BIOGRAPHIES

WANDACHRISTINE (Solo Performer) is a proud Artistic Affiliate of American Blues Theater. She has appeared on the small screen in many memorable starring and guest starring roles; the last one playing “Birdie” on Chicago PD. On the large screen, she’s worked alongside Whoopi Goldberg, Neil Patrick Harris, Paul Newman, Tom Selleck, and Clifton Davis, just to name a few. She starred as “Mrs. Jones” in the hit dramedy Me and Mrs. Jones with Kim Fields and Brian White. On stage, she’s appeared in such productions as Spunk, The Vagina Monologues, Oo-Bla-Dee, Gees Bend, Thyestes, and the touring company of Fences. Her role as “Quilly” in Writers’ Theatre production of Old Settler earned her a Joseph Jefferson Supporting Actress nomination and Ruby Dee/Black Theater Alliance Award nomination; this production was also directed by Ron OJ Parson. You’ve probably heard her voice daily, on many commercials and animated projects. Her novel, I Love You…More Than Shoes! about four actresses over 50 still trying to make it in Hollywood has garnered interest as a possible TV series. This one’s for you, Mama. “I love you more… than all the shows in the world!”

DAEL ORLANDERSMITH (Playwright) is a Goodman Artistic Associate and Artist-in-Residence at the new Alice Rapoport Center for Education and Engagement at the Goodman. Ms. Orlandersmith collaborated with the Goodman on Black n Blue Boys/Broken Men during the 2012/2013 Season and Stoop Stories during the 2009/2010 Season. Black n Blue Boys/Broken Men was developed as a co-commission between the Goodman and Berkeley Repertory Theatre, where it was staged in May 2012. Ms. Orlandersmith first performed Stoop Stories in 2008 at The Public Theater’s Under the Radar Festival and Apollo Theater’s Salon Series; Washington, D.C.’s Studio Theatre produced its world premiere in 2009. Her play Forever, commissioned by the Center Theatre Group in Los Angeles, was performed at the Mark Taper Forum in fall 2014. The show was then performed at the Long Wharf Theatre, New York Theatre Workshop and Portland Center Stage in 2015. Her play Until the Flood played the Repertory Theatre of St. Louis in 2016. Her play Horsedreams was developed at New Dramatists and workshopped at New York Stage and Film Company in 2008, and was performed at Rattlestick Playwrights Theater in 2011. Bones was commissioned by the Mark Taper Forum, where it premiered in 2010. Ms. Orlandersmith premiered The Blue Album, in collaboration with David Cale, at Long Wharf Theatre in 2007. Yellowman was commissioned by and premiered at McCarter Theatre in a co-production with the Wilma Theater and Long Wharf Theatre. Ms. Orlandersmith was a Pulitzer Prize finalist and Drama Desk Award nominee for Outstanding Play and Outstanding Actress in a Play for Yellowman in 2002. The Gimmick, commissioned by McCarter Theatre, premiered in their Second Stage OnStage series in 1998 and went on to great acclaim at Long Wharf Theatre and New York Theatre Workshop; Ms. Orlandersmith won the Susan Smith Blackburn Prize for The Gimmick in 1999. Her play Monster premiered at New York Theatre Workshop in November 1996. Ms. Orlandersmith has toured extensively with the Nuyorican Poets Café (Real Live Poetry) throughout the United States, Europe and Australia. Yellowman and a collection of her earlier works have been published by Vintage Books and Dramatists Play Service. Ms. Orlandersmith attended Sundance Institute Theatre Lab for four summers and is the recipient of a New York Foundation for the Arts Grant, the Helen Merrill Award for Emerging Playwrights, a Guggenheim award and the 2005 PEN/Laura Pels Foundation award for a playwright in mid-career. She is the recipient of a Lucille Lortel Foundation Playwrights Fellowship and an Obie Award for Beauty’s Daughter.

RON OJ PARSON (Director) hails from Buffalo, New York and is a graduate of the University of Michigan’s professional theatre program. He is a resident artist at Court Theatre, former co-founder and artistic director of Onyx Theatre. Recent Directing credits include Paradise Blue by Dominique Morisseau, Sunset Baby by Dominique Morisseau, and A Raisin in the Sun by Lorraine Hansberry (TimeLine Theatre, associate artist); East Texas Hot Links by Eugene Lee (Writers Theatre, associate artist); The Who & The What by Ayad Akhtar (Victory Gardens Theater); Blues for an Alabama Sky by Pearl Cleage, Gem of the Ocean by August Wilson, Seven Guitars by August Wilson, The Mountaintop by Katori Hall, and Waiting For Godot by Samuel Beckett (Court Theatre); and Detroit 67 by Dominic Morisseau (Northlight Theater). Other Chicagoland theatres Ron has worked with include Black Ensemble Theatre, ETA, Congo Square Theatre, Goodman Theatre, Teatro Vista (associate artist), Chicago Dramatists, Urban Theatre Company, Steppenwolf Theatre, Chicago Theatre Company, and City Lit Theatre. Regional theatres Ron OJ has worked with include Virginia Stage Company, Portland Stage, Studio Theatre, Studio Arena Theatre, Roundabout Theatre, Mechanic Theatre, Center Stage Baltimore, Actors Theatre of Louisville, Milwaukee Rep, St. Louis Black Rep, Pittsburgh Public Theatre, Pittsburgh Playwrights Theatre, Geva Theatre, Signature Theatre (New York), Alliance Theatre, South Coast Rep, and Pasadena Playhouse. In Canada, Ron directed the world premiere of Palmer Park by Joanna McClelland Glass at the Stratford Shakespeare Festival. Ron is a proud member of AEA, SAG-AFTRA, and SDC. “You can’t cheat yourself out of love. You gotta keep feeling things to stay alive.” -Dael Orlandersmith.  I would like to dedicate this production to Xavier O. Joy. Gone too soon.

CAITLIN MCLEOD (Scenic Design) is ecstatic to make her American Blues Theater debut with this production. Caitlin is a costume and scenic designer, puppet enthusiast, traveler, and dreamer. She is a recent graduate of the stage design MFA program at Northwestern University, originally from Buffalo NY. Most recent credits include: Crazy for You (Drury Lane), No Lo Tengo (Sr. Wooly Productions), The Ballad of Romeo and Juliet (developing work, Trigger Studios), The Awake (First Floor Theatre), Fancy Nancy (Northbrook Theatre), along with many assistant credits (Marriott, Drury Lane, Lookingglass Theatre). Outside her work in traditional theatre, Caitlin utilizes art as a catalyst to break the mundane through street art, performance art, and toy theatre. She wishes to thank the whole production team for such a great experience, and helping to bring her design to life.

MICHAEL ALAN STEIN (Costume Design) is a costume designer and the chief fashion designer of the eponymous Michael Alan Stein Collection; a prestige, ready-to-wear women’s apparel line launched in spring 2012. A career spanning more than two decades, Stein’s costume designs have graced many stages across the United States including: the Guthrie Theatre, Minneapolis, MN; Steppenwolf and Goodman Theatre, Chicago, IL; Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, Washington, DC; and the Long Wharf Theatre, New Haven, CT. On stage, screen and personal appearance, his designs have been worn by such celebrated artists as: Whitney Houston, Angela Bassett, Jane Seymour, Erykah Badu, Jennifer Holiday, and Elizabeth Berkley. Stein is the recipient of many awards and honors including, a fellowship from The National Endowment for the Arts and he was recently listed by Fashion-Schools.org as number seventy on the top 100 Most Influential Fashion Designers of 2012. In addition to his stage and film work, he has also designed special projects for Alvin Ailey American Dance Theatre, NYC and Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd, Co.

JARED GOODING (Lighting Design) is a proud Artistic Affiliate of American Blues Theater. He is happy to be returning to design with American Blues Theater. A native of Houston Texas, design credits include the Associate Design of Lookingglass Alice (Lookingglass Theater), serving as the Lighting Assistant for The Wiz Live on NBC, designs for The Hypocrites, Timeline Theater, American Blues Theater, Sideshow Theatre, About Face Theatre, MPAACT, Pegasus Theatre, Next Theatre, Congo Square, Citadel Theatre, and Fleetwood Jourdain Theatre. His work is featured at goodingdesigns.com. He is a company member with MPACCT and holds a BFA in Lighting Design from DePaul. He spends his off time managing a DJ company for area bars.

ERIC BACKUS (Sound Design / Original Music) is excited to join American Blues Theater again, after working as associate sound designer and engineer for Hank Williams: Lost Highway and assistant sound designer for Grounded. He recently received a Jeff nomination for his work on Lifeline Theatre’s A Wrinkle in Time. Other recent sound design and composition credits include American Hero (First Floor Theater), Born Ready (Factory Theater), The Wolf at the End of the Block (Teatro Vista), The Assembled Parties and Red Velvet (Raven Theatre), and Apartment 3A (Windy City Playhouse). Eric also designed the Off-Broadway and touring productions of SoloChicago Theatre’s Churchill, and the Chicago and LA productions of Thrones! A Musical Parody. To hear his music, please visit www.ericbackus.com.

MARY O’DOWD (Properties Design) is honored to work with American Blues Theater. Recent credits include Paradise Blue and Bakersfield Mist at TimeLine. Other favorite prop/set dressing designs include: The House of Blue Leaves and A Loss of Roses (Raven); Anne of Green Gables (Provision); Lascivious Something and Ballad of the Sad Café (Signal Ensemble); and On Golden Pond (Theatre of Western Springs). Mary is a proud card-carrying member of Club Goodwill.

PAUL DEZIEL (Projection Design) is a proud Artistic Affiliate of American Blues Theater. He works on It’s a Wonderful Life: Live in Chicago! each year. He freelances as a projection designer throughout Chicago, Washington D.C., and their respective communities. Selected credits include: United Flight 232 (The House Theatre); Churchill and The Unfortunates (SoloChicago); Flying V Fights: The Secret of the Unknown World (Flying V Theatre); The Glass Menagerie (The Hypocrites); Merge and Kin Folk (The New Colony); Mike Mother and Redletter (The Neo-Futurists); The 39 Steps (Theatre at the Center); Mutt (Stage Left & Red Tape Theatre); and Twisted Melodies (Congo Square Theatre Company). Upcoming Projects: Sotto Voce (Theater J). Paul holds a B.A. in Theatre from Columbia College Chicago and is currently an MFA candidate for Projection Design at the University of Maryland. Outside of theatre, Paul enjoys tabletop gaming and reading “Calvin & Hobbes”. For more info on his designs, visit pauldeziel.com

KATHY LOGELIN (Dialect Coach) As a dialect coach, Kathy has recently worked with Remy Bumppo, Mary-Arrchie, Strawdog, and Idle Muse Theatre Co. Kathy has been an actor in Chicago since 1998 and is an Ensemble member at Rivendell Theatre Ensemble. Chicago credits include Betrayal with Oak Park Festival Theatre; The Last Days of Judas Iscariot with The Gift Theatre and Victory Gardens; Cadillac with Chicago Dramatists; and Widowers’ Houses with TimeLine Theatre. Regionally Kathy has done five seasons with the Illinois Shakespeare Festival including The Three Musketeers, The Merry Wives of Windsor, Romeo and Juliet, The Taming of the Shrew, and All’s Well That Ends Well, as well as Mauritius at TheatreSquared in Fayetteville, Arkansas, and Macbeth at the Notre Dame Shakespeare Festival. Kathy holds a B.S. in Acting from Illinois State University.

ARTEMIS LYNNE (Assistant Director) is a poet, director, actor, and writer based in Chicago. Previous work includes Stop.Reset (Goodman Theatre), Two Trains Running (Goodman Theatre), Living Canvas (National Pastime Theatre) and The Set of Sun (Manhattan Rep). She would like to thank Ron OJ Parson, Wendy Whiteside, Wandachristine, and the American Blues Theater family for their endless support.

WILSON CAIN III (Dramaturg) is a member of the Literary Managers and Dramaturge Association (LMDA). He received the Ed.D and MS in written communications from National Louis University, The MFA in acting from The Alabama Shakespeare Festival at The University of Alabama and the BFA in acting from the Goodman School of drama. He has worked as adjunct faculty at Columbia College Chicago, Auburn University, and Auburn University at Montgomery. As a professional actor, Wilson has performed extensively in the Chicago, regional, and off Broadway Theatre. Wilson Is a recipient of the Joseph Jefferson award for Outstanding Ensemble Work for the production The Good Times are Killing MeAn Awakening is his first published work.

CRISTIN CAROLE (Choreographer) began her dance training at Sammy Dyer School of the Theatre in Chicago under the direction of her aunt Shirley Hall-Bass. She went on to study Classical Ballet with Elizabeth Boitsov and Modern Dance with Timothy Buckley and Doug Wood. She has performed professionally for audiences at Mo Ming, Links Hall, the Athenaeum Theatre, Lyric Opera, Auditorium Theatre, and as a principal dancer in semi-annual productions sponsored by the University of Chicago at Mandel Hall. Cristin has also choreographed for various organizations and venues in the Bahamas including the National Dance Company, National Youth Choir and led master classes in Dance Education for Bahamas Dance Theatre. In addition to over fifteen years of teaching experience in Chicago Public Schools, Cristin has developed arts integrated workshops for the Golden Apple Foundation, Hedwig Dance Company, Urban Gateways, and the Chicago Park District. As an Arts Integration Specialist, Cristin has been a faculty member of the City Colleges of Chicago, The College of the Bahamas, and presently serves as adjunct faculty for the Columbia College Chicago’s Graduate Program in Education. She has led numerous professional development workshops for teachers on the practical implementation of movement and dance across the curriculum. In 2005, Cristin joined the Education and Community Engagement staff of The Joffrey Ballet as a teaching artist and curriculum development consultant and has been instrumental in the creation of the Bridge Program. Most recently, she has worked as the dance consultant and choreographer for the Court Theatre productions of Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, Home, and the critically acclaimed Gershwin’s Porgy and Bess.

CARA PARRISH (Production Stage Manager) is thrilled to be making her American Blues Theater debut and to work with Ron O.J. once again! Cara’s Chicago credits include James and the Giant Peach (Drury Lane Oakbrook); Hard ProblemElectra, and Gem of the Ocean (Court Theatre); Douglass (American Vicarious); Jabari Dreams of Freedom (Chicago Children’s Theatre); Men of Soul, Sounds So Sweet, The Trial of Moses ‘Fleetwood’ Walker, At Last: A Tribute to Etta James, and The Marvelous Marvelettes (Black Ensemble Theater); The MLK Project: The Fight for Civil Rights, Port Authority, Yellow Moon, The Letters, The Blonde, the Brunette, and the Vengeful Redhead, and The Caretaker (Writers’ Theatre). Her national credits include work at Detroit Music Hall (Detroit, MI), The Fabulous Palm Springs Follies (Palm Springs, CA), Chamber Theatre Productions (Boston, MA), and The Hippodrome State Theatre (Gainesville, FL). Cara would like to thank her family and friends for all of their love and support.

GABRIELLA WELSH (Assistant Stage Manager) Previously, Welsh acted as Assistant Stage Manager on H.M.S. Pinafore, The Mikado, and Pirates of Penzance with The Hypocrites. Past Hypocrites credits include American Idiot, All Our Tragic, Three Sisters, Endgame, and Ivywild. Outside of The Hypocrites, Welsh has worked with companies around Chicago, including Griffin Theatre, Sideshow Theatre, Step Up Productions, and Dream Sequence Productions. Welsh graduated in 2014 from Columbia College Chicago with a B.A. in technical theatre with concentrations in stage management and properties design.

SAMANTHA R. DZIRKO (Production Manager) is a Chicago-based Production Manager who is excited to be working with American Blues. Other Production Management credits include working with: The Hypocrites (Chicago, IL), Williamstown Theatre Festival (Massachusetts), and Actors Theatre of Louisville (Kentucky). Samantha graduated with a B.A. in Theatre from the University of Scranton (Pennsylvania).

RACHEL LAKE (Master Electrician) is excited to be returning to American Blues Theater! A Lighting Designer and Master Electrician, she is a graduate of West Virginia University and an alumnus of Peninsula Players Theatre in Door County, Wisconsin. Other Master Electrician credits include: Cabaret (Theater at the Center – Asst. ME); It’s a Wonderful Life: Live in Chicago! and Dutchman/TRANSit (American Blues Theater), and True West (Shattered Globe). Recent design works include: Gideon’s Knot (Eclectic Full Contact Theater), Lady X: The Musical (Hell in a Handbag), and Deep in the Heart of Tuna (New American Folk Theater).

GWENDOLYN WHITESIDE (Artistic 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 30 Artistic Affiliates, and diversified its base of artists. She created the nationally-recognized annual Blue Ink Playwriting AwardBlueprint 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 2,000 students annually. She led American Blues through its 2009 rebirth and built the operational budget from zero to over $1 million in seven (7) 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 listed numerous times in Newcity’s annual Players list. Under her leadership, 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 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.

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.

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