JAMES STILL (playwright of Illegal Use of Hands) is an Artistic Affiliate of American Blues Theater. His award-winning plays have been produced at theaters throughout the United States, Canada, Europe, Japan, and Australia. He is the playwright-in-residence at the Indiana Repertory Theatre, an elected member of the National Theatre Conference, and a Fellow in the College of Fellows of the American Theatre. He is also a winner of the William Inge Festival’s Otis Gurnsey New Voices in American Theatre award, the Medallion for Sustained Achievement from the Children’s Theatre Foundation of America, and the Charlotte B. Chorpenning Playwright Award for Distinguished Body of Work. Three of Still’s plays have received the Distinguished Play Award from the American Alliance for Theatre and Education, and his work has twice been nominated for the Pulitzer Prize. His plays have been developed and workshopped at Sundance, the New Harmony Project, the O’Neill, The Lark, and the Telluride Playwright’s Festival. Still’s plays include The Heavens are Hung in Black, Iron Kisses, The Velvet Rut, A Long Bridge Over Deep Waters, Looking Over the President’s Shoulder, Searching for Eden: the diaries of adam and eve, He Held Me Grand, And Then They Came for Me: Remembering the World of Anne Frank, A Village Fable, Hush: An Interview With America, and The Velocity of Gary (Not His Real Name). New plays include Illegal Use of Hands, The House That Jack Built, and The Mary Todd Lincoln Project. In addition to his work in the theater, Still also works in television and film and has been nominated for five Emmys, twice a finalist for the Humanitas Prize and a Television Critics Association Award. Still grew up in a small town in Kansas and lives in Los Angeles .
SANDY SHINNER (director of Illegal Use of Hands) most recently directed the Chicago premiere of Sarah Ruhl’s In the Next Room or the vibrator play at Victory Gardens Theater. Her recent directing credits include the world premieres of Joel Drake Johnson’s The Boys Room, A Guide For The Perplexed, Four Places ( VG), and Tranquillity Woods ( Steppenwolf’s First Look) as well as Aditi Brennan Kapil’s Love Person, Jeffrey Sweet’s Flyovers (at New York’s 78th Street Theatre Lab) and the revival of Eurydice by Sarah Ruhl (co-directed with Jessica Thebus). She has directed ten world premieres by Claudia Allen including I Sailed with Magellan, adapted from the book by Chicagoan Stuart Dybek, as well as Winter and Fossils, both starring Julie Harris. Other credits include the world premieres of Memory House by Kathleen Tolan (Actors Theatre of Louisville’s Humana Festival and VG) and Trying by Joanna McClelland Glass, which transferred from Victory Gardens to off-Broadway’s Promenade Theatre. Sandy created and produced IGNITION at Victory Gardens. The bi-annual festival brought the critically-acclaimed The Elaborate Entrance of Chad Deity by Kristoffer Diaz, the widely produced Year Zero by Michael Golamco, and Edith Can Shoot Things and Hit Them by A. Rey Pamatmat to national attention as well as this year’s VG world premiere of We Are Proud To Present A Presentation…by Jackie Sibblies Drury. With Dennis Zacek and Marcelle McVay, Sandy was honored to accept the 2001 Tony Award® for Outstanding Regional Theatre on behalf of the theater. Ms. Shinner is a member of the Society of Stage Directors and Choreographers and was a finalist for the Joe A. Callaway Director’s Award for the New York production of Trying. She was recognized as one of the “Top 50 Players” in 2009 and as one of 16 “Chicagoans of the Year” in 2001. She is an editor of Victory Gardens Presents: Seven Plays from the Playwrights Ensemble, published by Northwestern University Press. She is an adjunct professor at DePaul.
MARTY HIGGINBOTHAM (director of It’s a Wonderful Life: Live at the Biograph!) is an Ensemble member who joined the American Blues family in 1991, appearing in Desire Under the Elms, monsters, On the Waterfront, Tom and Jerry, The Homage that Follows, Stalag 17, Bus Stop, The Three Penny Opera, Working, The Trip to Bountiful, American Dead, and Oklahoma. His sound design / original score credits with ABT include Monsters, Monsters II, and Monsters III, Food from Trash, The Homage That Follows, The Million Bells of Ocean and A Lie of the Mind. Marty has also worked on and off stage at The Old Globe, The Prince Music Theatre, The Goodman, Northlight, Oak Park Festival Theater, Circle Theatre, and the Organic. Marty directed the original full production of It’s a Wonderful: A Live Radio Play in 2004 and continued to helm the production up to 2008, moving with the ensemble in 2009 to the Biograph. Marty is also Founder and President of The Stage Channel, a video production company serving the Arts in Chicago and across the country since 2001. The Stage Channel, to date, has produced over 900 promotional videos for music, theater and dance.
DONALD MARGULIES (playwright of Collected Stories) received the 2000 Pulitzer Prize for Drama for Dinner with Friends; American Theatre Critics Association New Play Award, Dramatists Guild/Hull-Warriner Award, Lucille Lortel Award, Outer Critics Circle Award, Drama Desk nominee. His plays have been performed at major theatres across the United States and around the world. Theatre Communications Group has published seven volumes of his work. Dinner with Friends was made into an Emmy Award-nominated film for HBO, Time Stands Still won numerous awards, and Pulitzer Prize nominated Collected Stories was presented on PBS. Currently, he is adapting the novel Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides into an HBO series.
JESSICA THEBUS (co-director of Collected Stories) Multiple Jeff Award-nominated director is an Associate Artist at Steppenwolf Theatre Company, where her credits include Intimate Apparel, Dead Man’s Cell Phone, No Place Like Home, When the Messenger is Hot (also at 59 E. 59th in NYC) Sonia Flew and Sex with Strangers (First Look Repertory of New Work). Thebus’ credits across Chicago include the world premiere of Feast: An Intimate Tempest at Chicago Shakespeare Theater, Stage Kiss at Goodman Theatre and productions for Victory Gardens Theatre, Northlight Theatre, Court Theatre and About Face Theatre. She is a faculty member in the Directing Program at Northwestern University and an artistic associate at The Corn Exchange in Dublin, Ireland.
MARY ANN THEBUS (co-director of Collected Stories) has been a Chicago-based award-winning actor for almost thirty years. She’s performed roles in regional theatres and appeared in film and television shows. She has also long been a teacher of acting both privately and at The Artistic Home where she conducts a Master Class for working actors. Her most recent role was with Chicago Shakespere Theatre where she was seen in Elizabeth Rex. She will soon be seen in Next Theatre’s After the Revolution and The Three Sisters at Steppenwolf Theatre Company.
RICHARD WRIGHT (author of Native Son) was born on September 4, 1908 near Natchez, Mississippi. The grandson of slaves and the son of a sharecropper, he went to school in Jackson, Mississippi only until the ninth grade, but had a story published at age 16 while working at various jobs in the South. In 1927 he went to Chicago and worked briefly in the post office, but forced on relief by the Depression, he joined the Communist Party (1932). With two more minor works published, he found employment with the Federal Writers Project, and his Uncle Tom’s Children (1938), a collection of four stories, was highly acclaimed. In 1937 he moved to New York City, where he was an editor on the Communist newspaper, Daily Worker, but the publication of Native Son (1940) brought him overnight fame and freedom to write. A stage version (by Wright and Paul Green) followed in 1941 (and Wright himself later played the title role in a film version made in Argentina). Black Boy, published in 1945 is a moving account of his childhood and youth in the South and depicts extreme poverty and his accounts of racial violence against blacks. The autobiography advanced Wright’s reputation, but after living mainly in Mexico (1940–6) he had become so disillusioned with both the Communists and white America that he went off to Paris, where he lived the rest of his life as an expatriate. He continued to write novels, including The Outsider (1953) and The Long Dream (1958), and non-fiction, such as Black Power (1954) and White Man, Listen! (1957), and was regarded by African American writers, such as James Baldwin, as an inspiration. His naturalistic fiction no longer has the standing it once enjoyed, but his life and works remain exemplary. Richard Nathaniel Wright died on November 28, 1960 in Paris, France.
NAMBI E. KELLEY (playwright/adaptator of Native Son) is an Ensemble member of American Blues Theater. Her productions span New York, Chicago, St. Louis, and Los Angeles. Commissioned work includes projects at The Goodman Theatre, Steppenwolf Theatre, The Arts Club of Chicago, Health Works Theatre (Chicago), and Unibooks Publishing Company (South Korea). Professional Writing Affiliations include: Steppenwolf Theatre Company, New Plays Lab Playwright-In-Residence, Goodman Theatre/Ellen Stone Belic Institute/ Fellowship Recipient, Goodman Theatre Lila Wallace Fellowship, LaMaMa Playwrights Symposium Playwright-In-Residence, Spoleto, Italy, Ragdale Foundation Residency Selection Committee, Ragdale Foundation Artist in Residence, HealthWorks Theatre Colonel Stanley McNeil Playwright-In-Residence, Chicago Dramatists Playwright-In-Residence, Danny Glover’s Robey Theatre Co. Playwriting Lab (Formerly The Blacksmyths At The Mark Taper Forum), and MPAACT Playwright-In-Residence, Chicago. Special Writing Awards/Nominations include: Black Ensemble Theatre Playwriting Award for the Black Playwrights Initiative 2009, 3 Arts Fellowship 2009, TCG Playwrights Residency Nomination at Goodman Theatre, Ignition New Plays Festival by Artists of Color, Victory Gardens Theatre, Finalist; Chesterfield Writing Project Fellowship at Paramount Pictures, Finalist; O’Neill Playwrights Conference Nomination; Act Theatre/Seattle Repertory Nomination For Women’s Playwright Festival; Williams College Stalwart Originality Playwright-In-Residence; 2 Prop Thtr New Plays Festival Awards, and Peace Maker Of The Year Award, The Peace Museum And Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream. Publications include: The Blaq Market: Monologues and Scenes. Ed. Shepsu Aakhu. Chicago: A Sakhu Publication, 2008. The Blaq Market: Essays and Plays from Afrikan Centered Theatre. Ed. Shepsu Aakhu. Chicago: A Sakhu Publication, 2006. Alibi Transcripts: Monologues of the Dark Indicted. Ed. Shepsu Aakhu. Chicago: A Sakhu Publication, 2001. Ms. Kelley is a guest lecturer at Lake Forest College, has a BFA from The Theatre School at DePaul University, formerly known as The Goodman School of Drama, and is currently an MFA candidate at Goddard College in Plainfield, Vermont.