American Blues Theater Announces 2012-2013 Season


Producing Artistic Director Gwendolyn Whiteside of American Blues Theater (ABT), Chicago's second oldest Equity ensemble, proudly announces the Ensemble's 27th season will take place at the Victory Gardens Biograph Theater, 2433 N. Lincoln Ave.. For more information, visit

Illegal Use of Hands
Written by ABT Artistic Affiliate James Still
Directed by Sandy Shinner
August 31 - September 30
Opening/Press Night – Thursday, Sept. 6, 7 p.m.
Victory Gardens Biograph Theater, Richard Christansen Theater,
2433 North Lincoln Ave.
Tickets: Previews: $19 Opening Night: $49 Run: $19 - $39
Previews are Friday, Aug. 31 and Saturday, Sept. 1 at 8 p.m., Sunday, Sept. 2 at 2:30 p.m.
Regular Run Schedule is Thursdays and Fridays at 8:00 p.m., Saturdays at 5 and 8 p.m. and Sundays at 2:30 p.m.

In a small town where buzzards feast on a dead Chevy and the local Wal-Mart hires only college graduates, three men wait out the night in the company of a high school football trophy they have rescued from obscurity. It's a play that wants to be about revenge and glory and being a man-if only the characters could agree on what they can't remember.

James Still, a Pultizer Prize and Emmy nominated playwright, 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.

Illegal use of Hands stars ABT Ensemble member Steve Key (Broadway tour of August: Osage County), ABT Artistic Affiliate Dennis Zacek (founding artistic director of Victory Gardens Theater) and Howie Johnson ("Ansel" in award-winning production of Killer Joe at Profiles Theater).

Sandy Shinner has been with Victory Gardens for more than 30 years where she currently serves as associate artistic director. With Dennis Zacek and Marcelle McVay, she was honored to accept the 2001 Tony Award® for Outstanding Regional Theatre on behalf of the theater. Most recently, she produced the inaugural IGNITION Festival that launched The Elaborate Entrance of Chad Deity by Kristoffer Diaz and Year Zero by Michael Golamco.

It's a Wonderful Life: Live at the Biograph!
Based on Frank Capra's film from a short story by Philip Van Doren Stern
Directed by ABT Ensemble Member Marty Higginbotham
November 23 – December 30, 2012
Opening/Press Night – Thursday November 29 at 7 p.m.
Victory Gardens Biograph Theater, Zacek McVay Theater, 2433 N. Lincoln Ave.
Tickets: Previews: $19 Opening Night: $49 Run: $19 - $39
Previews are Friday, Nov, 23 and Saturday, Nov. 24 at 8 p.m., Sunday, Nov. 25 at 2:30 p.m.
Regular Run Schedule is Thursdays and Fridays at 8:00 p.m., Saturdays at 5 and 8 p.m. and Sundays at 2:30 p.m.

The director and ensemble that have treated Chicago to Clarence, George and the characters of Bedford Falls for more than a decade; once again take the audience back to a 1940's radio broadcast of Frank Capra's holiday classic It's a Wonderful Life complete with Foley sound effects, an original score and a cast of seven.

American Blues Theater is converting the 299-seat Zacek McVay Theater into a 99-seat intimate performance space decked out in holiday finery. It's a Wonderful Life features the return of the cast of 2011's sold-out hit: ABT Ensemble members Kevin Kelly, John Mohrlein, Gwendolyn Whiteside and Artistic Affiliates Dara Cameron, James Joseph, Michael Mahler and guest artist Shawn Goudie.

Marty Higginbotham, an ABT ensemble member who joined the American Blues family in 1991, 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. Higginbotham is also founder and president of The Stage Channel, a video Production Company serving the arts in Chicago and across the country since 2001.

Collected Stories
Written by Pulitzer Prize winner Donald Margulies
Co-Directed by Mary Ann Thebus & Jessica Thebus
April 19 - May 19
Opening/Press Night – Thursday April 25 at 7 p.m.
Victory Gardens Biograph Theater, 2433 N. Lincoln Ave.
Tickets: Previews: $19 Opening Night: $49 Run: $19 - $39
Previews are Friday, April 19 and Saturday, April 20 at 8 p.m., Sunday, Nov. 21 at 2:30 p.m.
Regular Run Schedule is Thursdays and Fridays at 8:00 p.m., Saturdays at 5 and 8 p.m. and Sundays at 2:30 p.m.

Pulitzer Prize winner Donald Margulies confronts the themes of competition and intellectual property in Collected Stories. Using 2010's Broadway version of the script, a mentor and her protégée battle in this 80-minute two character tour-de-force co-directed by Mary Ann Thebus and her daughter Steppenwolf Artistic Associate Jessica Thebus, in their first collaboration as co-directors. Featuring ABT Ensemble Members Carmen Roman and Gwendolyn Whiteside.
Donald Margulies received the 2000 Pulitzer Prize for Drama for Dinner with Friends. The acclaimed play also received the American Theatre Critics Association New Play Award, Dramatists Guild/Hull-Warriner Award, Lucille Lortel Award, Outer Critics Circle Award and a Drama Desk nominee. His plays have been performed at major theatres across the United States and around the world. Margulies received a Pulitzer Prize nomination for Collected Stories, which was presented on PBS, and he is adapting the novel Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides into an HBO series.
Jessica Thebus is a multiple Jeff Award-nominated director and is currently 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 (59 E. 59th in NYC) Sonia Flew and Sex with Strangers (First Look Repertory of New Work). Thebus' has been a staple in the Chicago theater community and is also a faculty member in the Directing Program at Northwestern University and an artistic associate at The Corn Exchange in Dublin, Ireland.

Mary Ann Thebus 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. Her most recent role was with Chicago Shakespeare 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.

Plays, dates and artists subject to change.


Native Son*
Fall 2012-Spring 2013
In development by permission of Richard Wright Estate
Written by ABT Ensemble member Nambi E. Kelley

Throughout the 2012 - 2013 season, ABT , in a partnership with Chicago Housing Authority, hosts workshops, live staged readings and other events culminating in the premiere of a new adaptation by ABT Ensemble Member Nambi E. Kelley of Native Son, the iconic story based in 1930's Chicago in fall 2012. With the exclusive permission of the Richard Wright Estate, 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.

Nambie E. Kelley is an ensemble member of American Blues Theater and an award winning and published playwright, including projects for Steppenwolf and Goodman Theatre in Chicago and Lincoln Center in New York. Recent awards/nominations include The Friends Fellowship (Ragdale Foundation), two 3 Arts Fellowship nominations, TCG Candidate for Playwriting; Goodman Theatre, The Eugene O'Neill Playwrights Conference nomination and honors at the Black Ensemble Theatre for playwriting.

The LINCOLN Project*
Fall 2012 - Spring 2013
Scenes from ABT Artistic Affiliate James Still's Pulitzer nominated The Heaven is Hung in Black launches ABT's inaugural education outreach project with special arrangement with Dramatic Publishing.

Celebrating the 150th anniversary of Abraham Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation, ABT provides a three-part education outreach program to 7th- 9th graders throughout Chicago. Part 1: LEARN. Students read Artistic Affiliate James Still's Lincoln biographical, Pulitzer Prize-nominated script Heavens Are Hung in Black with the ABT-produced study guide. Part 2: LAUNCH. ABT actors perform scenes from the play in the classroom. Part 3: LIVE. Students write dramatic scenes inspired from current events. Featuring work by ABT Ensemble members Manny Buckley (Hit the Wall), Kelli Marino and Heather Meyers.

Ripped: The Living Newspaper Project*
Fall 2012 and Spring 2013
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, ABT's playwrights use inspiration from today's headlines to create new works performed for the first time.

*Specific dates, locations and performances schedule to be announced.

American Blues Theater's multi-generational and inter-disciplined ensemble & artistic affiliates comprise all aspects of theater, television and film. ABT is producers, writers, directors, actors, designers, educators and technicians. As of 2012, ABT has individually received more than 115 Joseph Jefferson Awards celebrating excellence in Chicago theater, two Pulitzer Prize nominations, two Academy Award and nominations, three Golden Globe Awards and nominations, 12 Emmy Awards and nominations, six Writers' Guild Awards, 17 Black Theatre Alliance Awards and nominations, 21 After Dark Awards and multiple regional theater awards from New York, Los Angeles, Washington D.C. and Florida. ABT is the second-oldest Equity Ensemble theater in Chicago. Their 36-member Ensemble has more than 418 combined years of collaboration on stage.

The ABT Ensemble includes all four Founders Ed Blatchford, Rick Cleveland, James Leaming and WilLiam Payne with Dawn Bach, Matthew Brumlow, Manny Buckley, Kate Buddeke, Sarah Burnham, Casey Campbell, Brian Claggett, Dennis Cockrum, Laura Coover, Lauri Dahl, Kristin DeiTos, Joe Foust, Tom Geraty, Cheryl Graeff, Marty Higginbotham, Jaclyn Holsey, Lindsay Jones, Samantha Jones, Nambi E. Kelley, Kevin R. Kelly, Steve Key, Ed Kross, Warren Levon, Kelli Marino, Heather Meyers , John Möhrlein, Jim Ortlieb, Suzanne Petri, Carmen Roman, Editha Rosario, Sarah E. Ross and Gwendolyn Whiteside.




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