American Blues Theater, under the continued leadership of Artistic Director Gwendolyn Whiteside, announces the lineup for its 2019 – 2020 Season, “Then & Now”. American Blues’ 34th Season will include the Chicago Premiere of Five Presidents by Rick Cleveland, directed by Marty Higginbotham; Women’s Work – an evening of 2 one-acts, including the World Premiere of Triflin’ by Nambi E. Kelley and Trifles by Susan Glaspell, directed by Lili-Anne Brown; the 18th annual production of It’s a Wonderful Life: Live in Chicago! from Frank Capra’s film, directed by Gwendolyn Whitesideand music directed by Michael Mahler; and American Idiot book by Billie Joe Armstrong & Michael Mayer, lyrics by Billie Joe Armstrong, and music by Green Day, directed by Jess McLeod and music directed by Michael Mahler. All performances in the 2019-2020 Season will take place at Stage 773, located at 1225 W Belmont Ave, Chicago.
“We’re thrilled to announce our timely Season 34 ‘Then & Now’,” notes Artistic Director Gwendolyn Whiteside. “These plays demand audiences look at our cities, country, and culture though a dual lens. We will reflect America’s identity - past and present - through our democracy, holiday celebrations, treatment of women, and challenges of establishment through rock ‘n’ roll.”
The 2019-2020 American Blues Theater Season up close:
The Chicago Premiere of
by Ensemble member Rick Cleveland
directed by Ensemble member Marty Higginbotham
September 6 – October 19, 2019
Press Opening: September 12, 2019 at 7:30 p.m.
There was only one day in history when all five of these U.S. Presidents were in the same room at the same time: the holding room prior to entering the memorial service for President Richard Nixon. Five Presidents is the presentation of this once-in-a-lifetime occurrence, as imagined by “The West Wing” and “House of Cards” writer Ensemble member Rick Cleveland.
18th Anniversary Production of
It’s a Wonderful Life: Live in Chicago!
from Frank Capra’s film
directed by Artistic Director Gwendolyn Whiteside
music direction by Ensemble member Michael Mahler
November 14, 2019 – January 4, 2020
Press Opening: November 16, 2019 at 7:30 p.m.
As the second longest holiday play in Chicago, the American Blues Ensemble has treated Chicago audiences to a live 1940s radio broadcast of holiday favoriteIt’s a Wonderful Life for 18 years. The incredible cast recreates the entire town of Bedford Falls with Foley sound effects, an original score and holiday carols. The Bedford Falls “residents” extend their hospitality after every performance when audiences are treated to milk and cookies served by the cast.
Women’s Work – an evening of 2 one-acts
by Susan Glaspell
Triflin’ (world premiere commission)
by Ensemble member Nambi E. Kelley
directed by Lili-Anne Brown
January 31 – March 14, 2020
Press Opening: February 6, 2020 at 7:30 p.m.
Spanning a century, we present two powerful one-act stories about women in America. Dramatic literature’s founding feminist and Pulitzer Prize winner Susan Glaspell’s Trifles reveals a murder mystery, inspired by real events. Ensemble member Nambi E. Kelley’s Triflin’ is a comedic riff on the male-female dynamic of old, and uses explosive characters and poetic language, questioning what is the new paradigm of gender now.
book by Billie Joe Armstrong & Michael Mayer
lyrics by Billie Joe Armstrong | music by Green Day
directed by Jess McLeod
music direction by Ensemble member Michael Mahler
June 26 – August 15, 2020
Press Opening: July 3, 2020 at 7:30 p.m.
American Idiot follows the exhilarating journey of a new generation of young Americans as they struggle to find meaning in a post 9/11 world, borne along by Green Day’s electrifying score.
Additional 2019-2020 Programming
Ripped Festival: Edition 18
Written and direction by various Chicago artists
Since 2009, American Blues Theater has produced 145 short plays in the RIPPED: the Living Newspaper series. Based on the 1930’s WPA era program that brought Orson Welles, Arthur Miller, Richard Wright and Clifford Odets into public attention, playwrights use inspiration ripped from today’s headlines to create stories performed live on stage.
Arts Education in Chicago Public Schools
The Lincoln Project
Conceived and Adapted by Artistic Director Gwendolyn Whiteside from Artistic Affiliate James Still’s Pulitzer-nominated The Heavens Are Hung in Black
American Blues Theater’s innovative and adaptive program aligns with Illinois Learning Standards to engage 5th-10th graders about the life of Abraham Lincoln, specifically the events surrounding the Emancipation Proclamation. Students watch scenes performed by professional actors, participate in discussions, and most importantly, write their own plays. Since the program’s launch in 2013, nearly 15,000 students have participated in the program.
All main stage performances take place at Stage 773, 1225 W. Belmont Ave. The Blue Card – the most affording ticketing offer the 2019-2020 season are available now at AmericanBluesTheater.com or by calling 773.654.3103.
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. The 36-member Ensemble has 600+ combined years of collaboration on stage. As of 2018, the theater and artists received 204 Joseph Jefferson Awards and nominations that celebrate excellence in Chicago theater and 36 Black Theatre Alliance Awards. The artists are honored with Pulitzer Prize nominations, Academy Awards, Golden Globe Awards, Emmy Awards and numerous other accolades.
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