WHO’S WHO IN THE CAST
DARA CAMERON (Violet) is a proud Ensemble member of American Blues Theater. She’s so happy to be back with her It’s a Wonderful Life family this holiday season. Recently, she was lucky enough to play “Audrey”, opposite her husband, Michael Mahler, in American Blues’ production of Little Shop of Horrors. Other recent credits include Elf, Cinderella: After the Ball, Sister Act, October Sky, City of Angels, and Hero (Jeff nomination) at the Marriott Theatre; Old Jews Telling Jokes at the Royal George and off-Broadway at the Westside Theatre; The Addams Family at Mercury Theatre Chicago; Sunset Boulevard at Drury Lane Oakbrook; and Hero at the Asolo Repertory Theatre. She is a graduate of Northwestern University and a proud member of AEA.
IAN PAUL CUSTER (Harry) is a proud Ensemble member at American Blues Theater. He was last seen as “Orin” in the Jeff Nominated production of Little Shop of Horrors and Adam in Yankee Tavern. He is excited to return for his fourth year of It’s a Wonderful Life: Live in Chicago!. Recent Chicago theatrical credits: Bad Jews (Theatre Wit, North Shore Center, Royal George), 33 Variations (TimeLine Theatre, Jeff Award– Best Production, Midsize), Annie Bosh is Missing (Steppenwolf Theatre), High Holidays (Goodman Theatre), To Master the Art (Broadway Playhouse/TimeLine Theatre), Strangers, Babies (Steep 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 credits: Empire, Chicago Fire, and Chicago PD. Love to Shannon, my friends, and my family for all the support.
BRANDON DAHLQUIST (George Bailey) makes his American Blues Theater debut in It’s a Wonderful Life: Live in Chicago!, and he couldn’t be happier! Recent theatre credits include Bronx Bombers (Broadway – Circle in the Square); A Little Night Music and 1776 (American Conservatory Theatre); 12 Angry Men (Maltz Jupiter); 1776 (Asolo Repertory); City of Angels, Dogfight (San Francisco Playhouse); Murder on the Nile, Lombardi & Sunday in the Park with George (Peninsula Players); Arcadia, Oh, Coward, A Little Night Music (Writers Theatre – Jeff nomination Best Supporting Actor Musical); Knute Rockne: All American (Theatre at the Center – Jeff nomination Best Supporting Actor Musical); Cabaret, Sugar, Meet Me in St. Louis (Drury Lane Oakbrook); Assassins, Sunday in the Park with George (Porchlight). On camera, Dahlquist has guest-starred on Chicago PD (NBC) and Difficult People (Hulu). He is a graduate of the Musical Conservatory at The Second City Chicago and a popular headshot photographer. www.brandondahlquistphotography.com
SHAWN J. GOUDIE (Foley Artist / Designer) is a proud Artistic Affiliate of American Blues Theater. He is excited to continue his role as Foley Artist for It’s a Wonderful Life: Live in Chicago!. In January his sketch comedy group, “The Dolphins of Damnation”, reunited for the 15th annual Chicago Sketch Comedy Festival. After almost a decade apart, the Dolphins could still sell out a house. Shawn would like to thank his parents for their support and his wife Jaclyn, their son Wiles, and daughter Petra for all of their love and laughter.
JAMES JOSEPH (Uncle Billy) is a proud Artistic Affiliate of American Blues Theater. He returns for his seventh season of It’s a Wonderful Life: Live in Chicago! At Blues he appeared in Tobacco Road, performed voiceovers for Hank Williams: Lost Highway and American Myth, and written for the Ripped festival. He has performed on Chicago stages for nearly twenty years, including at Northlight, Steppenwolf, TimeLine, and Victory Gardens. He is your audio guide for the permanent Chicago Authored exhibition at the Chicago History Museum, and was nominated for a Non-Equity Jeff Award (Supporting Actor) for his role in Faith Healer with UMA Productions.
MICHAEL MAHLER (Announcer/Pianist) is a proud Ensemble member of American Blues Theater. He is thrilled and delighted to return to Bedford Falls. He was most recently seen by American Blues audiences as “Seymour Krelborn” in Little Shop of Horrors. Previous roles with American Blues include “Clifford” in Side Man and “Jimmy” in Hank Williams; Lost Highway. Other Chicagoland credits include: City of Angels, The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee (Marriott); The March (Steppenwolf); Working (Broadway in Chicago); The Fox on the Fairway, Dirty Rotten Scoundrels (Jeff nom.), The Producers (Theatre at the Center); They’re Playing Our Song (Fox Valley Repertory); and The Illusion (Court). Michael is the Jeff award-winning composer/lyricist of Diary of a Wimpy Kid, October Sky, The Man who Murdered Sherlock Holmes, Wonderland: Alice’s Rock & Roll Adventure, Rockne, and Hero. He served as premiere English lyricist for Boublil & Schönberg’s La Revolution Francaise and contributed additional lyrics to Cameron Mackintosh’s Broadway-bound revival of Miss Saigon. Michael is grateful to once again share the stage with his wife Dara Cameron. Visit www.michaelmahler.com
JOHN MOHRLEIN (Clarence/Mr. Potter) is a proud Ensemble member at American Blues Theater. 15 years as “Clarence/Mr. Potter”, and he loves getting 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 (Jeff 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. Now he’s developing “Star Crossed Lovers”, “Pope Frank in Venice”, while continuing to install his art works.
CAMILLE ROBINSON (Mary Bailey) is a proud Artistic Affiliate of American Blues Theater. She is thrilled to be return to this wonderfully spirited show. She sends all the love to her beautiful family for their support. Recent theater credits include: Little Shop of Horrors (American Blues Theater), Stick Fly (Windy City Playhouse), For Her as a Piano (Pegasus Theatre Company), and Murder Ballad (Bailiwick Chicago). Recent TV/Film credits include: Chicago Med and Chicago PD (NBC). Represented by Gray Talent Group.
GWENDOLYN WHITESIDE (Director) is a proud Ensemble member of 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 28 Artistic Affiliates, and diversified its base of artists. She created the nationally-recognized 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 which serves over 1,500 students annually. She led American Blues through its 2009 rebirth and built the operational budget from zero to $825,000 in six (6) years. Whiteside served numerous panels for the National Endowment for the Arts 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 twice listed in Newcity’s annual Players list. In six years, six American Blues’ productions won or were nominated for best production by the Joseph Jefferson Award committee. She’s received 11 Joseph Jefferson Awards, Citations, and nominations as an actress and Producing Artistic Director. Her favorite performances include Jeff Award for Solo Performance (Grounded), Jeff Award nomination for Solo Performance (the K of D), Mary’s Wedding (Top 5 performances in Indianapolis), Collected Stories (Best Actress Broadway World Chicago Award), and 6 years as “Mary Bailey” (It’s a Wonderful Life: Live in Chicago!). She’s the recipient of two (2) After Dark Awards and numerous Broadway World Chicago Awards and nominations.
GRANT SABIN (Scenic Design) is a proud Artistic Affiliate of American Blues Theater. A native of rural Illinois, Grant blends his rural roots with urban art. He’s a recipient of the 2015 Michael Maggio Emerging Designer Award. He’s a graduate of Columbia College with a BFA in theatre design where he was awarded the 2005 Michael Merritt student scholarship for collaboration in theatre design. He is known throughout Chicago for his keen eye in capturing atmospheric detail and his ability to design “impressively executed sets” on a storefront-theater budget. His designs have been seen at Northlight, Victory Gardens, Steppenwolf, Next, The Royal George, Overture Center WI, Theatre Wit, Gallagher Bluedorn IA, American Blues, ATC, Christina Isabelle Dance, The Seldoms Dance, and A Red Orchid. He was nominated for a Joseph Jefferson award for his design of American Blues’ production of Yankee Tavern, A Red Orchid’s production of The Sea Horseand Dog & Pony’s production of Mr. Marmalade. He was recently named one of the Top 50 Players in Chicago Theatre by New City Magazine. Grant is currently a part-time faculty member at Columbia College.
KATY PETERSON (Lighting Design) is thrilled to design lights for It’s a Wonderful Life: Live in Chicago! 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.
CHRISTOPHER J. NEVILLE (Costume Design) is a proud Ensemble member of American Blues Theater. He is elated to be back this holiday. Previous Blues costume designs include Hank Williams: Lost Highway (asst), The Rainmaker, It’s a Wonderful Life, Looking Over The President’s Shoulder, and Dutchman/TRANSit. Christopher stitched and assistant designed at Victory Gardens Theater, Lookingglass Theatre Company, Chicago Opera Theater, Theatre at the Center, and Signal Ensemble. Along with balancing design work, Christopher teaches yoga across the Chicagoland area. He trained at Peninsula Players Theatre as a production intern and received his BFA in Theatre Design & Technology from Oakland University in Rochester, MI. www.cjnevilledesigns.com
AUSTIN COOK (Score Composer) is a proud Ensemble member of American Blues Theater. He is an award-winning music director, musician, actor and producer currently residing in Brooklyn, NY. Recent credits: Pre-Broadway World Premiere War Paint (Pianist), 1st/4th National Tour Million Dollar Quartet (Music Director/Music Supervisor), Sondheim on Sondheim (Music Director/Pianist – Jeff Award Music Direction), Ain’t Misbehavin’ (Pianist – Jeff Award Artistic Specialization), Putting It Together (Music Director/Pianist – Jeff Award Nominee), Some Enchanted Evening (Music Director/Pianist)*Jeff Award Music Direction. Ring of Fire (Piano, Guitar, Dobro, Bass), and Hank Williams: Lost Highway (Hoss), Little Shop of Horrors (Music Director/Jeff Award Nominee). Chicago Theater credits include: Goodman Theater, Writers Theater, Mercury Theater, Theater at the Center, Porchlight Theatre, American Blues Theater, American Theater Company, Second City. Music Producer credits: Billy Woodward, John Michael Presney, Yuleberry’s and Friends. Austin’s most recently produced album “The Beast in Me” won the Independent Music Award for Best Roots EP and is featured on PBS nationally in Sun Studio Sessions. www.austinryancook.com
MICHAEL MAHLER (Jingle Composer) See cast.
ELYSE DOLAN (Properties Design) is a proud Artistic Affiliate of American Blues Theater and serves as the Assistant Producer. At Blues she has directed numerous short plays in past Ripped festivals; assisted Jonathan Berry on Little Shop of Horrors; assisted Kimberly Senior on the reading of Other Than Honorable; and assisted Ed Blatchford on The Rainmaker. Her directing work has been seen across Chicago at The New Colony, Broken Nose Theater, First Floor Theater, Babes with Blades, Pride Films & Plays, Whiskey Rebellion Theater, and Three Cat Productions; she has served as Assistant Director on productions at The New Colony, Raven Theatre, Oracle Theatre, 16th Street Theater, and Redtwist Theatre. Elyse holds a B.A. in Theater and English Literature from Denison University.
KATHRYN LOCHERT (Stage Manager) is a proud Artistic Affiliate of American Blues Theater. She is delighted to spend another holiday season with her American Blues Theater family. Kathryn’s previous American Blues Theater stage management credits include The Rainmaker; Yankee Tavern; It’s a Wonderful Life: Live in Chicago! (2014 & 2015); Hank Williams: Lost Highway (remount and original production); and American Myth. Other Chicago credits include The Happiest Song Plays Last; Teddy Ferrara; Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol (Goodman Theatre); and 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 and is a member of AEA. She sends love to her new hubby Christopher.
SHANDEE VAUGHAN (Assistant Stage Manager) is thrilled to join American Blues Theater once again after a successful run of Little Shop of Horrors! Shandee is a freelance stage manager from Mesa, Arizona. She most recently stage managed Wildclaw Theatre’s Deathscribe at both Steppenwolf and at the Adrienne Archt Center in Miami. Earlier this summer, she was the ASM for American Blues’ Jeff nominated production of Little Shop of Horrors. In tandem, Shandee also assistant directed and stage managed Fight Quest (Otherworld Theatre) which has proved to be one of the most unique shows she has helped bring to life. Other recent Chicago credits include: Nicks and Cuts (WildClaw Theatre), Jacob Marley’s Christmas Carol (Festival 56), and Klingon Christmas Carol (Commedia Beauregard). Shandee graduated with her BA in Theatre from West Texas A&M University and enjoys playing the ukulele in her free time. shandeevaughan.com
SARAH E. ROSS (Production Manager) is a proud Ensemble member of American Blues Theater and serves as Production Manager since last season’s Little Shop of Horrors. She is a freelance scenic, costumes, and properties designer based in Chicago and has worked with Paramount Theatre, The Second City, The Joffrey Ballet, Shattered Globe, 16th Street Theater, Writers’ Theatre, Theater Wit, and Chicago Shakespeare Theater. Regionally, she has designed scenery for Peninsula Players Theater, TheaterSquared, Helen Hocker Theater, and Summer Studio Theater Company. She received Jeff Awards for costume design for Tobacco Road (American Blues Theater), scenic design for The Rainmaker (American Blues Theater), and several nominations for scenic and puppet designs. Sarah is a proud member of Local USA 829 and the Society of Properties Artisans Managers.
MICHAEL TRUDEAU (Technical Director) is a proud Artistic Affiliate of American Blues Theater. Michael is thrilled to be working with American Blues again this season. Recent Chicago credits include technical director for Emergent Theater, Sideshow Theater Company, Route 66 Theater, American Theater Company, and Livewire Theater Company. He has also served as master electrician for Shattered Globe Theatre and Theater at the Center as well as spot operator for Mary Poppins and Miss Saigon with Paramount Theatre in Aurora, IL. During the summer months, he is the Master Electrician at Peninsula Players Theater in Fish Creek, WI. http://mrtrudeau23.wix.com/mtrudeaudesigns
KEEGAN BRADAC (Sound Engineer) is excited to be working with American Blues Theater for the first time. He is currently in his second season as Sound Engineer at Porchlight Music Theatre where his credits include Ain’t Misbehavin’, Far from Heaven, Dreamgirls, and In the Heights. Over the summer he was the Sound Engineer for Thrones! The Music Parody at the Apollo Theater. Upcoming shows include sound designs for the Porchlight productions of The Scottsboro Boys and Marry Me a Little.
AMANDA ZIEGLER (Assistant Sound Engineer) is excited to be doing her first show with American Blues Theater. She is currently finishing up a Technical Theatre degree at Columbia College Chicago. Columbia Mainstage design credits include Blues for an Alabama Sky, Death and the King’s Horseman, and Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown. Her next sound design we be Columbia’s Mainstage production of Once on This Island.
PAUL DEZIEL (Video Associate) is a proud Artistic Affiliate of American Blues Theater. He freelances as a projection designer throughout Chicagoland. Selected design credits include: Merge, Kin Folk (The New Colony), The Unfortunates, Churchill (SoloChicago), United Flight 232 (The House Theatre of Chicago), The Glass Menagerie (The Hypocrites), Mike Mother, Redletter (The Neo-Futurists), The 39 Steps (Theatre at the Center), Mutt (Stage Left & Red Tape Theatre), and Heat Wave (Steppenwolf Garage Rep 2015). Paul is an artistic affiliate with SoloChicago Theatre and is a game designer with the MegaGame Society of Chicago. He is a graduate of Columbia College of Chicago and is currently an MFA candidate in Projection Design at the University of Maryland. Outside of theatre, Paul enjoys tabletop gaming and tacos—lots of tacos. For more info on his designs, visit pauldeziel.com
RACHEL LAKE (Master Electrician) is excited to be returning to American Blues Theater! She is a graduate of West Virginia University and an alumnus of Peninsula Players Theatre in Door County, WI. Other Master Electrician credits include Dutchman/TRANSit (American Blues Theater) and True West (Shattered Globe). Design works include: The Ben Hecht Show (Grippo Stage Company); The People’s Passion Play (Quest Theatre Ensemble); Botanic Garden (Canamac Productions); Oliver! (Citadel Theatre); and Arsenic and Old Lace (WVU School of Theatre and Dance).
MARTY HIGGINBOTHAM (Original Direction) 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 from 2004-2007, moving with the Ensemble to the Biograph (2009-2012), and remounting at the Greenhouse (2013-14). 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.
GWENDOLYN WHITESIDE (Producing Artistic Director) See director.
JACLYN HOLSEY (General Manager) is a proud Ensemble member and General Manager of 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: Looking Over the President’s Shoulder, 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: Live in Chicago! 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. She is currently working towards a Masters of Nonprofit Administration from North Park University. She sends her love to her husband, son, and daughter for the love and joy they bring her every day.