DARA CAMERON (Violet) is a proud Ensemble member at American Blues Theater Ensemble. She is happy to return to the cast of It’s a Wonderful Life, having appeared in the 2011 and 2012 productions. Dara appeared off-Broadway in the play, Old Jews Telling Jokes (Westside Theatre) and subsequently opened the Chicago production at the Royal George Theatre last winter. She recently appeared at the Asolo Rep in Sarasota, Florida in the new musical, Hero. Other Chicago credits include Sunset Boulevard, Seussical, Thoroughly Modern Millie, The Buddy Holly Story, Meet Me in St Louis (Drury Lane); Hero, Fiddler on the Roof, Cinderella, South Pacific and Little Women (Marriott Theatre); and Dirty Rotten Scoundrels (Theatre at the Center). She is also currently performing in a Theatre for Young Audience’s production of The Wizard of Oz at the Marriott Theatre and is excited to share the holiday season with her Blues family and her husband, Michael Mahler.
IAN PAUL CUSTER (Harry) is a proud Artistic Affiliate of American Blues Theater and returns to It’s a Wonderful Life: Live in Chicago! for his third straight season. Chicago theatrical credits: Strangers, Babies (Steep Theatre), To Master the Art (Broadway Playhouse/TimeLine Theatre), Annie Bosh is Missing (Steppenwolf First Look), 33 Variations (TimeLine Theatre, Jeff Award– Best Production, Midsize), High Holidays (Goodman Theatre), Fiddler on the Roof (Paramount Theatre). Regional theatrical credits: Hero: The Musical (Asolo Rep Theatre), Cymbeline (Notre Dame Shakespeare), Romeo and Juliet (Cardinal Stage), Peter Pan (360 Entertainment – London, England). Television: Chicago PD. This winter, Ian can be seen in American Blues Theater’s production of Yankee Tavern, directed by Joanie Schultz. Special thanks to Wendy, Gray Talent Group, my family, my friends, and my bug.
SHAWN J. GOUDIE (Foley) is excited to continue his role as Foley Artist for It’s A Wonderful Life. It has been a whirlwind year having recently finished being in Musical of the Living Dead, where he played George A. Romero, doing sketch comedy with the Hungry Hungry Hypocrites at Second City, and performing as Geppetto in Ghostlight Production’s Geppetto. However, it’s always great to spend the holidays with his American Blues family. Shawn would like to thank his parents for their support and his wife Jaclyn and their son Wiles for all of their love. He is also looking forward to meeting his baby daughter in March.
JAMES JOSEPH (Uncle Billy) is a proud Artistic Affiliate at American Blues Theater. He returns for his fifth season of It’s a Wonderful Life: Live in Chicago!. At Blues, he’s appeared in Tobacco Road and performed the voiceovers for Hank Williams: Lost Highway. He has performed on Chicago stages for over fifteen years, including with City Lit, Eclipse, First Folio, Illinois Theatre Center, the Ivanhoe, Live Bait, Metropolis, Next, Northlight, Prop Thtr, Shakespeare on the Green, Shakespeare’s Motley Crew, Steppenwolf, Strawdog, TimeLine, and Victory Gardens. He was nominated for a Non-Equity Jeff Award (Supporting Actor) for his role in Faith Healer with UMA.
KEVIN KELLY (George Bailey) is a proud Ensemble Member at American Blues Theater since 1994. American Blues productions include It’s a Wonderful Life: Live in Chicago! (6 seasons), St. Scarlet, The Skin of Our Teeth, Scapin, Stalag 17, One Day Only, Monsters III, Flight of the Phoenix, On the Waterfront, and the Ripped Festivals. He’s worked in Chicago & LA at Steppenwolf Theater, Odyssey Theatre, Pegasus Players, Lifeline Theatre, Bailiwick Rep and City Lit Theater among many others. Studio Feature Films: The Express, Ca$h, Bad News Bears (remake), Of Boys and Men, American Dreamz, The Promotion, A Lot Like Love, Light it Up, and numerous independent films. Television credits: 2 episodes of Sense 8 (new Netflix series directed by Andy & Lana Wachowski), Chicago Fire (2 episodes), Sirens, Boss, Prison Break, Boston Legal, 7th Heaven, The Inside, Charmed, Clubhouse, Early Edition, and Spin City. Kevin is a native Chicagoan who currently lives in LA with his wife Cathy and their twins, Griffin & Sienna. He would like to extend huge thanks to them and his parents Mike and Trudy Kelly for all of their endless love and support.
MICHAEL MAHLER (Announcer/Pianist) is a proud Ensemble member at American Blues Theater. He’s thrilled and delighted to return to the WABT Studio for a fourth season after drifting with the cowboys in the Jeff award-winning Hank Williams: Lost Highway. Other acting credits include The March (Steppenwolf); Working (Broadway Playhouse); The Fox on the Fairway, Dirty Rotten Scoundrels (Jeff nomination) and The Producers (Theatre at the Center); They’re Playing Our Song (Fox Valley Rep); The Illusion (Court); High Fidelity (Route 66); and My Favorite Year (Bailiwick – Jeff citation award, After Dark award). Michael is the composer/lyricist of Hero (Jeff award: best new work) as well as the upcoming October Sky (based on the Universal film) and Wonderland: Alice’s Rock ‘n’ Roll Adventure. His lyrics can be heard in the West End revival of Miss Saigon. Michael’s band The Lincoln Squares have an EP available at thelincolnsquares.com. He is happily married to fellow American Blues company member Dara Cameron. For more visit www.michaelmahler.com.
JOHN MOHRLEIN (Clarence/Mr. Potter) is a proud Ensemble member at American Blues Theater. He originated the role of Clarence and Mr. Potter in 2002 and hasn’t missed a performance. He loves to revisit and reinvent these characters year after year. At American Blues, he’s appeared in Half of Plenty, It’s a Wonderful Life, A View from the Bridge, Strictly Dishonorable, American Dead, The Hairy Ape, A Lie of the Mind, Endgame, American Buffalo, The Skin of Our Teeth, The Threepenny Opera, A Stone Carver (Joseph Jefferson nomination for Best Actor, After Dark Award for Outstanding Performance), and directed Catch-22. Other credits: The Glass House at the Art Institute of Chicago; nine productions at Goodman Theatre, Cripple of Inishmaan, Heart of a Dog, and Murder of Cardinal Tosca at Northlight Theatre. His extensive television and film work includes Golden Boy, Good Night Sweet Wife, Dillinger, Killing Floor, Early Edition, Crime Story (recurring role), Untouchables, Devil’s Dominoes, Stranger Than Fiction, No Place to be Somebody, Hellcab, Hero, and Cold Justice.
GWENDOLYN WHITESIDE (Mary Bailey) is a proud Ensemble member at American Blues Theater and has served as Producing Artistic Director since 2010. Under her leadership, American Blues has nearly doubled the size of its Ensemble, added 22 Artistic Affiliates, and diversified its base of artists. She created the annual Blue Ink Playwriting Award, Blueprint Development for new work, implemented community service into the company’s mission, and adapted the arts education program The Lincoln Project for Chicago Public Schools serving over 1,000 students annually. She fiscally led American Blues through its 2009 rebirth and built the operational budget from zero to $650,000 in five (5) years. Whiteside served numerous panels for the NEA and sat on the national Board of Directors for Network of Ensemble Theaters. She’s a graduate of Northwestern University (cum laude), The School of the Art Institute of Chicago (MFA), and a Kellogg Executive Scholar in Nonprofit management (Kellogg School of Management, Northwestern University). She was nominated for “Chicagoan of the Year” in Chicago Magazine and listed in Newcity’s annual Players list. In four years, three (3) American Blues’ productions were nominated for best production-midsize by the Joseph Jefferson Award committee. She’s received 10 Joseph Jefferson Awards, Citations, and nominations. She’s the recipient of two (2) After Dark Awards and a Broadway World Chicago Award.
MARTY HIGGINBOTHAM (Director) is a proud Ensemble member of American Blues Theater. American Blues acting credits include: Desire Under the Elms, Monsters, On the Waterfront, Tom and Jerry, The Homage that Follows, Stalag 17, Bus Stop, The Three Penny Opera, Working, The Trip to Bountiful, American Dead, and Oklahoma; American Blues sound design/original score credits: Monsters, Monsters II, and Monsters III, Food from Trash, The Homage That Follows, The Million Bells of Ocean, and A Lie of the Mind. Marty has also worked on and off stage at The Old Globe, The Prince Music Theatre, The Goodman, Northlight, Oak Park Festival Theater, Circle Theatre, and the Organic. Marty directed the original full production of It’s a Wonderful: A Live Radio Play in 2004 and continued to helm the production up to 2008, moving with the Ensemble in 2009 to the Biograph, and remounting at the Greenhouse. Marty is also Founder and President of The Stage Channel, a video production company serving the Arts in Chicago and across the country since 2001. The Stage Channel, to date, has produced over 900 promotional videos for music, theater and dance. And finally, all my love to my wife Ashley Bishop for the love, support, strength and joy she shares on a daily basis.
GRANT SABIN (Scenic Design) is a proud Artistic Affiliate of American Blues Theater and is pleased to return. He’s a company member and resident set designer for Dog and Pony Theatre, designing their past productions of God’s Ear, Ape, Mr. Marmalade (Jeff Award Nominee), Dead City, Osama the Hero, and Crumble. Grant is a graduate of Columbia College with a BFA in theatre design, where he was awarded the 2005 Michael Merritt scholarship for collaboration in theatre design. Recent set design credits include: Illegal Use of Hands, It’s a Wonderful Life: Live at the Biograph!, It’s a Wonderful Life: Live in Chicago!, American Myth, and the upcoming Yankee Tavern (American Blues Theater); Blizzard 67’, Invasion of Skokie (Chicago Dramatists); The Secret Garden (James Lumber Center); A Girl With Sun In Her Eyes (Pine Box Theatre); Circle Mirror Transformation (Victory Gardens Theatre); Sweet Tea (About Face Theatre); Garage Rep (Steppenwolf Theatre); Whiff of Anarchy (The Seldoms); The U.N. Inspector (Next Theatre); Forbidden Broadway (Royal George Theatre). Visit grantsabindesign.com
SAMANTHA C. JONES (Costume Design) is a proud Ensemble member of American Blues Theater. As a designer, her work has been seen at American Blues Theater (Collected Stories, Illegal Use of Hands, Waiting for Lefty, Rantoul and Die, It’s a Wonderful Life), 16th Street Theatre (Menorca, Fires in the Mirror, Unveiled, and The End of the Tour), Chicago Dramatists (Hickorydickory, Jade Heart), Remy Bumppo Theatre Co. (Mourning Becomes Electra, Night and Day, Heroes, American Ethnic), Peninsula Players Theatre (A Day in Hollywood/A Night in the Ukraine, Wait Until Dark, Around the World in 80 Days, Heroes, Over the Tavern), and Congo Square Theatre (Brothers of the Dust, A Colored Museum BTAA nominated for Best Costume Design).
KATY PETERSON (Lighting Design) is thrilled to design lights for It’s a Wonderful Life with American Blues again. Past designs have been seen at the Chopin Theatre, the Athenaeum, The Building Stage, Prop Theatre, Viaduct, Stage Left, The Side Project, Profiles, Theatre at the Center (Indiana), The State Theatre, Lab Theatre (Texas), among others. Favorite shows include eight years of It’s a Wonderful Life with American Blues Theater Ensemble, Nebraska (BOTC), Playing With Fire (BoHo), The Glorious Ones, and I Am My Own Wife (Jeff nomination) for Bohemian Theatre Ensemble. Katy spent seven seasons in Lighting/Production Design for “The Oprah Winfrey Show”, and now resides in on a farm in Ohio with her dogs and loving husband Ben, where she is pursuing a masters in Architecture at OSU. Sincerest thanks to Marty, Ashley, Wendy, and Jax: it’s always an honor to work with you.
AUSTIN COOK (Underscore Composer) is a proud Ensemble member at American Blues Theater. Favorite acting credits: 1st National Tour Million Dollar Quartet (Jerry Lee Lewis, tour music director), Putting It Together (music director, man 4)*Jeff Award Nomination Music Direction, Hank Williams: Lost Highway (Hoss), Some Enchanted Evening (music director/pianist)*Jeff Award Music Direction. Favorite Music Director/Conductor credits: Ain’t Misbehavin’ (Piano/Conductor)*Jeff Award Winner Artistic Specialization, 1st National Tour Million Dollar Quartet, Days Like Today at Writers Theater, Rooms: A Rock Romance, Porchlight Theatre, Theo Ubique, Second City. Music Producer credits: Billy Woodward, John Michael Presney, Billy Woodward & The Senders, Yuleberrys & Friends, Cody Slaughter. Austin’s work has been heard across the country as a performer, producer, composer, musician and music director. Austin’s most recently produced album won the Independent Music Award for Best Roots EP. Austin is an Artistic Affiliate of Porchlight Music Theatre. A big thanks to Adrienne for her love and support.
MICHAEL MAHLER (Jingle Composer) See cast.
ARIANNA SOLOWAY (Properties Design) is a proud Artistic Affiliate and Community Services Coordinator at American Blues Theater. She is thrilled to be back working on It’s a Wonderful Life: Live in Chicago! for the second year in a row. At Blues, she designed props for American Myth, Grounded, and Hank Williams: Lost Highway, and will dramaturg during Season 30. She assisted with props at Lookingglass Theater (Big Lake Big City, In the Garden) and American Blues (Collected Stories and Illegal Use of Hands). Elsewhere in Chicago, she’s designed props for The Glass Menagerie at Mary-Arrchie and productions for A Red Orchid Theatre, Sideshow Theater, Pine Box, and The Ruckus. She has a BFA in directing from Columbia College.
CHRISTOPHER NEVILLE (Costume Associate) is a proud Artistic Affiliate at American Blues Theater. He’s excited to join the It’s A Wonderful Life clan this season! Christopher has worked with costumes at American Blues Theater, Victory Gardens Theater, Lookingglass Theatre Company, Chicago Opera Theater, Theatre at the Center, and Signal Ensemble. He has also designed properties for American Blues Theater, Congo Square Theater, Griffin Theatre, Northlight Theatre and worked as an artisan at Lookingglass Theatre Company and Paramount Theater. Christopher trained at Peninsula Players Theatre as a production intern and received his B.F.A from Oakland University in Rochester, MI. www.cjnevilldesigns.com
PAUL DEZIEL (Video Associate) is excited to be working with American Blues once again! Previously he was the Assistant Projection Designer for Grounded and Video Tech for It’s a Wonderful Life. Paul practices projection design in and around Chicago. Credits include Churchill (SoloChicago/Greenhouse Theater Center), Titanic (Griffin Theatre), Point and Shoot (Cold Basement Dramatics), and Forgotten Futures: The Education Project (Collaboraction). For more information on his designs, visit pauldeziel.virb.com
KATHRYN LOCHERT (Stage Manager) recently assistant stage managed American Blues Theater’s remount production of Hank Williams: Lost Highway. Other Chicago credits include: American Myth (American Blues Theater); The Happiest Song Plays Last, Teddy Ferrara, Charles’ Dickens’ A Christmas Carol (Goodman Theatre); Chicago Shakespeare in the Parks: The Taming of the Shrew (Chicago Shakespeare Theater). Kathryn received her B.F.A. in Stage Management from the University of Southern California’s School of Theatre and is a proud member of AEA. Fight on, y’all!
ANNA MICALE (Assistant Stage Manager) is very excited to be back working on It’s a Wonderful Life. Her most recent credits include assisting on The Burnt Part Boys and Flare Path (Griffin Theatre Company). She is a junior at Columbia College Chicago where she is majoring in stage management and has just finished stage managing the main stage Into the Woods. She would like to thank the lovely women at American Blues for bringing her back, and her family and friends for all their support.
SARAH BURNHAM (Production Manager) is a proud Ensemble member at American Blues Theater. She is pleased to work on It’s a Wonderful Life: Live in Chicago! for another holiday season. Recent projects include: Production Manager for the 2014 Summer Season at Peninsula Players; Props Design for Lookingglass Alice and In the Garden for Lookingglass Theater. At Blues, she’s worked on productions such as American Myth, Collected Stories, Waiting for Lefty, and Tobacco Road. She is married to Ensemble member Brian Claggett.
SHAWN J. GOUDIE (Foley Design & Sound Engineer) See cast.
GWENDOLYN WHITESIDE (Producing Artistic Director) See cast.
JACLYN HOLSEY (General Manager) is a proud Ensemble member and General Manager at American Blues Theater. She’s an Equity stage manager and worked with Chicago theaters such as TimeLine, Victory Gardens Theater, Teatro Vista, Rivendell Theatre Company, Collaboraction, and here at American Blues Theater since 2001. American Blues Theater credits: Hank Williams: Lost Highway, Grounded, Collected Stories, Illegal Use of Hands, Tobacco Road, Half of Plenty, St. Scarlet, and five years of It’s a Wonderful Life. She’s worked with American Blues since 2005 as a stage manager, then an artistic affiliate, Ensemble member, Business Manager, and now General Manager. Before coming to American Blues, she worked as the Regional Operations and Programs Coordinator for First Nonprofit Insurance. Jaclyn also served as the Executive Assistant at Victory Gardens Theater under the leadership of Marcie McVay from 2003-2008. She graduated from Otterbein College with a BA in Theater and received her Certificate in Nonprofit Management through the University of Illinois at Chicago. In her spare time, she is the mother of a rambunctious little boy (with another on the way) and wife to the best husband in the world.
Additional Production support
JOSEPH ROLLER (Technical Director)
BRIAN CLAGGETT (Master Electrician)
EILEEN ROZYCKI (Scenic Painter)