Manny BuckleyMANNY BUCKLEY (“Veronica” – TRANSit) is a proud Ensemble member of American Blues Theater. Most recently, Manny was seen in Looking Over the President’s Shoulder here at Blues and In the Heat of the Night (Shattered Globe Theater) as Virgil Tibbs. He originated the role of “Carson” in Hit the Wall (The Inconvenience), which sold out houses in Steppenwolf’s Garage Rep. His performance earned him the Best Actor Award from the Chicago Reader and a Black Theater Alliance Award. Other Chicago credits include 1984 and Of Mice and Men (Steppenwolf), Dorian (House Theater), Southbridge (Chicago Dramatists), The Piano Teacher (Next Theater), and The Last Days of Judas Iscariot (Gift Theater). Manny was on national tour as “Satchel Paige” in the original production of The Satchel Paige Story. He performed at the Kennedy Center and in the English Language Theatre Festival in Bratislava, Slovakia. Film credits: Chicago FireUnder CoversSugar, and Pilgrim.

Amanda DrinkallAMANDA DRINKALL (“Lula” – Dutchman) Chicago Theatre credits include: Mary Page Marlowe (Steppenwolf Theatre), Venus in Fur and Measure for Measure (Goodman Theatre);White Guy on the Bus and Funnyman (Northlight Theatre); Rest (Victory Gardens); Pygmalion (Oak Park Festival Theatre); Last Train to Nibroc (Haven Theatre – Jeff Award, Best Actress); Great Expectations (Strawdog); Pride and Prejudice (Lifeline); hamlet is dead. no gravity, The Skriker, Brand, The Love of the Nightingale, and Pullman, WA (Red Tape Theatre); and more than a dozen shows with The Back Room Shakespeare Project. TV credits: Chicago Med, the pilot for NBC’s webseries Bobby & Iza. Film credits: The View From Tall, which premiered at the L.A. Film Festival. Ms. Drinkall holds a BFA from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and is represented by Gray Talent Group.

Michael PogueMICHAEL POGUE (“Clay” – Dutchman) is delighted to be working with American Blues Theater. Other theater credits include: Agamemnon, Tartuffe, The Misanthrope, Angels in America, and Spunk (Court Theatre); Carter’s Way and Venus (Steppenwolf Theatre); Night and Day (Remy Bumppo Theatre); Stick Fly (Windy City Playhouse); Romeo and Juliet (Teatro Vista); The Two Gentlemen of Verona and Hamlet (Oak Park Festival); Ruined and Six Degrees of Separation (Eclipse Theatre); Saturday Night/Sunday Morning (Prologue Theatre); As You Like It and King Lear (Lakeside Shakespeare Theatre); Radio Golf (Raven); Lobby Hero (Redtwist Theatre); Panther Burn (MPAACT). Television credits include: Chicago Fire and Crisis, (NBC).

Edgar Miguel SanchezEDGAR MIGUEL SANCHEZ (“Lalo” – TRANSit) is honored to return to American Blues Theater after performing in the co-production of Native Son with Court Theatre and working on another brilliant Darren Canady script! Chicago credits: Water by the Spoonful (Court Theatre), The Wheel (Steppenwolf), Romeo and Juliet, Twelfth Night (Chicago Shakespeare Theatre), This is Our Youth (Sankofa Theatre Company), The Ghost is Here (Vitalist), Fever Chart (Eclipse), Brothers of the Dust (Congo Square), Sinbad: The Untold Story (Adventure Stage), 1001 (Collaboraction), Red Noses– remount (Strawdog), Welcome To Arroyo’s (American Theatre Company), Wilson Wants It All (The House). Regional credits: Fences (Arizona Theatre Company, Indianapolis Repertory Theatre, Milwaukee Repertory Theatre), Water by the Spoonful  (Theatre Squared), title role in Hamlet (The Gable Stage), Twelfth Night, Richard III, Troilus and Cressida, and The Admirable Crichton (American Players Theatre), A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Othello, and The Comedy of Errors (Oregon Shakespeare Festival). Major TV credits: Sense 8.

Jake SzczepaniakJAKE SZCZEPANIAK (“Luke” – TRANSit) was last seen as “Ginger” in the Midwest premiere of Jez Butterworth’s Jerusalem (Profiles Theatre). Other theatre credits include Mike Barlett’s Cock (Profiles Theatre), Burn This (Shattered Globe Theatre), Mnemonic (Red Tape Theatre), Unwilling and Hostile Instruments (Theatre Seven),  Changes of Heart (Remy Bumppo Theatre), Urinetown (Circle Theatre), and more, including work with Sideshow Theatre, Pride Films and Plays, The Hideout, (re)Discover Theatre, Silk Road Rising, Bailiwick, and the Illinois Shakespeare Festival. Represented by Paonessa Talent and a proud member of Red Tape Theatre, Jake is also a graduate of the University of Illinois Champaign-Urbana Acting Program.

ENSEMBLE (passengers) Grant Carriker, Sawyer Krause, Warren Levon, Kirstin McGinnis, Nicola Rinow


Amiri BarakaAMIRI BARAKA (Playwright – Dutchman) was born Everett LeRoi Jones in Newark, New Jersey on October 7, 1934. He attended Rutgers University for two years before he transferred to Howard University, where in 1954 he earned his BA in English. He served in the Air Force from 1954 until 1957, then moved to the Lower East Side of Manhattan. He founded Totem Press, which first published works by Allen Ginsberg, Jack Kerouac, and others. He published his first volume of poetry, Preface to a Twenty-Volume Suicide Note, in 1961. His reputation as a playwright was established with the production of Dutchman at the Cherry Lane Theatre in New York on March 24, 1964. The controversial play subsequently won an Obie Award (for Best off-Broadway Play) and was made into a film. In 1965, following the assassination of Malcolm X, Jones repudiated his former life and ended his marriage. He moved to Harlem, where he founded the Black Arts Repertory Theatre/School. In 1967 he married poet Sylvia Robinson. That year he also founded the Spirit House Players, which produced, among other works, two of Baraka’s plays against police brutality: Police and Arm Yrself or Harm Yrself. In 1968, he co-edited Black Fire: An Anthology of Afro-American Writing with Larry Neal and his play Home on the Range was performed as a benefit for the Black Panther party. That same year he became a Muslim, changing his name to Imamu Amiri Baraka (“Imamu” means “spiritual leader”). Baraka was a founder and chairman of the Congress of African People, a national Pan-Africanist organization with chapters in 15 cities, and he was one of the chief organizers of the National Black Political Convention, which convened in Gary, Indiana, in 1972 to organize a more unified political stance for African-Americans. In 1974 Baraka adopted a Marxist Leninist philosophy and dropped the spiritual title “Imamu.” The Autobiography of LeRoi Jones/Amiri Baraka was published in 1984. Amiri Baraka’s numerous literary prizes and honors include fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation and the National Endowment for the Arts, the PEN/Faulkner Award, the Rockefeller Foundation Award for Drama, the Langston Hughes Award from the City College of New York, and a lifetime achievement award from the Before Columbus Foundation. He taught poetry at the New School for Social Research in New York, literature at the University of Buffalo, and drama at Columbia University. He also taught at San Francisco State University, Yale University, George Washington University, and the State University of New York in Stony Brook. He was co-director, with his wife, of Kimako’s Blues People, a community arts space. Amiri Baraka died on January 9, 2014.

Chuck-Smith_profileCHUCK SMITH (Director – Dutchman) is a member of Goodman Theatre’s Board of Trustees and is Goodman Theatre’s Resident Director. He is also a resident director at the Westcoast Black Theatre Troupe in Sarasota, Florida. Goodman credits include the Chicago premieres of Pullman Porter Blues; By the Way, Meet Vera Stark; Race; The Good Negro; Proof; and The Story; the world premieres of By the Music of the Spheres and The Gift Horse; James Baldwin’s The Amen Corner, which transferred to Boston’s Huntington Theatre Company, where it won the Independent Reviewers of New England (IRNE) Award for Best Direction; A Raisin in the Sun; Blues for an Alabama Sky; August Wilson’s Two Trains Running and Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom; Ain’t Misbehavin’; the 1993 to 1995 productions of A Christmas Carol; Crumbs From the Table of Joy; Vivisections from a Blown Mind; and The Meeting. He served as dramaturg for the Goodman’s world-premiere production of August Wilson’s Gem of the Ocean. He directed the New York premiere of Knock Me a Kiss and The Hooch for the New Federal Theatre and the world premiere of Knock Me a Kiss at Chicago’s Victory Gardens Theater, where his other directing credits include Master Harold… and the Boys, Home, Dame Lorraine, and Eden, for which he received a Jeff Award nomination. Regionally, Mr. Smith directed Death and the King’s Horseman (Oregon Shakespeare Festival), Birdie Blue (Seattle Repertory Theatre), The Story (Milwaukee Repertory Theater), Blues for an Alabama Sky (Alabama Shakespeare Festival), and The Last Season (Robey Theatre Company). At Columbia College he was facilitator of the Theodore Ward Prize playwriting contest for 20 years and editor of the contest anthologies Seven Black Plays and Best Black Plays. He won a Chicago Emmy Award as associate producer/theatrical director for the NBC teleplay Crime of Innocence and was theatrical director for the Emmy-winning Fast Break to Glory and the Emmy-nominated The Martin Luther King Suite. He was a founding member of the Chicago Theatre Company, where he served as artistic director for four seasons and directed the Jeff-nominated Suspenders and the Jeff-winning musical Po’. His directing credits include productions at Fisk University, Roosevelt University, Eclipse Theatre, ETA, Black Ensemble Theater, Northlight Theatre, MPAACT, Congo Square Theatre Company, The New Regal Theater, Kuumba Theatre Company, Fleetwood-Jourdain Theatre, Pegasus Players, the Timber Lake Playhouse in Mt. Carroll, Illinois, and the University of Wisconsin in Madison. He is a 2003 inductee into the Chicago State University Gwendolyn Brooks Center’s Literary Hall of Fame and a 2001 Chicago Tribune Chicagoan of the Year. He is the proud recipient of the 1982 Paul Robeson Award and the 1997 Award of Merit presented by the Black Theater Alliance of Chicago.

Darren CanadyDARREN CANADY (Playwright – TRANSit) is a proud Artistic Affiliate of American Blues Theater. His work has been produced at the Alliance Theatre, Congo Square Theater, Horizon Theatre, London’s the Old Vic Theatre, M Ensemble, Milwaukee Repertory Theater, Edinburgh Festival Fringe, American Blues Theater, and others. His awards include the Alliance Theater’s Kendeda Graduate Playwriting Award, Chicago’s Black Excellence Award, the Black Theatre Alliance Award, and the American Theatre Critics Association’s Osborn Award. His play You’re Invited appeared in The Best American Short Plays 2010-2011. His work has been developed at the Fremont Centre Theatre, Premiere Stages, and Penumbra Theatre. He is an alum of Carnegie Mellon University, New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts, The Juilliard School, and is a former member of Primary Stages’ Dorothy Strelsin New American Writers Group. He is also an artistic affiliate of Congo Square Theatre. He currently teaches playwriting at the University of Kansas.

Lisa PortesLISA PORTES (Director – TRANSit) American Blues Theater credits include: Grounded by George Brant (Jeff Award-Best Solo Performance).  Other credits include This Is Modern Art by Idris Goodwin and Kevin Coval (Steppenwolf Theatre), Ghostwritten (Goodman Theatre), Concerning Strange Devices from the Distant West (Timeline Theatre), and After a Hundred Years (Guthrie Theatre) all by Naomi Iizuka, Night Over Erzinga by Adriana Sevahn-Nichols (Silk Road Rising), Highway 47 by KJ Sanchez (Collaboraction), Elliot, A Soldier’s Fugue (Teatro Vista and Rivendell at Steppenwolf Theatre), Permanent Collection by Thomas Gibbons (Northlight Theatre), In the Blood by Suzan-Lori Parks, Far Away by Caryl Churchill, and The Piano Teacher by Julia Cho (Next Theatre).  Lisa is a recipient of the TCG Spark Leadership Fellowship and a founding member of the Latina/o Theatre Commons. She currently heads the MFA Directing Program at The Theatre School at DePaul University.

SARAH E. ROSS (Scenic Design) is a proud Ensemble member of American Blues Theater and serves as Production Manager. Sarah is a Chicago-based freelance scenic, properties, and costume designer. She has worked with American Blues Theater, The Second City, Paramount Theatre, 16th Street Theater, Writers’ Theatre, Theater Wit, Shattered Globe, and Chicago Shakespeare Theater.  Regionally, she has designed scenery for Peninsula Players Theater, TheaterSquared, and Summer Studio Theater Company.  She received a Jeff Award for costume design for Tobacco Road and has received several scenic design nominations. She is a member of the Society of Properties Artisan Managers.

SARAH HUGHEY (Lighting Design) is a proud Artistic Affiliate of American Blues Theater. Previously with American Blues: The RainmakerGrounded, Collected Stories. Recent Chicago credits include DiscordButler (Northlight Theatre); Moby Dick (Blair Thomas & Co.); The New Sincerity (Theatre Wit); CockedThe Who and the WhatSamsara (Victory Gardens); Le SwitchMethtacular (About Face); Pocatello (Griffin); Love and Information (Remy Bumppo); Last Train to NibrocDon’t Go Gentle (Haven); Doubt: A Parable, The Diary of Anne Frank (Writers’); Martyr (Steep); Upcoming projects include The City of ConversationMiss Bennett: Christmas at Pemberley (Northlight); Mr. and Mrs. Pennyworth (Lookingglass); Straight White Men (Steppenwolf); The Scene (Writers). Ms. Hughey has received a Jeff Award (2011, Scorched, Silk Road Rising), and was the 2013 recipient of Chicago’s Maggio Emerging Designer Award. She holds an MFA from Northwestern University where she also teaches.

CHRISTOPHER J. NEVILLE (Costume Design) is a proud Ensemble Member of American Blues Theater. He is elated to work on this new production. Previous Blues costume designs include – Hank Williams: Lost Highway (asst), The Rainmaker, It’s a Wonderful Life: Live in Chicago!, and Looking Over the President’s Shoulder. 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

THOMAS DIXON (Sound Design) previously designed Collected Stories at American Blues. He is an artistic associate at Steep Theatre, where he has designed WastwaterBrilliant AdventuresMartyrA Small FireThe ReceptionistA Brief History of Helen of Troy, and many more. Other recent and upcoming credits include: CockedThe Whale (Victory Gardens); This is Modern Art (Steppenwolf); Lot’s Wife (Kansas City Rep); Sex with Strangers (Cleveland Play House); Exit Strategy (Jackalope). Thomas is a member of the Theatrical Sound Designers and Composers Association.

ALEC LONG (Properties Design) is very proud to be a part of this, his inaugural show with the American Blues Theater. He is currently working on several other shows which include – The Comedy of Errors with The Commission Theatre, the Scottish play with Theatre Y, and Ultra American with Silk Road Rising, to name a few.  Some of his past credits include The Grapes of Wrath with The Gift Theatre and Even Longer and Farther Away with The New Colony.  He is working towards becoming fluent in French and has been nurturing a taste for mezcal and goses.

RICARDO GARCIA (Dance Choreographer) began his training at Point Park University in Pittsburgh, where he earned a BA in Dance. Upon graduating, he joined the Dayton Contemporary Dance Company (DCDC), under the direction of founder Jeraldine Blunden and subsequently Kevin Ward. At DCDC, he had the honor to work with acclaimed choreographers Bill T. Jones, Doug Verone, Donald McKayle, Ronald K. Brown and Dwight Rhoden, among others. Additionally, he was the recipient of the Josie Award for Outstanding Male Dancer of the Year in 2002. Ricardo has also performed with The Joffrey Ballet, Illinois Ballet, Peoria Ballet, Salt Creek Ballet, Rhythm in Shoes, Walt Disney World, and, most recently, with Luna Negra Dance Theater. He has conducted classes throughout the US, Europe and Russia, and his choreography have been performed by Luna Negra Dance Theater, Dayton Contemporary Dance Company II, South Dayton Dance Theater, Stivers School for the Arts, After School Matters, and Piel Morena Contemporary Dance. Ricardo holds a Master of Science in Nonprofit Management and Philanthropy from Bay Path University and has been the Administrator of Career Transition For Dancers/Midwest, the Managing Director for Lucky Plush Productions, the Co-Artistic Director of the Blue Lake International Ensemble, on the faculty of The Chicago High School for the Arts, and is currently the Manager at the American Rhythm Center.

VINCENT TENINTY (Fight Director) is excited to return to American Blues Theater after appearing in The Rainmaker last season. He also served as fight director for Blues’ Little Shop of Horrors. Vincent has been an actor in the city of Chicago since 1999 and has worked with several different theatre companies including: The Goodman Theatre – Sweet Bird of Youth, Talking Pictures, and The Good Negro; Steppenwolf – Mother Courage and her Children and A Lesson Before Dying; Timeline – A Cry of Players; Strawdog – Julius Caesar; Steep Theatre – The Resistable Rise of Arturo Ui; The Hypocrites – Desire Under the Elms; and Pine Box Theater Company’s Life and Limb, Hot ‘N’ Throbbing and the 2011 hit A Girl with Sun in her Eyes. Regional credits include The Repertory Theatre of St. Louis, where he appeared in the world premiere of Soups, Stews and Casseroles: 1976, and Cardinal Stage’s Streetcar Named Desire and Hairspray. He was nominated for a Jeff Award in 2003 for his role as “Dexter” in Trivial Pursuits (Visions & Voices) and is a graduate of the School at Steppenwolf (class of 2004). He studied at the American Conservatory Theatre in San Francisco and Western Michigan University. Vincent’s television credits include The Beast (A&E TV), BOSS (Starz Network),Chicago Fire, and most recently, Chicago PD (NBC).

SARAH E. ROSS (Production Manager) – see above.

KEVIN GREGORY DWYER (Production Stage Manager) makes his American Blues Theater debut! Chicago credits include: Othello, CPS Shakespeare!: Midsummer (Chicago Shakespeare); First Look 2015, This is Our Youth, Leveling Up, Lord of the Flies (Steppenwolf). Boston credits: Two Gentlemen of Verona, Coriolanus (Commonwealth Shakespeare Company); Betrayal, Private Lives, Captors (Huntington Theatre Company). National tours: The Book of Mormon (1st & 2nd).  Emerson College, BA Stage/Production Management 2013. Love to Jess.

BALEIGH ISAACS (Second Rehearsal Stage Manager) is pleased to return to American Blues, having previously worked on Rantoul and Die and Orpheus Descending. Around town, she has done shows with Steppenwolf, Lookingglass, Chicago Shakespeare, Remy Bumppo, First Folio, and Drury Lane.  Other Chicago credits include Million Dollar Quartet; Love, Loss, and What I Wore; Old Jews Telling Jokes; and Motherhood the Musical.  Baleigh has also worked with the Alliance Theatre and Georgia Shakespeare in her hometown of Atlanta.  Her NYC credits include Les Miserables, The Rhythm Club, and Summer of ’42.

NATHAN SINGH (Assistant Director) is currently pursuing his MFA in Directing at The Theatre School at DePaul University. He recently directed The Children’s Hour, In The Blood, Women, and The Great God Pan at The Theatre School. In April, he will be directing Wig Out! in their Fullerton Theatre. He would like to thank Lisa Portes for the opportunity to work on TRANSit.

RACHEL LAKE (Master Electrician) is thrilled to be working American Blue Theater! A Lighting Designer and Electrician, she is a graduate of West Virginia University and an alumni of Peninsula Players Theatre in Door County, Wisconsin. Design works include The Ben Hecht Show with Grippo Stage Company, The People’s Passion Play with Quest Theatre Ensemble, Botanic Garden with Canamac Productions, Oliver! with Citadel Theatre, and Arsenic and Old Lace with West Virginia University School of Theatre and Dance.

GWENDOLYN WHITESIDE (Producing 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 26 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 fiscally 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 five years, five 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 BroadwayWorld 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 BroadwayWorld Chicago Awards and nominations. She’s the director of Chicago’s holiday tradition It’s a Wonderful Life: Live in Chicago!

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.

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