Here’s the press release from American Blues:
A REBORN AMERICAN BLUES THEATER ANNOUNCES ITS
2009 – 2010 SEASON AND A RETURN TO ITS ARTISTIC ROOTS
Nov. 16 “Rebirth of Blues” Benefit with Special Guest Olympia Dukakis
Kicks off ABT’s 24th Season
“It’s a Wonderful Life: Live at the Biograph!” Opens Dec. 3
CHICAGO – American Blues Theater (ABT) Chicago’s second oldest Equity ensemble company, today announced its 2009-2010 Season. The award-winning ensemble-based company will open its 24th season under its original name with a symbolic return to its first artistic home, Victory Gardens Theater, for “It’s a Wonderful Life: Live at the Biograph!” Marty Higginbotham returns to direct a new adaptation of the classic story based on the Frank Capra masterpiece and performed as a period radio piece. It runs Nov. 27 – Dec. 27 in the new Studio at Victory Gardens Theater at the Biograph, 2433 N. Lincoln Avenue, Chicago. Press opening is Thursday, Dec. 3. Tickets are $20 – $30 for previews (through Nov. 29); $50 for Dec. 3 press opening; and $30 – $40 for the regular run. Tickets go on sale Tuesday, Nov. 3 at 12 noon at the Victory Gardens box office, 773-871-3000.
“ABT’s 2009 – 2010 season is an expression of our belief that this is the moment in time to reflect, reinvent and reconnect with our communities,” says Carmen Roman, long-time ABT ensemble member and an executive artistic administrator. “There are many parallels to the challenges Americans are experiencing now and the experiences of the 1930s and 1940s, so ABT has created a season that examines our world in the context of World War II and the Great Depression.”
Other shows in the season include Jack Kirkland’s 1933 classic “Tobacco Road”(May – June 2010) and “RIPPED: The Living Newspaper Project” (Fall 2010), a new project by ABT founding ensemble member Rick Cleveland, fellow ensemble members Tania Richard and Gwendolyn Whiteside and a wealth other writers, musicians, dancers, singers, actors and directors from Chicago and across the country. Show dates, venue and ticket prices will be announced at a later date.
Chicagoans will have the opportunity to preview a few “RIPPED” selections when Academy Award-winner Olympia Dukakis reads a passage written by Eduardo Machado at ABT’s The Rebirth of Blues Benefit at Bridgeview Bank, 4753 N. Broadway, Chicago, Monday, Nov. 16 from 6:30 p.m. – 8:30 p.m. The evening’s program will also include Dennis Zacek reading a passage written by Rick Cleveland, and other special guests. Tickets are $75 ($125 VIP tickets include a 5:30 p.m. private reception with Dukakis). For more information visit americanbluestheater.com.
Heather Meyers, Roman and long-time ensemble member Gwendolyn Whiteside serve as the executive artistic administrator triumvirate created for this re-energized organization. “With this renaissance, American Blues Theater reconnects to its artistic roots, both symbolically and literally,” says Whiteside. “We pride ourselves in having a multi-generational ensemble where original members work alongside the next generation of ensemble members. This adds a rich dimension to our work and enhances our ability to form relationships with our audiences from the moment they step into the theater.”
Founded in 1985, American Blues Theater is known for its gritty, uncompromising style. The company has produced more than 70 shows, many award-winners, including 40 regional/Chicago and world premieres. Ensemble member plaudits include more than 60 collective Joseph Jefferson nominations, 10 Jeff awards, two Writers Guild awards, four After Dark awards and one Emmy. Ensemble members have been seen in 80 films, 120 television appearances and nine Broadway shows as well as at theaters throughout America.
In 1993, ABT leased a space at the corner of Byron and Lincoln and in 1997 changed its name to American Theater Company (ATC). In parting with ATC and reclaiming its original name, the American Blues Theater reaffirms its commitment to producing American classics and creating new ones that serve as a mirror for audiences to better understand themselves and their world. ABT is theater that reaches out: talking to audiences, inviting feedback in person and via all forms of electronic communications, and doing outreach in local communities.
“I had a wonderful time helping the fledgling ABT years ago,” says Dennis Zacek, artistic director of Victory Gardens Theater, “and I’m thrilled to be working with them again because I believe the work of the ABT ensemble is vital and important to Chicago’s theater community and our city as a whole.”
The current ABT ensemble includes Dawn Bach, Ed Blatchford, Matthew Brumlow, Kate Buddeke, Casey Campbell, Rick Cleveland,Dennis Cockrum, Lauri Dahl, Tom Geraty, Cheryl Graeff, Lindsay Jones, Kevin R. Kelly, Ed Kross, James Leaming, Heather Meyers, John Möhrlein, Jim Ortlieb, William Payne, Suzanne Petri, Tania Richard, Carmen Roman, Editha Rosario, John Sterchi, Stef Tovar and Gwendolyn Whiteside.
The American Blues Theater is supported by a passionate board that includes James Leaming, John Fenton, Michael Colky, Ken Shanoff, Wendy Whiteside and five original American Blues board members: Joan Esposito, Lawrence Schulmann, Jan Sugar, Mary Suma and Scott Suma. Says returning founding board member Mary Suma, “I’m elated to be back supporting ABT’s special brand of gutsy theater. This talented ensemble has always been willing to tell the untold stories, give voice to the little guy and girl and take great artistic risks. Bravo!”
AMERICAN BLUES THEATER’S 2009-2010 SEASON
“It’s a Wonderful Life: Live at The Biograph!”
Nov. 27 – Dec. 27, 2009 (Press opening Thursday, Dec. 3)
The Victory Gardens Studio at The Biograph 2433 N. Lincoln Avenue in Chicago.
The classic story, based on the 1946 Frank Capra masterpiece is performed as a period radio play complete with commercial breaks. The same creative team who brought this classic piece to Chicago audiences for six years once again brings the town of Bedford Falls to life, this time with a new adaptation at the new Victory Gardens Studio. Marty Higginbotham directs. Tickets are $20-$30 for previews (through Nov. 29); $50 for the Dec. 3 press opening and $30 –$40 for the regular run through Dec. 27. Tickets go on sale Nov. 3 at 12 noon at the Victory Gardens box office, 773-871-3000.
“Tobacco Road” by Jack Kirkland
May – June 2010
Director, dates, location and ticket prices to be announced.
“Those who ignore history are doomed to repeat it.” Written during the Great Depression, “Tobacco Road” is the second-longest-running non-musical play ever performed on Broadway. It is a sharp, unrelenting, sometimes wickedly funny depiction of a world transitioning from an agricultural society to the Industrial Age. Its main character, Jeeter, embodies the inability of some to make the transition, holding onto outdated modes of operating even when it heralds his own demise. This play celebrates the acting and design skills of the ABT ensemble in the same style Chicago audiences have come to expect from this venerable company.
“RIPPED: The Living Newspaper Project”
Director, dates, location and ticket prices to be announced.
“RIPPED: The Living Newspaper Project” is based on the 1930s WPA-era program that brought writers like Orson Wells, Arthur Miller and Clifford Odets into public attention. Examining America’s past and navigating present times, the artists will incorporate scripts from the original 1930s Living Newspaper and juxtapose them with new material “ripped” from today’s headlines. Like the original productions, the artists will incorporate vaudeville, traditional scenes, music, dance and visual arts with more contemporary components such as electronic media. Award-winning ABT Ensemble members Rick Cleveland (an ABT founder), Tania Richard and Gwendolyn Whiteside will contribute, as will such Chicago forces as SL Daniels, Jeff Sweet, Keith Huff, Nambi E. Kelly, Brett Neveu and many other writers, musicians, dancers, singers, actors and directors from across the country. This work will be developed through a series of readings.
For more information about ABT’s 2009-2010 season, visit americanbluestheater.com