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American Blues Theater to Present Reading of 17 MINUTES by Scott Organ

The reading will be followed by a group discussion on actions individuals can take to prevent gun violence.

American Blues Theater to Present Reading of 17 MINUTES by Scott Organ

American Blues Theater, under the continued leadership of Artistic Director Gwendolyn Whiteside, will present a live, online reading of 17 MINUTES by Scott Organ, directed by Michael Cotey as part of "The Room" series. The reading will be live on Monday, June 27 at 7pm. The reading will be followed by a group discussion on actions individuals can take to prevent gun violence.

In the aftermath of a school shooting, Sheriff's Deputy Andy Rubens must come to terms with the choices he made during the tragedy. In Scott Organ's spellbinding new play, one man's search for redemption prompts a community to ask, "What will we be known for?" Talkin' Broadway wrote, "[17 Minutes] accomplishes what theatre does best; it presents this issue not as an emotionally fraught intellectual argument, but as a complicated and compassionate human drama."

Director Michael Cotey notes, "Selected for The Room in February--and long before last month's tragedies in Buffalo and Uvalde thrust America's gun violence epidemic back into the national spotlight- Scott Organ's 17 MINUTES feels even more urgent than ever."

The cast is American Blues Ensemble Members Audrey Billings, Dennis Cockrum, Ian Paul Custer and Editha Rosario-Moore with Robert N. Isaac and Mackenzie Jones. The stage manager is American Blues Artistic Affiliate Shandee Vaughan.

American Blues Theater is proud to partner with CPS, NAMI Chicago, One Aim Illinois and Sandy Hook Promise for the reading of 17 Minutes.

"The Room" is a 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 live on Zoom four times in 2022.

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. Tickets are available until Monday, June 27, 2022 at 3:00pm.

About the artists

Scott Organ he/him (playwright) is a New York city based playwright and screenwriter. His plays have been performed and workshopped throughout the United States, Europe and South America and have been commissioned by The Atlantic Theater Company and developed by theaters including The Barrow Group, The New Group, Page 73, South Coast Rep, and the Gulfshore Playhouse. Scott's plays 17 Minutes and The Thing with Feathers premiered Off-Broadway at The Barrow Group. His play Phoenix premiered at the Humana Festival of New American Plays and was subsequently produced at The Barrow Group and through Rattlestick at Cherry Lane Theater with Julia Stiles. Phoenix has been translated into Portuguese, Spanish and French. His writing has been featured in Arts In The Armed Forces, performed by Laura Linney and Dianne Wiest. Scott adapted his play The Thing with Feathers into the feature film ROOST, directed by Amy Redford. Scott is a writer on the short films Playdate (TriBeCa Film Festival, London City International Film Festival - 3rd place, Vimeo Staff Pick) The Board (TriBeCa Film Festival) and The One (Palm Springs International Film Festival.) Scott is an alum of Page 73's Interstate 73 writer's group and a member of the Dramatists Guild.

MICHAEL COTEY he/him (director) is the producer of #ENOUGH: Plays to End Gun Violence ( a ground-breaking campaign of theatre activism for teens to confront the issue gun violence by writing original short plays on the topic and staging readings of those plays in theatres across the country. Readings of #ENOUGH have taken place in over a hundred locations since 2020, including a flagship production at Lincoln Center, and has been featured on PBS NewsHour, NPR, and the BBC. Michael has directed at Illinois Shakespeare Festival, Milwaukee Chamber Theatre, Next Act, First Stage, Northwestern University, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, Illinois Wesleyan University and Youngblood Theatre. He has also assisted at Goodman Theatre, Oregon Shakespeare Festival, Utah Shakespeare, Steppenwolf, and Milwaukee Rep, for prominent directors, like Tony Award-winners Mary Zimmerman and Robert Falls. From 2009-2013 he was the Founding Artistic Director of Youngblood Theatre in Milwaukee. Regularly celebrated by the theater community and the press as one of the most exciting new Milwaukee theater ventures in decades, Youngblood provided professional opportunities to early-career emerging artists, introduced the works of provocative new playwrights, and staged theatre in raw found spaces that invoked Milwaukee's storied industrial past. Michael graduated from UW-Milwaukee with a BFA in Acting and from Northwestern University with an MFA in Directing. In 2014 he was named UWM's "Graduate of the Last Decade."

Audrey Billings she/her (Samantha Rubens) is a proud Ensemble member at American Blues Theater. She last appeared at Blues as Mary Bailey (and others) in It's a Wonderful Life: Live in Chicago! (And in person-Hooray!). She was most recently seen as Emilie in The Moors at A Red Orchid Theater. Previous credits include: Christmas Eve in the long-running production of Avenue Q at the Mercury Theater, Mary Magdalene in Jesus Christ Superstar, Antonia in Man of la Mancha, and Hodel in Fiddler on the Roof. She has worked at the Paramount Theatre, Marriott Theatre Lincolnshire, Drury Lane Oakbrook, Theatre at the Center, Lookingglass Theatre Company and is a proud member of Actor's Equity.

Dennis Cockrum he/him (Dan) is a proud American Blues Theater Ensemble member who joined in 1988. Blues credits: Bad Moon by founding member Rick Cleveland, Desire Under the Elms, On the Waterfront, and Tobacco Road. Broadway credits: Frost/Nixon by Peter Morgan. Victory Gardens Theater: Hard Feelings by Jeffrey Sweet, The Fifth Sun by Nicholas Patricca, The Stick Wife by Daryl Cloud, God of Isaac and Mr. 80% by James Sherman. Dennis has appeared in over 100 films and television shows. Film credits: Uncle Buck, Code of Silence, The Package, Gangster Squad, Desperate Measures, Hail, Caesar!, The Glimmer Man, and Downeast. Television credits (recurring roles): Uncle Buck, King of Queens, West Wing, Malcolm in the Middle, Chicago Med, and 11 seasons as Terry Milkovich on Shameless.

Ian Paul Custer he/him (Andy Rubens) is a Chicago actor and musician and a proud Ensemble Member of American Blues Theater. American Blues credits include: Buddy: The Buddy Holly Story (Jeff Award, Best Ensemble, Best Musical - Midsize), The Columnist, Little Shop of Horrors, and It's a Wonderful Life: Live in Chicago! (Jeff Nominations for Best Play/Musical of the Year). Chicago credits: Bad Jews (Theatre Wit/Royal George), 33 Variations (Jeff Award- Best Production, Midsize), and To Master the Art (TimeLine Theatre), Annie Bosh is Missing (Steppenwolf Theatre), High Holidays (Goodman Theatre), Fiddler on the Roof (Paramount Theatre). Ian has also had the pleasure of working with Porchlight Music Theatre, Marriott Theatre, A Red Orchid Theatre, MPAACT, and Court Theater. Regional credits: Hero: The Musical (Asolo Rep Theatre), Cymbeline (Notre Dame Shakespeare), Romeo and Juliet (Cardinal Stage), Peter Pan (360 Entertainment - London, England). Television credits: Somebody Somewhere, APB, Empire, Chicago Fire, and Chicago PD. Ian received his BFA from The Theatre School at DePaul University.

Robert N. Isaac he/him (Virgil Morris) has been seen in previous American Blues Theater readings and their arts education initiative The Lincoln Project. He has also appeared at Court Theatre, Black Ensemble Theater, Chicago Dramatists, and Halcyon Theatre. Regional credits include productions at Minnesota Fringe Festival, Southern Arena Theatre, Stage One Family Theatre, and many productions at University of Southern Mississippi.

MACKENZIE JONES she/her (Mary) After recently relocating to Chicago, Mackenzie is thrilled to be making her Chicago debut in The Room: Reading Series at American Blues Theater. Favorite recent credits include; New York City: The Dream: Midsummer (Helena), Head Over Heels (Ensemble), Coriolanus (Virgilia), Monstersongs (Siren Sister). Regional: Rabbit Hole (Becca), where Mackenzie was honored to win Broadway World's Best Actress in a Play; A Streetcar Named Desire (Stella), Constellations (Marianne), Heathers (Heather Chandler), Looking Through the Glass (The White Queen), Macbeth (Lady Macbeth). Film: Boogieman, A Sacrifice, Binge. Special thanks to Wendy for this wonderful opportunity. Mackenzie looks forward to meeting and working with the Chicago theater community that she has long so admired. Representation: Shirley Hamilton Talent. For further information,

EDITHA ROSARIO-MOORE she/her (Cecilia) has been a proud Ensemble Member of American Blues Theater since 2001, and currently serves on the Board of Directors. She works as an appellate public defender with the Illinois Office of the State Appellate Defender and adjunct clinical law professor at DePaul. Previously, she worked as a theater artist and educator in Chicago, New York, and New Orleans. Her scholarship explores the relationship between criminal law education and community empowerment.

SHANDEE VAUGHAN she/her (Stage Manager) is a proud Artistic Affiliate of American Blues Theater and is excited to be working with this incredible team! Blues credits: Fences, Stand Up if You're Here Tonight, Roan @ the Gates, Five Presidents, The Spitfire Grill, The Absolute Brightness of Leonard Pelkey, On Clover Road, It's a Wonderful Life: Live in Chicago (2016 & 2018-2021), Flyin' West, The Buddy Holly Story, The Columnist, and Little Shop of Horrors. Other recent Chicago credits include: In Every Generation (Victory Gardens), Time Is on Our Side (About Face Theatre), Deathscribe X (WildClaw Theatre), Night in Alachua County (WildClaw Theatre), and The Woman in Black (WildClaw Theatre). Shandee is a production manager and stage manager from Arizona. She is a proud member of Actors' Equity Association.

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. 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.

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