victory Gardens Biograph. After weeks of detailed rehearsals and thorough examinations of Donald Margulies’ script, Collected Stories is in a great place for Chicago audiences.
The April 25th premiere is almost on top of us! The final touches are being added to the set, the lights are reaching the appropriate focus level, and actresses Carmen Roman and Wendy Whiteside are finalizing their portrayals of Margulies’ female leads.
We can’t wait to share this production with you!
Collected Thoughts on Collected Stories
by Tyler Tidmore
Literature is the gateway to freedom; a unique freedom that only can be found submerged in the black ink of the written word. If Donald Margulies’ Collected Stories teaches us anything about the world of literature, it’s that books grant us the power to escape. So often we forget the people who wrote them – the magnificent writers who constructed every tiny detail of our favorite characters and the obstacles they must overcome.
Collected Stories is a whirlpool of emotion told expressed by a renowned aging author and her aspiring pupil. We’re able to chart the characters’ development and question the apprentice/master relationship. Is it something that’s earned or given?
American Blues Theater Ensemble members Gwendolyn Whiteside and Carmen Roman will be stepping into the shoes of Margulies’ vibrant female characters under the leadership and co-direction of the mother/daughter team MaryAnn and Jessica Thebus. As rehearsals continue, everyone is rediscovering their personal significance of that unique relationship called mentor and protégé.
LEGENDS AND LEGACIES
Chicago Equity Premiere
HANK WILLIAMS: LOST HIGHWAY
Written by Randal Myler and Mark Harelik
Directed by Damon Kiely
Music directed by Malcolm Ruhl
September 5, 2013 – October 6, 2013
at Greenhouse Theater Center
Featuring Ensemble members Matt Brumlow as Hank Williams, Laura Coover, James Leaming, Michael Mahler, Suzanne Petri, and guest artists John Foley, John Crowley, Greg Hirte, Matt Kahler, & Dana Black.
“A profound emotional journey…forceful, clear-eyed, moving, impressive!”— Rolling Stone
“The best example of a musician’s bio put on stage that I’ve seen!”—The New York Post
HANK WILLAMS: LOST HIGHWAY follows Williams’ rise from the beginnings to his triumphs on the Grand Ole Opry to his self-destruction at twenty-nine. Audiences will be treated to an unforgettable tribute of more than 20 hits, including “I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry”, “Move It on Over”, “Hey, Good Lookin’”, and “Jambalaya”.
12th Smash Year – the Chicago Original
IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE: LIVE IN CHICAGO!
Based on Frank Capra’s film from a short story by Philip Van Doren Stern
Directed by Ensemble member Marty Higginbotham
November 25, 2012 – December 29, 2013
at Greenhouse Theater Center
Featuring the entire cast of 2012’s sold-out hit: Ensemble members Dara Cameron, Kevin Kelly, Michael Mahler, John Mohrlein, Gwendolyn Whiteside, Artistic Affiliate James Joseph, and guest artists Shawn Goudie & Ian Paul Custer.
Dean Richards recommended! As seen on WGN, CBS Chicago, NBC, WXRT, WBEZ, Chicago Tribune, Sun-Times, Chicago Magazine, “Best of Chicago”-Newcity, Chicago Reader, and much more!
“How fortunate to have talented & spirited actors…[who] are willing to keep that bright light shining.” –Karolyn Grimes, Zuzu in Frank Capra’s It’s a Wonderful Life.
Since 2002, the American Blues Theater Ensemble has treated Chicago to Clarence, George, and the delightful characters of Bedford Falls. In its new 199-seat theater, American Blues Theater will once again take you back to a 1940s radio broadcast of Frank Capra’s holiday classic IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE in a full-scale production with Foley sound effects, an original score, and a stellar cast of seven. After each performance, milk and cookies are served.
Written by 2012 Blue Ink Prize winner, Christina Gorman
Directed by Steve Scott
Developed at The Public Theater
February – March 2014
with City of Chicago’s Department of Culture and Special Events
Dr. Douglas Graham, best-selling author, beloved professor, and American history scholar, is accused by a former student of lying in the classroom about his participation in and around the Vietnam War. AMERICAN MYTH explores the line between personal and professional ethics, the difference between truth and history, and the myth of what makes a great man.
Written by 2012 Smith Prize winner, George Brant
at Greenhouse Theater Center
Featuring Ensemble member Gwendolyn Whiteside
A hot-rod F16 fighter pilot’s unexpected pregnancy ends her career in the sky. Repurposed to flying remote-controlled drones in Afghanistan from an air-conditioned trailer near Vegas, the Pilot struggles through surreal twelve-hour shifts far from the battlefield, hunting terrorists by day and being a wife and mother by night. A tour de force play for one actress, GROUNDED flies from the heights of lyricism to the shallows of workaday existence, targeting our assumptions about war, family, and the power of storytelling.
Adapted by Ensemble member Nambi E. Kelley
With special permission from the Richard Wright Estate.
Workshops and public readings throughout 2013-2014;
Production in September 2014
Throughout the 2013 – 2014 season, American Blues Theater hosts workshops, live staged readings and other events culminating in the world premiere of a new adaptation of NATIVE SON by Ensemble Member Nambi E. Kelley. Native Son tells the story of a young black man caught in a downward spiral after he kills a young white woman in a brief moment of panic. The story, still relevant almost 75 years after it was originally published, is an unflinching portrait of what it means to be black in America and the poverty and feelings of hopelessness experienced by people in inner cities across the United States. It will receive a production in the fall of 2014.
Education Outreach in Schools
THE LINCOLN PROJECT
Adapted by Ensemble member Gwendolyn Whiteside from
Artistic Affiliate James Still’s Pulitzer nominated “The Heavens Are Hung in Black”
With special arrangement with Dramatic Publishing.
Directed by Ensemble member Heather Meyers
Featuring Ensemble members Manny Buckley, Steve Key, Warren Levon, Artistic Affiliate Zachary Kenney, and guest artist Kaelan Strouse.
Celebrating the 150th anniversary of Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation, ABT provides a three-part education outreach program to 7th- 9th graders throughout Chicago.
RIPPED: THE LIVING NEWSPAPER PROJECT
Written and Directed by various Chicago artists
Based on the 1930’s WPA era program that brought Orson Welles, Arthur Miller, Richard Wright, and Clifford Odets into public attention, our playwrights use inspiration ripped from today’s headlines.
Plays, dates, and artists subject to change
Congratulations to Elaine Romero for winning the 2013 Blue Ink Playwriting Award for her script “Graveyard of Empires”.
Finalists were Dave Carley for “American Detour” and Jim Henry for “Jellofish”.
Honorable mentions include: Laura Axelrod “Searching for the Sign”, Sarah Bowden “The Magnificent Masked Hearing Aid”, Richard Brockman “Lake Effect”, Michael Burgan “I Killed Mussolini”, Gloria Bond Clunie “SMOKE”, Carlos Jerome “Booked”, and Mary Kathryn Nagle “Miss Lead”.
Since beginning our national competition in 2010, we’ve received over 1,100 submissions from all over the country. The winner is awarded a cash prize of $500.00 and receives a staged-reading of her manuscript. The winning play is chosen by a selection committee comprised of American Blues Theater Ensemble members.
American Blues Theater is proud to announce two new Ensemble members: Dara Cameron and Michael Mahler. You’ve seen them in “It’s a Wonderful Life: Live at the Biograph!” since 2011. They’ll grace our stages in two productions during our upcoming 2013-2014 season.
Welcome to the family, Dara and Mike!!
DAWN BACH (Chicago, 1993) Currently she serves on the Board of Directors as the Ensemble representative. She recently performed in American Blues—Collected One Acts here at American Blues Theater and can be heard fiddling and singing around town.
ED BLATCHFORD (Los Angeles, 1985, Co-Founding Member) Recently he produced and directed two comedy shorts including “Saved By The Belding” which received rave reviews at comedy fests nationwide and much traffic on YouTube, Funny Or Die, and Sports Illustrated. www.savedbythebelding.com
MATTHEW BRUMLOW (Chicago, 2001) Currently he’s in the Measure for Measure company at Goodman Theater. Next, he will shoot the independent film, “Doug & Amy”.
MANNY BUCKLEY (Chicago, 2012) Education Outreach Manager for American Blues Theater. Currently he’s performing in the world premiere of Southbridge at Chicago Dramatists and The Lincoln Project, here at American Blues Theater.
KATE BUDDEKE (Chicago, 1988) Currently she’s performing in Good People at the Alliance Theater in Atlanta, GA. Next, she will perform in Henry VIII at Chicago Shakespeare Theater.
SARAH BURNHAM (Chicago, 2011) Production Manager for American Blues Theater. Recently she production managed for Redtwist Theater, Strawdog Theater Company, and Griffin Theater. She also designed props for Steep Theater, Victory Gardens, and Pine Box Theater.
CASEY CAMPBELL (Los Angeles, 2008) Recently he’s appeared in several national and international commercials in the last year, including a European campaign for Jose Cuervo Tequila. His horror script “Followed” was produced by Logolite Entertainment and will be released later this year. He also performs with the Los Angeles improvisation group, “The Spolin Players”, featuring Dan Castellaneta and Edie McClurg.
BRIAN CLAGGETT (Chicago, 2011) Recently he co-designed lights and stage-managed It’s a Wonderful Life: Live at the Biograph!, here at American Blues Theater.
RICK CLEVELAND (Los Angeles, 1985, Co-Founding Member) Currently he’s working on the Netflix political series “House of Cards” with Kevin Spacey, David Fincher, Beau Willimon, and Chicago playwright Keith Huff.
DENNIS COCKRUM (Los Angeles, 1988) Recently he shot a commercial for Volkswagen, featuring Jimmy Cliff. Currently he can be seen playing Elmer Jackson in the feature film “Gangster Squad” and recurring as Terry Milkovich in “Shameless” on Showtime.
LAURA COOVER (Los Angeles, 2011) Recently she appeared in “Another Happy Day”, “The House Of Purgatory”, “Playboy”, and episodes of “Mike And Molly”.
LAURI DAHL (Chicago, 1995) Recently she directed for Shinsai: Theaters for Japan, here at American Blues Theater.
KRISTIN DEITOS (Chicago, 2012) Recently she was assistant costume designer for Lookingglass Theater’s Cascabel. Next we will co-design costumes for Collected Stories, here at American Blues Theater.
JOE FOUST (Chicago, 2011) Recently he appeared as Jacob Marley in the Goodman Theater’s A Christmas Carol. Currently he’s performing in Goodman Theater’s Measure for Measure.
TOM GERATY (Des Moines, 1993) Recently he was awarded the Best Director Golden Drover for the feature film, “Ash” (www.ashindiefilm.com) which he also wrote and performed.
CHERYL GRAEFF (Chicago, 2002) Recently she performed in Teatro Vista’s show I Put The Fear of Mexico in ‘Em. Currently, she’s featured in an upcoming episode of “Chicago Fire”. Next she’ll perform Liz in The Whale at Victory Gardens Theater.
MARTY HIGGINBOTHAM (Birmingham, 2012) Recently he directed It’s a Wonderful Life: Live at the Biograph!, here at American Blues Theater.
JACLYN HOLSEY (Chicago, 2011) General Manager for American Blues Theater. She is currently stage managing Concerning Strange Devices at TimeLine Theatre Company.
LINDSAY JONES (Los Angeles, 1998) Current and upcoming sound design for productions include: The School for Lies and Julius Caesar at Chicago Shakespeare Theater; The Mountaintop at Alley Theatre and Arena Stage; Hamlet at Resident Ensemble Players; 4000 Miles at Studio Theatre; Stones in His Pockets at Northlight Theatre; Smokefall at South Coast Repertory; Mr. Joy at Lincoln Center.
SAMANTHA C. JONES (Chicago, 2011) Recently she designed costumes for It’s a Wonderful Life: Live at the Biograph!, here at American Blues Theater. Next she will co-design costumes for Collected Stories, here at American Blues Theater.
NAMBI E. KELLEY (Chicago, 2011) Currently she’s performing in Gee’s Bend at Arkansas Repertory Theater. She’s adapting Richard Wright’s Native Son for stage, here at American Blues Theater.
KEVIN R. KELLY (Chicago, 1993) Recently appeared as “George Bailey” in It’s a Wonderful Life: Live at the Biograph!, here at American Blues Theater. He shot the pilot episode of Denis Leary’s new sitcom “Sirens” for the USA Network.
STEVE KEY (Chicago, 2011) Graphic Designer for American Blues Theater. Recently he appeared in Fox television’s Mob Doctor. Currently he performs the role of “Abraham Lincoln” in The Lincoln Project, here at American Blues Theater.
ED KROSS (Chicago, 1998) Currently, he’s the “Announcer” in acclaimed I Love Lucy On Stage through March at Broadway Playhouse.
JAMES LEAMING (Chicago, 1985, Co-Founding Member) Recently he starred in This Wonderful Life, a solo-show based on the film “It’s a Wonderful Life” comprised of 46 characters at Leadville, Buena Vista, and Salida, Colorado, as a benefit for their local communities.
WARREN LEVON (Chicago, 2012) Recently he performed in F**king A by Suzan-Lori Parks with Urban Theatre Company. Currently he performs in The Lincoln Project, here at American Blues Theater.
KELLI MARINO (Chicago, 2012) Dramaturge at American Blues Theater. Currently she works as a Script Supervisor in Los Angeles, California.
HEATHER MEYERS (Chicago, 1996) Literary Associate for American Blues Theater. Recently she directed The Witch’s Brew (Citadel Theatre); “Deadline Workshop” and the “11th Annual Showcase of the New Resident Playwrights” (Chicago Dramatists); RIPPED: The Living Newspaper Project, here at American Blues Theater.
JOHN MOHRLEIN (Chicago, 1997) Recently he reprised the roles of Mr. Potter & Clarence for his 11th anniversary in It’s a Wonderful Life: Live at the Biograph!, here at American Blues Theater.
JIM ORTLIEB (Los Angeles, 1998) Recently he finished a two-year stint in the first National Broadway tour of Billy Elliot. He can be seen in the feature film “Contagion” and on the CBS series “Vegas”.
WILLIAM PAYNE (Duluth, Minnesota, 1985, Co-Founding Member) Currently he serves as the Dean of the School of Fine Arts at the University of Minnesota- Duluth. He sits on the Board of Directors for the Minnesota Theater Alliance.
SUZANNE PETRI (Chicago, 1999) Recently she performed in The Vagina Monologues, Bertha the Sewing Machine Girl (The Bernie Sahlins Players), A Little Touch of Coward in the Night (Davenport’s Cabaret), and Ripped: the Living Newspaper Project, here at American Blues Theater.
CARMEN ROMAN (New York, 1991) Recently she performed in The Games Afoot or Holmes for the Holidays with Marion Ross at the New Theater in Kansas City. She appears in an upcoming episode of “Law and Order: SVU”. Next she will perform in Collected Stories, here at American Blues Theater.
EDITHA ROSARIO (New Orleans, 2001) Currently she attends law school at Tulane.
SARAH E. ROSS (Chicago, 2011) Currently her properties design can be seen at Paramount Theater in Aurora (The Music Man & Fiddler on the Roof). Next she will design scenery for The Second City’s 101st Mainstage Revue and Collected Stories, here at American Blues Theater.
GWENDOLYN WHITESIDE (Chicago, 1998) Producing Artistic Director of American Blues Theater. Next she will perform in Collected Stories, here at American Blues Theater.