American Blues Announces 17-18 Season, Including New Keith Huff Play

American Blues Announces 17-18 Season, Including New Keith Huff Play

Photo: The 2016 production of American Blues’ IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE. (Johnny Knight)

American Blues Theater, under the continued leadership of Producing Artistic Director Gwendolyn Whiteside, announces the lineup for its 2017-18 Season. American Blues’ 32nd Season will include the world premiere of SIX CORNERS by Keith Huff, directed by Gary Griffin. Huff wrote the smash hit Chicago cop drama A STEADY RAIN, and went on to write for Netflix’s HO– USE OF CARDS. SIX CORNERS is another Chicago-set detective drama.

(Top l-r) Dael Orlandersmith, Michael Mahler, Keith Huff, Alan Janes, (Bottom, l-r) Ron OJ Parson, Gwendolyn Whiteside, Gary Griffin, Lili-Anne Brown

The Chicago Premiere of BEAUTY’S DAUGHTER by Dael Orlandersmith, directed by Ron OJ Parson will kick off the season in July at American Blues’ new home, Stage 773.

The 16th annual production of IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE: Live in Chicago!, directed by Gwendolyn Whiteside, will play the holidays, followed by Huff’s SIX CORNERS in February. The jukebox musical BUDDY – THE BUDDY HOLLY STORY by Alan Janes will conclude the season in April, directed by Lili-Anne Brown with musical direction by Ensemble member Michael Mahler.

“From the lyric beats of a poet, the heartbeat of a family man, the patrol beat of a Chicago cop, to the inimitable beat of Buddy Holly & the Crickets, we’re thrilled with the rich and varied stories offered for our audiences,” notes Whiteside. “We’re honored to have such extraordinary talent on the American Blues stage.”

From the press release:

The Chicago Premiere of
by Dael Orlandersmith
directed by Ron OJ Parson
July 7 – August 5, 2017
Press Opening: July 13, 2017 at 7:30 p.m.
This Obie Award-winning play by Dael Orlandersmith depicts one woman’s journey through life’s obstacles in an East Harlem neighborhood. Artistic Affiliate Wandachristine takes on 6 different characters during the course of this solo play—some broken, some on the way down, but all memorable.

16th Anniversary Production of
IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE: Live in Chicago!
from Frank Capra’s film
directed by Producing Artistic Director Gwendolyn Whiteside
November 17 – December 30, 2017
Press Opening: November 19, 2017 at 2:30 p.m.
For 16 years, the American Blues Ensemble has treated Chicago audiences to a live 1940s radio broadcast of holiday favorite It’s a Wonderful Life. 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.

The World Premiere of
by Keith Huff
directed by Gary Griffin
February 16 – March 25, 2018
Press Opening: February 22, 2018 at 7:30 p.m.
Late one night, two burnt-out violent crimes unit detectives try their damnedest to close the puzzling murder of a CTA employee. What should be a simple open-and-shut case, however, evolves into a horrifying mystery and unearths a legacy of violence stretching back years.

The Chicago Revival of
by Alan Janes
directed by Lili-Anne Brown
musical direction by Ensemble member Michael Mahler
April 27 – May 26, 2018
Press Opening: May 3, 2018 at 7:30 p.m.
Before the Beatles or the Rolling Stones ever played a note, rock & roll was forever changed by the bespectacled kid from Texas. BUDDY tells the true story of Buddy Holly through his short yet spectacular career and features the classic songs “That’ll be the Day”, “Peggy Sue”, The Big Bopper’s “Chantilly Lace”, Ritchie Valens’ “La Bamba” plus many more.

Additional 2017-2018 Programming
Ripped Festival: Edition 16
Spring 2018
Written and direction by various Chicago artists

Since 2009, American Blues Theater has produced 135 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 Producing 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, over 5,500 students have participated in the program.

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