LIZ CHIDESTER (Vi Petty) is a singer/songwriter, actor, and teaching artist from Virginia. Her Chicago theatre credits include: Lizzie (Firebrand Theatre), High Fidelity (Refuge Theatre Project, Jeff Award – Best Musical), Billy the Kid (Cabinet of Curiosity Events), Big River and Pump Boys and the Dinettes (Theatre at the Center), Ring of Fire (Mercury Theater Chicago), and Stupid F**ing Bird (Sideshow Theatre Company). Her original albums with her band LIZ AND THE LOVELIES include Progress into Simplicity (2017 – Best Roots EP, Independent Music Awards 2018), Otter Hill (2015), and People Pumping Pedals (2014). She teaches group and private lessons at Old Town School of Folk Music. Liz is stoked to work with American Blues Theater and this incredible cast and crew! www.lizandthelovelies.com/acting
IAN PAUL CUSTER (Hi Pockets) is a proud Ensemble member at American Blues Theater. Recent American Blues credits: “David Halberstam” in The Columnist (Jeff nomination – Best Production, Midsize), It’s A Wonderful Life: Live in Chicago! (Jeff nominations – Best Ensemble and Best Production, Midsize), “Orin Skrivello” in Little Shop of Horrors (Jeff nomination – Best Production of a Musical, Midsize), and “Adam” in Yankee Tavern. Recent Chicago credits: Bad Jews (Theater 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), and Fiddler on the Roof (Paramount Theatre). Regional credits: Hero: The Musical (Asolo Rep Theatre), Cymbeline (Notre Dame Shakespeare), Romeo and Juliet (Cardinal Stage), and Peter Pan (360 Entertainment – London, England). Television credits: APB, Empire, Chicago Fire, and Chicago PD. Love to Shannon, my friends and family, and Gray Talent Group for all the support.
ANN DELANEY (Company) is thrilled to be making her American Blues Theater debut. Her recent Chicago theatre credits include Hatfield and McCoy (The House Theatre of Chicago); It’s a Wonderful Life, Cabaret, Nice Work If You Can Get It, Spamalot, and Big Fish (Theatre At The Center); All Our Tragic and Gilbert and Sullivan Rep (The Hypocrites); Bonnie and Clyde (Kokandy Productions), Fancy Nancy (Northbrook TYA), Hobo King (Congo Square Theatre); and Mr. Burns (Theater Wit). She would like to send love to her mom and dad! www.anndelaney.net
VASILY DERIS (Big Bopper) is grateful to be working on such a fun show with the best cast and crew in town. Chicago credits: the Jeff Award-winning Smokey Joe’s Café (Theo Ubique), “Barry” in the Jeff Award-winning High Fidelity (Refuge Theatre Project), “Eric” in Creatives (Chicago Theatre Workshop), “Shawn Eckhardt” in Tonya and Nancy: The Rock Opera (Underscore Theatre), and “Pharaoh” in Joseph (Paramount Theatre). Vasily wouldn’t be here without the support from his family and friends cheering him on every step of the way. Sophie, thanks for being my daily inspiration and my constant kick in the butt. Kali Diaskedasi.
ALEX GOODRICH (Clearlake Announcer) is thrilled to make his American Blues Theater debut with this amazing play and team! Chicago credits include Hero: The Musical (Jeff Award – Best Supporting Actor in a Musical); Honeymoon in Vegas; She Loves Me; How To Succeed in Business..; Elf the Musical; On The Town; I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change; and For The Boys (Marriott Theatre); The Importance of Being Earnest (Writers Theatre); Love’s Labor’s Lost; The Emperor’s New Clothes; A Midsummer Night’s Dream; Seussical; Taming of the Shrew; Aladdin; and How Can You Run… (Chicago Shakespeare Theater); Miss Bennet; Shining Lives; Civil War Christmas; and She Stoops to Conquer (Northlight Theatre); Old Jews Telling Jokes (Royal George); The Comedy of Errors and One Man Two Guvnors (Court Theatre); Everything Is Illuminated (Next Theatre); A Midsummer Night’s Dream (Indiana Repertory); and Goodnight Moon and Harold and the Purple Crayon (Chicago Children’s Theatre). He loves his wife and two kids very much.
DEREK HASENSTAB (Norman Petty) is delighted to make his American Blues Theater debut. Chicago theatre credits include shows with Lookingglass Theatre Company, Goodman Theatre, Steppenwolf Theatre, Writers Theatre, Chicago Shakespeare Theater, About Face Theatre, Victory Gardens Theater, Court Theatre, Marriott Theatre, and Drury Lane Oakbrook, among others. Regional credits include: “Doc” in Come Back, Little Sheba (IRNE and Elliot Norton Nominations, Huntington Theatre Company), “Hermes” in Metamorphoses (Arena Stage, Mark Taper Forum), and “Tom” in The Glass Menagerie (Kansas City Repertory Theatre). National Tour: “Zazu” in The Lion King. He is proud husband to Tempe Thomas, beaming father to Olivia, and bass player for the increasingly fertile band, The Lincoln Squares.
MOLLY HERNÁNDEZ (Maria Elena) is thrilled to be making her debut at American Blues Theater. Favorite credits include “Rosabella” in The Most Happy Fella (Theo Ubique); “Julie Jordan” in Carousel, Mary Poppins, Evita, and Scapino (Timber Lake Playhouse); Crime Scene: Breath Life and Forgotten Future: Education Project (Collaboraction). Last year she was given the Award of Excellence in Professional Theatre from the Illinois Theatre Association and was nominated for a Jeff Award for Best Actress in a Musical for her work in The Most Happy Fella. Molly can be seen on Chicago PD ep. 105 as “Elisa Rodríguez” and APB ep. 105 as “Maya Ruiz”. Big thanks to the Songbook Academy, the Illinois Theatre Association, Gray Talent Group, Connor, Erin, mom, and dad. AMDG. mollyhernandez.weebly.com
KEIRSTEN HODGENS (Apollo Performer) is thrilled to join the cast of Buddy Holly! Recent Chicago credits include Jesus Christ Superstar (Lyric Opera), Ragtime (Marriott Theater), Spamilton (Royal George), Jesus Christ Superstar (Paramount Theater) and Smokey Joe’s Cafe (Drury Lane). She would like to thank everyone on the team at Stewart Talent! Let’s have some fun!
CISCO LOPEZ (Ritchie Valens) is thrilled to make his American Blues Theater debut. Chicago credits include Merrily We Roll Along, Woman of the Year, New Faces Sing Broadway 2001, and In the Heights (Porchlight Music Theatre); Bonnie & Clyde (Kokandy Productions); In To America and Letters Home (Griffin Theatre); Planted (Rogue Elephant Productions); Dead Man Walking (Piven Theatre); Mutt (Stage Left and Red Tape Theatre); Macbeth (Midsommer Flight); Take Me Out (Eclectic Theatre); and Fiddler on the Roof and Damn Yankees (Light Opera Works). Film credits: Boystown and Closet Memories. He holds a BFA in Theatre Performance from Baylor University and is represented by Shirley Hamilton.
MICHAEL MAHLER (Tommy / Cricket; music director) is a proud Ensemble member of American Blues Theater and is thrilled to be back. His Blues appearances include It’s a Wonderful Life: Live in Chicago!, “Seymour” in Little Shop of Horrors, “Clifford” in Side Man, and “Jimmy” in Hank Williams: Lost Highway. Other Chicagoland credits include Honeymoon in Vegas (Marriott Theatre); The March (Steppenwolf Theatre); Working (Broadway Playhouse); The Illusion (Court Theatre); The Fox on the Fairway, Dirty Rotten Scoundrels (Jeff nomination), and The Producers (Theatre at the Center). Recent music directing credits include Parade (Writers Theatre) and Road Show (Chicago Shakespeare Theater, Jeff nomination). Michael is a composer/lyricist who contributed additional lyrics to the new Broadway production of Miss Saigon. Other works include Diary of a Wimpy Kid, The Man who Murdered Sherlock Holmes (Jeff Award), October Sky (San Diego Theatre Critics Circle Award), and Hero (Jeff Award). Michael dedicates his performance to his new little buddy, Ezra Cameron Mahler.
KIERAN MCCABE (Jerry / Cricket) This Philadelphia native is proud to make his American Blues Theater debut. Kieran’s favorite credits include “Fluke Holland” in Million Dollar Quartet, “Scapino” in Scapino, “Orin Scrivello” in Little Shop of Horrors, “Agustin Migaldi” in Evita, “Mr. Manningham” in Gaslight, “Stacee Jaxx” in Rock of Ages, Carousel, Mary Poppins, Titanic, and A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum (Timber Lake Playhouse), and “Freak” in columbinus (Loyola Chicago). Kieran drums and writes for the Indie Rock trio Day Off (@dayofftheband). Kieran puts his English Creative Writing degree to good use as a Head Writer for Kettle Camp Studios, a Chicago based production company. He’d like to thank his Mom and Dad, his six siblings, and his teachers at St. Joe’s Prep. For more of Kieran’s work, visit kieranmccabe.weebly.com. OAMDG.
DANIEL RILEY (Apollo Performer) is a Chicago-based performer who studied at Harold Washington College and Roosevelt University. He has worked in theatre and cabaret with numerous groups in and around Chicago, most recently Paramount Theatre, Davenport’s Piano Bar, The Inconvenience, and the Ravinia Festival. Dan also coaches and accompanies soloists and choirs of all ages in many styles of music. He regularly sings with Holy Name Cathedral and the Lakeside Singers, and can be seen Sunday mornings on WGN-TV singing for Mercy Home for Boys and Girls. Dan is also featured (along with Michael Mahler) on Dark Side of the Moon A Cappella (VOCOMOTION Productions). Thanks to Lil and Mike for the opportunity!
ZACHARY STEVENSON (Buddy Holly) is thrilled to be making his American Blues Theater debut! Originally from Vancouver Island, Canada, Zach recently relocated to Chicago after spending the last few years being based in Kansas City, MO. Select credits include: Million Dollar Quartet (Paramount Theatre – “Carl” U/S), Hair (CanStage), Ring of Fire (Chemainus Theatre Festival / Western Canada Theatre), Hank Williams: The Show He Never Gave (Blue Bridge Repertory), Urinetown (Belfry Theatre), Red Rock Diner (Arts Club Theatre), Assassins (Quintessence), and over ten productions of Buddy – The Buddy Holly Story throughout the US and Canada, for which he’s been nominated for a Jessie Richardson Award and Ovation Award. Zachary has also had the pleasure of music directing several productions, including Million Dollar Quartet (Arts Club), and Ring of Fire (Chemainus Theatre Festival), as well as performing in countless headlining concerts across North America. Off stage, Zach is busy writing a one-man show about the 1960s folksinger and activist, Phil Ochs. For more, check out www.zacharystevenson.com. Rave on and enjoy the show!
DENZEL HODGENS (Apollo Performer) is thrilled to be making his American Blues Theater debut and with such a great production team and cast! Hailing from Batavia, IL; he holds a BFA in Musical from Millikin University. Some of his favorite Chicago credits include: South Pacific (Drury Lane), Five Guys Named Moe (Court Theatre), Ragtime (Griffin Theatre), The Scottsboro Boys (Porchlight Music Theatre), Annie Warbucks (Theatre at the Center), Smokey Joe’s Cafe (Drury Lane Oakbrook), Velveteen Rabbit (Marriott Theatre), Heathers: The Musical (Kokandy Productions) and Northanger Abbey (Lifeline Theatre). Huge thanks to the millifam, the Gray Talent fam and the famfam!
SHAUN WHITLEY (Joe / Cricket) is thrilled to be working again with American Blues Theater. He is a multi-instrumentalist, actor, composer, and Jeff-nominated music director. He performed nearly 1800 times as “Carl Perkins” in the longest running Broadway musical in Chicago history, Million Dollar Quartet. Other Chicago credits include: Chicago Shakespeare Theater, Drury Lane Oakbrook, The Second City, Remy Bumppo Theatre Company, Strawdog Theatre, TUTA, Redmoon Theater, Blindfaith Theatre, and Provision Theater. He studied Shakespeare at RADA in London. He teaches at the Old Town School of Folk Music. Love to Megan and Elaine, his favorite girls.
Previously seen actors—
ANGELA ALISE (Apollo Performer, Apr 27 – May 26) is very excited to be working with American Blues Theater again, where she was last seen in Little Shop of Horrors. Some of her favorite Chicago credits include The Wolves (Goodman Theatre), The House That Will Not Stand (Victory Gardens Theater), Saturday Night/Sunday Morning (Prologue Theatre at Steppenwolf Garage Rep), Hairspray (Drury Lane Oakbrook), How We Got On (Haven Theatre), The Wiz (Kokandy Productions), Parade (BoHo Theatre), and Coming Home (Erasing the Distance, where she is an Ensemble member). Regional credits include Black Side of the Moon and Nothing to Lose but Our Chains (The Second City at Woolly Mammoth Theatre) and Almost Accurate Guide to America (The Second City at The Kennedy Center). Angela holds a BA in Theatre from Loyola University Chicago and is represented by Gray Talent Group. She thanks God, her family, friends, and agents for their continued love and support. www.angelaalise.com
CHUCKIE BENSON (Apollo Performer, Apr 27 – May 26) recently originated “Truman Hayes” in the world premiere musical, TRU, at the Chicago Music Theatre Festival. He received a Jeff nomination for his performance as the “Lion” in Kokandy’s production of The Wiz. Chuckie was also a part of the Chicago cast of Spamilton. He has had the honor of playing some of his favorite roles at Wagon Wheel Center of the Arts including “Coalhouse Walker Jr.” in Ragtime, “Curtis” in Sister Act, and “Teen Angel” in Grease! Regional credits include: Hair (Mercury Theater Chicago), “Tom Collins” in Rent (Theo Ubique), Woman of the Year (Porchlight Music Theatre), and “Jim” in Big River (Timber Lake Playhouse). Chuckie received his BFA in Music Theatre Performance from Western Michigan University, and is a native to Lansing, MI. Special thanks to Mom, Dad, Kayta, Ashley, friends, and family: without you I am nothing. To God be the glory.
LAUREN VOGEL (Company, Apr 27 – May 26) is an American actress, comedy writer, and multi-instrumentalist. Regional Credits: Feinstein’s/54 Below NYC, American Repertory Theatre, Actors Theatre of Louisville, The Pasadena Playhouse, Florida Studio Theatre, and The Olney Theatre Center. Lauren is an ensemble member with The Hypocrites, (All Our Tragic*Equity Jeff Award, Pirates of Penzance, The Mikado, H.M.S. Pinafore, Johanna Faustus, etc.) Other Chicago credits include: A Red Orchid Theatre, Steppenwolf Garage, Trap Door Theatre, American Theatre Company’s Core Series, Chicago Children’s Theatre. Lauren is currently starring as Woods in “Chicago H.R.”, a comedy web series produced by The Second City training center. LaurenVogel.org
ALAN JANES (Playwright) is an English writer and producer who has worked in TV, film, radio, and theatre. His best known work is the musical Buddy – The Buddy Holly Story which ran for over 14 years and almost 6,000 performances in London’s West End, and has been on tour in the UK for 17 years. Buddy has also played Broadway, 5 U.S. National Tours, 8 years in Germany, 3 years in Australia and New Zealand, and countless other productions around the world. Janes was nominated for an Olivier Award for Best Musical for Buddy. He also co-wrote and produced the musicals 125th Street and Jailhouse Rock, which both premiered on London’s West End.
LILI-ANNE BROWN (Director) A native Chicagoan, Brown works as a director, actor and educator, both locally and regionally. She is the former Artistic Director of Bailiwick Chicago, where she directed Dessa Rose (Jeff Award), Passing Strange (BTA Award and Jeff nomination for Best Director of a Musical), See What I Wanna See (Steppenwolf Theatre Garage Rep), and the world premiere of Princess Mary Demands Your Attention by Aaron Holland. Other directing credits include The Wolf at the End of the Block (16th Street Theater); Marie Christine (BoHo Theatre); Peter and the Starcatcher (Metropolis Performing Arts); The Wiz (Kokandy Productions, BroadwayWorld Award); Xanadu (American Theater Company); Jabari Dreams of Freedom by Nambi E. Kelley (world premiere, Chicago Children’s Theatre); American Idiot (Northwestern University); the national tour of Jesus Snatched My Edges; Little Shop of Horrors, Hairspray, Unnecessary Farce, Cabaret, Sweet Charity, The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee, and Buddy – The Buddy Holly Story (Timber Lake Playhouse). She is a member of SDC, AEA, SAG-AFTRA, and a graduate of Northwestern University.
MICHAEL MAHLER (Music Director) See cast.
SARAH E. ROSS (Scenic Design) is a proud Ensemble member of American Blues Theater. Her work as a scenic, properties, and puppet designer has been seen at American Blues Theater, Chicago Shakespeare Theater, Marriott Theatre, Paramount Theatre, Shattered Globe Theatre, The Joffrey Ballet, The Second City, Theater Wit, BoHo Theatre, Writers Theatre, Theatre at the Center, Peninsula Players Theater, Renaissance Theaterworks, and others. She’s been nominated for five Jeff Awards and has won two: Best Scenic Design, Midsize for The Rainmaker (American Blues Theater) and Best Costume Design, Midsize for Tobacco Road (American Blues Theater). She is an active member of the international Society of Properties Artisans Managers (SPAM) and a member of Local USA 829. She is an Assistant Professor at University of Wisconsin – Stevens Point.
JARED GOODING (Lighting Design) is a proud Artistic Affiliate of American Blues Theater where he has designed This Wonderful Life, Beauty’s Daughter, and The Columnist. Design credits include the Associate Design of Lookingglass Alice (Lookingglass Theatre Company), serving as the Lighting Assistant for The Wiz Live on NBC, designs for Madison Children’s Theatre, Milwaukee Rep, UIC Theatre, Strawdog Theatre, The Hypocrites, TimeLine Theatre, Definition Theatre, Windy City Playhouse, Sideshow Theatre, About Face Theatre, MPAACT, Pegasus Theatre, Next Theatre, Congo Square Theatre, Citadel Theatre, ETA, 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 The Theatre School at DePaul. He spends his off time managing a DJ company for Chicago area bars.
SAMANTHA C. JONES (Costume Design) is a proud Artistic Affiliate of American Blues Theater. Credits include: BREACH, Native Gardens, Samsara, and The Gospel of Lovingkindness (Victory Gardens Theater); Inana and Boy (TimeLine Theatre); Skeleton Crew (Northlight Theatre); The Belle of Amherst and Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner? (Court Theatre); The Mystery of Love and Sex (Writers Theatre); Monster (Steppenwolf for Young Audiences); The Scottsboro Boys (Porchlight Music Theatre); The 100 Dresses (Chicago Children’s Theatre); Thaddeus and Slocum (Lookingglass Theatre Company); and Prowess and The Peacock (Jackalope Theatre). Regionally her she has worked with Triad Stage, Arkansas Shakespeare Festival, Indiana Repertory Theatre, Peninsula Players Theater, and others.
RICK SIMS (Sound Design) is a proud Artistic Affiliate with American Blues Theater. He has composed and designed sound for numerous Chicago-area theaters, including Steppenwolf Theatre, Lookingglass Theatre Company, American Blues Theater, Congo Square Theatre, Writers Theatre, Lifeline Theatre, Griffin Theatre, Chicago Children’s Theatre, The Hypocrites, House Theatre of Chicago, Court Theatre, American Theater Company, Victory Gardens Theater, Raven Theatre, Steep Theatre, Northlight Theatre, and About Face Theatre. His additional credits include The Getty, Boston Playwrights’ Theatre, Arden Theatre Company, Playwrights Horizons, Actors Theatre of Louisville, and Portland Playhouse. Rick won Jeff Awards for Sound Design for Moby Dick and Hepheastus (Lookingglass Theatre Company), a Black Theatre Alliance Award for Brothers in the Dust (Congo Square Theatre), and has received several nominations for both awards. Rick also wrote the book, music and lyrics for Hillbilly Antigone at Lookingglass Theatre Company, where he is an Artistic Associate.
KEVIN ROLFS (Properties Design) is a Chicago-based scenic artist, props designer and scenic painter who is excited to be working with American Blues Theater on this awesome show! Recent scenic design work includes How I Learned To Drive at Artistic Home and A Midsummer Night’s Dream at College of Lake County. His scenic painting work can also be seen around Chicago. You can find him online at kevinrolfs.com.
MALCOLM RUHL (Music Consultant) is excited to be working with American Blues Theater again, where he served as Music Director for Hank Williams: Lost Highway, receiving a Jeff Award for his work. A 7-time Jeff Award nominee, Malcolm’s Chicago musical direction credits include productions for Goodman Theatre, Steppenwolf Theatre, Lookingglass Theatre Company, Northlight Theatre, Mercury Theater Chicago, Apollo Theater, and Drury Lane Theatres, Theatre at the Center, and American Theater Company. His orchestration credits include Heart of Spain, The Original Grease, re-orchestrations of A Little Night Music for Writers Theatre and BoHo Theatre, and Oklahoma! for American Theater Company. Malcolm has produced CDs for Cory Goodrich and Christine Mild. malcolmruhl.com
JON MARTINEZ (Assistant Director/Choreographer) is a Chicago based choreographer and director. Credits include: The View Upstairs (Circle Theatre); On A Clear Day You Can See Forever (Porchlight Music Theatre); In The Heights (South Bend Civic Theatre); Priscilla Queen of the Desert (Jeff nomination, Pride Films & Plays); Rock of Ages (Timber Lake Playhouse); 3C (A Red Orchid Theatre); We’re Gonna Die (Haven Theatre/Steppenwolf Theatre); Tonya & Nancy The Rock Opera and Haymarket (Underscore Theatre). Jon also directed the Theater on the Lake remount of Bailiwick Chicago’s Jeff Award-winning production of Murder Ballad. He also has served as assistant/associate director/choreographer on Lizzie (Firebrand Theatre), Xanadu (American Theater Company); Carrie and Murder Ballad (Bailiwick Chicago); and Story of a Story: The Untold Story (Underscore Theatre). His ballet, Le Apache, premiered in 2016 at The Harris Theater in Chicago. He is also the founder of the non-profit To All Performers of Color which provides free musical theatre dance training to underserved communities. Jon is a company member of Firebrand Theatre and Underscore Theatre.
CARA PARRISH (Production Stage Manager) is a proud Artistic Affiliate of American Blues Theater and is glad to be returning for her second show with Blues, having stage managed Beauty’s Daughter last summer. Her other Chicago stage management credits include shows at Court Theatre, TimeLine Theatre, Writers Theatre, Chicago Children’s Theatre, Drury Lane Oakbrook, and Black Ensemble Theater. She would like to thank her family and friends for all of their love and support.
KATE OCKER (Production Stage Manager) is thrilled to be back at American Blues Theater. Past Blues credit includes Keith Huff’s Six Corners. Past theatres she has worked at include Paramount Theatre, Court Theatre, Goodman Theatre, Resident Ensembles Players, Great River Shakespeare Festival, and the Oklahoma City Ballet.
SHANDEE VAUGHAN (Assistant Stage Manager) is a proud Artistic Affiliate of American Blues Theater and is delighted, as always, to be back in the room with American Blues. Recent Blues credits: The Columnist, It’s a Wonderful Life: Live in Chicago, and Little Shop of Horrors. Most recently, she was seen performing Foley and playing the ukulele for WildClaw Theatre’s Deathscribe X, the International Festival of Radio Plays. Other recent Chicago credits include: Time Is On Our Side (About Face Theatre), Night in Alachua County (WildClaw Theatre), and The Woman in Black (WildClaw Theatre). shandeevaughan.com
BREANA YOUNG (Assistant Stage Manager) graduated from the University of Illinois at Chicago in the spring of 2017 with a BA in Theatre Design (concentration in Stage Management). Recently she served as assistant stage manager for American Blues Theater’s world premiere Six Corners. In addition, she stage managed shows such as Glengarry Glen Ross, Life’s a Dream, and The Last Days of Judas Iscariot. She had an internship (stage management) with Steppenwolf Theatre Company and has been working in theaters around the Chicago area since then.
AARON SHAPIRO (Production Manager) works throughout Chicago as a freelance production manager. He previously served as Production Manager at Victory Gardens Theater on productions such as Hand to God and Fun Home. Other credits include Disenchanted! and Unspeakable at the Broadway Playhouse, commercial productions of Splintered Soul and Twisted Knots with the Chicago Commercial Collective, Jeff nominated productions of Heathers and Tomorrow Morning with Kokandy Productions; The Rainmaker with American Blues Theater; Stupid Fucking Bird and Caught with Sideshow Theatre; Memphis, In The Heights, Dreamgirls, Far From Heaven, Sweeney Todd, Funny Thing Happened, Side Show, and the Jeff Award-winning productions of Ain’t MisBehavin’ and Sondheim on Sondheim with Porchlight Music Theatre where he is an Artistic Associate. Aaron was the founding Artistic Director for Oracle where he served for 4 years. He is also the co-founder of Studio BE/MCL Chicago in Lakeview where served as Executive Director for 5 years. Aaron has worked for over 100 different theatre and production companies, and educational institutions as an electrician, carpenter, sound engineer, designer, tech director, director, production manager, and producer.
LILY GRACE WALLS (Associate Costume Designer) is thrilled to be on the team for American Blues Theater’s production of Buddy: The Buddy Holly Story. A Hoosier from birth, Lily graduated from Indiana University in 2015 with a BA in Theatre Arts and made the jump to the big city last year. Previously, she designed a number of shows in Bloomington, from Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street (Ivy Tech Student Productions) to the king lear project, a world premiere original pronunciation production. Chicago credits include Akvavit Theatre’s English premiere of Bad Girls: The Stylists. She would like to thank Michael (husband), as well as Bamba and Khoshekh (cats) for their respective support and love.
SHELBY BRAND (Assistant Costume Designer) is excited to work with American Blues Theater for the first time. Other Chicago credits include costume design for They’re Playing Our Song, On a Clear Day You Can See Forever, and Little Me with Porchlight Music Theatre’s Revisits series, and Disaster! and Creatives at Chicago Theatre Workshop. Along with designing Shelby spends most of her time as a wardrobe supervisor where she has worked with Porchlight Music Theatre, Drury Lane Oakbrook, Chicago Shakespeare Theater, and on Spamilton. She would like to thank her parents and Pat for their endless encouragement and support.
REBEKAH CLARK (Assistant Scenic Designer) is a senior undergraduate theatre student at the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point. This is her first time working with American Blues Theater! She has previously assisted scenic designer Joe C. Klug in his design work for Orlando Reparatory Theatre’s Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, Musical Theatre Works’ Gypsy, and the Arkansas Shakespeare Festival’s upcoming productions of Henry IV Part I and My Fair Lady. Her design credits at UWSP include a lighting design of Blood Wedding and scenic design of Metamorphoses. Rebekah will graduate this May with a BA in Drama (design emphasis).
GWENDOLYN WHITESIDE (Artistic Director) is a proud Ensemble member of American Blues Theater and has served as Artistic Director since 2010. Under her leadership, American Blues has nearly doubled the size of its Ensemble, added 32 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 created the free arts education program The Lincoln Project for Chicago Public Schools which serves 3,000 students annually. She led American Blues through its 2009 rebirth and built the operational budget from zero to $1 million+ in seven 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. Currently she sits on the Board of Directors for The League of Chicago Theatres. 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 named in Newcity’s annual Players list numerous times. In seven years, eight American Blues’ productions won or were nominated for production by the Joseph Jefferson Award committee. She’s received 13 Joseph Jefferson Awards, Citations, and nominations as an actress and Artistic Director. Her favorite performances include Jeff Award for Solo Performance (Grounded) and seven years as “Mary Bailey” (It’s a Wonderful Life: Live in Chicago!). She’s the recipient of two After Dark Awards and numerous Broadway World Chicago Awards and nominations. She directs the Joseph Jefferson Award nominated annual holiday production It’s a Wonderful Life: Live in Chicago!