American Blues Theater is committed to developing the classic plays and musicals of tomorrow. More than 60% of our theatrical events are world and Chicago premieres. Our new play development consists of a variety of programs – including world and Chicago premieres, the nationally-recognized Blue Ink Playwriting Award, Blueprint commissions, and annual Ripped: the Living Newspaper Festival of new short-plays. American Blues Theater does not accept unsolicited scripts.

Blue Ink Playwriting Award


The international Blue Ink Playwriting Award was created in 2010 to support new work. Since inception, we’ve named 7 Award winners, 35 finalists, and 59 semi-finalists.  Over $5,000 in cash and prizes were distributed to playwrights in 2017.

Each year American Blues Theater accepts worldwide submissions of original, unpublished full-length plays. The winning play will be selected by Producing Artistic Director Gwendolyn Whiteside and the theater’s Ensemble. The playwright receives a monetary prize of $1,000 and a developmental workshop or staged reading at American Blues Theater in Chicago. Cash prizes are awarded to finalists and semi-finalists too.  All proceeds of the administrative fee are distributed for playwrights’ cash prizes.

Submissions for the 2018 award will open July 1, 2017.

Submissions will be accepted by American Blues Theater from July 1, 2017 to Aug 31, 2017 @ 11:59pm. Playwrights may only submit one (1) manuscript each year for consideration.










Featured Finalists: Sheila Cowley (Flying), Rebecca O’Neill (Mynx & Savage), & Caridad Svich (This Thing of Ours).
Finalists: Edith Freni (Total Power Exchange), Joanna Garner (The Orange Garden), Lindsay Joelle (Treif), Garrett Kim (Kim’s Fine Food), A. Rey Pamatmat (Here Are Our Monsters), Theroun Patterson (Red Summer), Crystal Skillman (Rain and Zoe Save the World), & Jon Steinhagen (Ten-Second Delay).
Semi-finalists: Benjamin Benne (at the very bottom of a body of water), Hilary Bettis (The History of American Pornography), Noah Diaz (The Motherhood Almanac), Sarah Illiatovitch-Goldman (The War Photographer), Adam Kraar (Dream of a Deer at Dusk), Jenny Marlowe (The Laws of the Stars), Desi Moreno-Penson (Beige), Joe Necessary (Witch Country), Emilio Rodriguez (Angel of the People Mover), Joshua Rollins (Amateur Pornography), Susan Soon He Stanton (Today is My Birthday), Michael Patrick Thornton (The Silence of the World), & Ken Weitzman (Spin Moves).



Previous winners include:

    • Nathan Alan Davis – The Wind and the Breeze (2016)
    • Jamie Pachino – Other Than Honorable (2015)
    • Douglas Post – Comden Mall Community Activists (2014)
    • Elaine Romero – Graveyard of Empires (2013)
    • Christina Gorman – American Myth (2012)
    • Stephanie Walker – American Home (2011)

Other Than Honorable received a world-premiere production at Geva Theatre Center (2017).
Graveyard of Empires received a world-premiere production at 16th Street Theater (2015).
American Myth received a world-premiere production at American Blues Theater (2014) and 2nd production at Theatre Artists Studio (2015).

Blue Print Play Development


Since 1985, American Blues Theater presented on 48 world premieres and 30 regional premieres for our stages. Blues continues to cultivate new work for the American canon. The Blueprint program offers commissions, workshops, staged-readings, and the opportunity to develop scripts for fully-staged productions.

Upcoming development includes:

  • Empire Burlesque by Dan Castellaneta & Deb Lacusta; music by Laura Hall.
  • Untitled by Artistic Affiliate Darren Canady (commission).
  • Joe Hill by Ensemble member Michael Mahler (commission).
  • untitled by Producing Artistic Director Gwendolyn Whiteside (commission).
  • I Promise I Will Find You by Caitlin Parrish & Erica Weiss (commission).

Past development includes:

Ensemble member Darren Canady’s world premiere TRANSit was commissioned and developed through American Blues Theater. It received a production in fall of 2016 at American Blues Theater.

Ensemble member Nambi E. Kelley’s adaptation of Native Son was commissioned and developed through American Blues Theater. It received a world-premiere co-production in 2014 with American Blues Theater and Court Theater.

Artistic Affiliate Christina Gorman’s Blue Ink script American Myth received a world-premiere production at American Blues Theater (2014) and 2nd production at Theatre Artists Studio (2015).

Other Than Honorable received a workshop in 2015 directed by Kimberly Senior; in 2017, Geva Theater will produce the world premiere.

Illegal Use of Hands (James Still) which premiered in 2012 at American Blues Theater.
Graveyard of Empires (Elaine Romero) which premiered in 2015 at 16th Street.
Comden Community Mall Activists (Douglas Post).
American Home (Stephanie Walker).

Ripped Festival Chicago


Chicago’s Original – Est. 2009 Since 2009, we’ve produced fifteen editions utilizing over 450 artists! Based on the 1930s WPA era program that brought Orson Welles, Arthur Miller, and Clifford Odets into public attention, we present short plays ripped from today’s headlines.

Our annual festival cultivates new material and allows audiences to discuss topical issues together. American Blues Theater provides community service and raises awareness through creative collaborations. The following organizations have been supported by RIPPED events since its inception in 2009: AgrAbility, Chicago Public Schools, Greater Chicago Food Depository, Illinois Farm Bureau, Lincoln Park Community Shelter, University of Chicago’s Urban Education Teachers Program, and Open Books.

The annual festival occurs in May.


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