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American Blues Theater Continues Reading Series With ALMA

The readings will be live on Sunday, October 18 at 3pm and Monday, October 19 at 7pm.

American Blues Theater Continues Reading Series With ALMA

American Blues Theater, under the continued leadership of Artistic Director Gwendolyn Whiteside, presents two live, online readings of Alma, winner of the 2019 Blue Ink Playwriting Award, written by Benjamin Benne and directed by Ana Velazquez as part of "The Room" series. The readings will be live on Sunday, October 18 at 3pm and Monday, October 19 at 7pm, and features Jazmin Corona and Keren Diaz de Leon. The readings will be followed by a discussion with the playwright and director.

"The Room" is a new reading series that brings original work, plays in development, and new stories to Chicago audiences. Offering in-depth discussions as well as action steps for patrons that intersect with themes of the plays, "The Room" will run via Zoom monthly for the duration of the COVID-19 pandemic with the intent to transition into an in-person experience in the future.

Upcoming readings in "The Room" series include: Days of Decision by Zachary Stevenson, songs by Phil Ochs on November 1 and 2, 2020 and Red Bike by Caridad Svich, directed by Lavina Jadhwani, on December 9, 2020.

Tickets are pay-what-you-can with a suggested donation of $10, and are currently on sale at or (773) 654-3101. Ticket holders will be sent a pre-reading email complete with instructions on joining the virtual reading via Zoom.

Gwendolyn Whiteside notes, "We are thrilled to produce Alma as a reading this fall. The play won the Blue Ink Playwriting Award last season, and it is slated for a full production when it is safe to do so. The subject matter of family and immigration is important, especially in this election season and we look forward to presenting this timely work. In the meantime, we eagerly await the day when we can safely gather together in-person again, we're thrilled to connect with audiences virtually via 'The Room'."



Written by Benjamin Benne

Directed Ana Velazquez

Featuring Jazmin Corona and Keren Diaz de Leon

Winner of 2019 Blue Ink Playwriting Award

Working mom Alma has single-handedly raised her daughter, Angel, on tough love, home-cooked comida, and lots of prayers. But on the eve of the all-important SAT, Alma discovers her daughter isn't at home studying. A sacrifice from Alma's past weighs heavy on their present. Will the American Dream cost them a life together?

BENJAMIN BENNE he/him (playwright) is a Yale School of Drama MFA Candidate in Playwriting and represented by Paradigm Talent Agency. He is American Blues Theater's 2019 Blue Ink Playwriting Award winner, Arizona Theatre Company's 2019 National Latinx Playwriting Award winner, a 2019 Kennedy Center/KCACTF Latinx Playwriting Award recipient, a 2017 Robert Chesley/Victor Bumbalo Playwriting Award winner, and a Playwrights' Center Affiliated Writer. His plays, including Alma, In His Hands, and at the very bottom of a body of water, have been produced/ developed by the Eugene O'Neill Theater Center's National Playwrights Conference, The Playwrights Realm, The Lark, The Public, Roundabout Theatre Company, Denver Center for the Performing Arts, The Old Globe, Two River Theater, SPACE on Ryder Farm, Seattle Repertory Theatre, Boston Court Pasadena, Pillsbury House Theatre, Teatro Milagro, A Contemporary Theatre, Theatre Battery, Annex Theatre, Forward Flux, Umbrella Project, and Parley, among others.

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 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. She proudly served as the Associate Director for the Chicago August Wilson Monologue Competition. Ana has recently been selected as the residency artist for We the Many with Arts Midwest in Wabash, Indiana. She received her BA in Theatre from the University of Illinois at Chicago.

JAZMIN CORONA she/her (Alma) Chicago credits include: 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 Theatre Company); Mariposa Nocturna (16th St. Theatre and Physical Festival Chicago); Two Mile Hollow (First Floor Theater); Gender Breakdown (Collaboraction); Sherlock Holmes and the Case of the Christmas Goose (Raven Theatre). TV credits: Chicago Fire.

KEREN DIAZ DE LEON she/her, they/them (Angel) is a first-generation Mexican American actor and director from the south side of Chicago.

CARA PARRISH (stage manager) is a proud Artistic Affiliate of American Blues Theater where she is also the Human Resources Coordinator. Chicago credits: Gem of the Ocean, Electra, Hard Problem, Photograph 51, Five Guys Named Moe, Guess Who's Coming to Dinner, & Lady From the Sea (Court Theatre); WITCH, Port Authority, Yellow Moon, The Letters, The Caretaker, Death of a Streetcar Named Virginia Woolf, & The Blond, The Brunette, and the Vengeful Redhead (Writers Theatre); Too Heavy for Your Pocket & The Vibrator Play (TimeLine Theatre Company); James and the Giant Peach (Drury Lane Theatre Oakbrook); Jabari Dreams of Freedom (Chicago Children's Theatre); Romeo and Juliet & Emma (Chicago Shakespeare Theatre); Beauty's Daughter & Buddy: The Buddy Holly Story (American Blues Theater). Cara is a proud member of Actors' Equity Association.

Alma was the winner of the 2019 Blue Ink Playwriting Award. The nationally-renowned Blue Ink Playwriting Award was created in 2010 to support new work. Since inception, American Blues has named 10 Award winners, 79 finalists, and 109 semi-finalists. Other previous winners include Andrea Stolowitz' Recent Unsettling Events (2020), Inda Craig-Galván's Welcome to Matteson! (2018), Idris Goodwin's Hype Man (2017), Nathan Alan Davis's The Wind and the Breeze (2016), and Jamie Pachino's Other Than Honorable (2015). Each year American Blues Theater accepts worldwide submissions of original, unpublished full-length plays. The winning play will be selected by Artistic Director Gwendolyn Whiteside and the theater's Ensemble. The playwright receives a monetary prize of $1,250. Cash prizes are also awarded to finalists and semi-finalists. All proceeds of the administrative fee are distributed for playwrights' cash prizes.

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