Welcome to American Blues Theater’s 31st season.  Lauded American poet Robert Frost wrote, “Never be bullied into silence.  Never allow yourself to be made a victim.  Accept no one’s definition of your life; define yourself.”

The unforgettable characters of our 2016/17 “Define Yourself” productions heed this advice.  They boldly claim their space in our imaginations and place on our stages.  In our first offering of the season, you’ll meet Amiri Baraka’s iconic “Clay” in Dutchman and a fierce woman named “Veronica” in our world-premiere commission TRANSit. We’ve worked on this explicit pairing for years through our Blueprint Development program.

American Blues Theater’s Blueprint program was conceived in 2010 when we originally commissioned Ensemble member Nambi E. Kelley to adapt Richard Wright’s Native Son. We developed the piece over four years, resulting in a stunning co-production with Court Theatre in 2014.  Kelley’s adaptation was recently published by Samuel French and will receive productions across the nation.

Now we proudly bring the next American Blues commission to our audiences. Several years ago we challenged acclaimed playwright and Artistic Affiliate Darren Canady to write a contemporary “response” to Amiri Baraka’s “call” made over fifty years ago.  Canady’s Dutchman-inspired play complements Baraka’s powerful classic and serves as a stand-alone work for the next generation.  His achievement is nothing short of remarkable. We’ve already received interest in TRANSit from theaters nationwide and look forward to its subsequent productions.

Finally, every artist asks – why must I make this work now? What are the external and internal pressures motivating my passion?  For this double-bill, look no further than your window, your tv, newspaper and social media feeds. The current political and cultural landscape in America necessitates we speak of identity. That we – united as people – demand freedom, equality, and opportunity for all.  We believe in this work; it is our mission.

-Gwendolyn Whiteside

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