BIOGRAPHIES

DARA CAMERON (Shelby Thorpe) is a proud Ensemble member of American Blues Theater. Other Blues productions include 6 years of It’s a Wonderful Life: Live in Chicago! and Little Shop of Horrors. Other theatre credits include Something in the Game with the American Music Theatre Project; October Sky, City of Angels, Elf, Cinderella, The Wizard of Oz, Hero (Jeff nomination), Sister Act, Little Women, and Fiddler on the Roof at the Marriott Theatre; Sunset Boulevard, Buddy – The Buddy Holly Story, Seussical, and Thoroughly Modern Millie at Drury Lane Theatre; Hero at Asolo Rep; The Addams Family at Mercury Theater; and Dirty Rotten Scoundrels at Theatre at the Center. She appeared off-Broadway and at the Royal George Theatre in Old Jews Telling Jokes and is a graduate of Northwestern University. She is married to actor/composer/fellow Blues Ensemble member Michael Mahler, and they are very busy keeping up with their 15-month-old son, Ezra!

IAN PAUL CUSTER (The Visitor & Keyboard) is a proud Ensemble member of American Blues Theater.  American Blues credits: Buddy – The Buddy Holly Story (Jeff Award – Best Ensemble, Best Musical), Little Shop of Horrors, It’s a Wonderful Life: Live in Chicago!, and Yankee Tavern. Chicago credits: Bad Jews (Theater Wit, North Shore Center, Royal George Theatre); 33 Variations (Jeff Award – Best Production), To Master The Art (TimeLine Theatre/Broadway Playhouse); Annie Bosh is Missing (Steppenwolf Theatre); High Holidays (Goodman Theatre); The Watson’s Go To Birmingham: 1963 (Chicago Children’s Theatre); and Fiddler on the Roof (Paramount Theatre).  Regional credits: Hero (Asolo Rep), Cymbeline (Notre Dame Shakespeare), and Peter Pan (360 Entertainment – London, England). Television credits: APB, Empire, Chicago Fire, and Chicago PD.  Ian is a graduate of The Theatre School at DePaul University and is represented by Gray Talent Group.  Love to Shannon.  

KARL HAMILTON (Caleb Thorpe) makes his American Blues debut. Most recently, he reprised for the 4th time his role as “The Amazing Karnak” in Ride the Cyclone performed at Atlanta’s Alliance Theatre. Other Regional credits include All the Way and Living on Love (Asolo Rep, Sarasota); Children of a Lesser God, Ragtime, Big Fish, and Private Lives (Timberlake Playhouse, Mt. Carroll); and Mamma Mia! (Tropicana, Las Vegas). HisChicago credits include Wonderful Town and Jungle Book (Goodman Theatre); The Christmas Schooner and The Addams Family (Mercury Theater); A Christmas Carol, 7 Brides for 7 Brothers, Mame, and Charlotte’s Web (Drury Lane Theatre); and Mamma Mia!, Aladdin, For the Boys, The Full Monty, and Shenandoah (Marriott Theatre). Karl remains a proud and outspoken 12-year member of Actors’ Equity and is married to actress Elizabeth Haley.

DONTERRIO JOHNSON (Sheriff Joe Sutter)National Tours:WAITRESS, Lookingglass Alice. Regional:Avenue Q (“Gary Coleman”), The Color Purple (“Bobby”), Spamilton (“Daveed Diggs”), Jesus Christ Superstar (“Judas”), Ain’t Misbehavin – 2015 Jeff Award Winner(“Andre”), Next to Normal – 2014 Jeff Nomination(“Dan”), and Urinetown (“Mr. Cladwell”). TV/Film: USA’s SirensTwiceBorn, and McDonalds’ McPick Two. Donterrio thanks God, BD, and every one of you! #PASSIONFAME If you like the show follow Donterrio on social media @DonterrioLive

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JACQUELYNE JONES (Percy Talbott) is so honored to be making her American Blues debut with such a heartfelt story and exceptional artistic team! Chicago credits include: You’re A Good Man Charlie Brown (Drury Lane Theatre), Shrek (Marriott Theatre), Legally Blonde (Paramount Theatre), Sweeney Todd (Jeff Award Winner – Best Performer in a Musical, Theo Ubique), Lizzie (Firebrand Theatre), Heathers the Musical (Kokandy Productions), Honkey Tonk Angels (Theo Ubique), Company (Writers Theatre), and Pericles (Chicago Shakespeare Theater). Here’s to telling beautiful, complicated stories and allowing them to change our minds and hearts. 

GABRIELLE LOTT-ROGERS (Effy Kayneck) is absolutely thrilled to make her American Blues Theater debut. Some recent Chicago credits include: EthiopianAmerican (Definition Theatre), Between Riverside and Crazy (Redtwist Theatre), Downstate (Steppenwolf Theatre), The Plea (Black Ensemble Theater). TV/ Movie credits include: Proven Innocent, Chicago PD, The CHI, Empire, Southside with You, and the upcoming Holiday Heist. Gabrielle gives thanks to God and her family and friends for their unwavering love and support. Gabrielle is represented by DDO Artist Agency.

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CATHERINE SMITKO (Hannah Ferguson) is so very happy to join American Blues Theater for this production! Some of her recent Chicago Theatre credits include: “Madame DeLa Grande Bouche” in Drury Lane Theatre’s Beauty and the Beast; “Nurse” in Chicago Shakespeare Theater’s Shakespeare In Love; “Dora Bailey” in Marriott Theatre’s Singing in the Rain; and many more, including work at Goodman Theatre, Asolo Rep, and Magic Theatre (San Francisco). She was most recently seen as “Katherine Bradley” on Chicago PD, and would to thank Marissa and the fabulous team at Paonessa Talent for all their amazing talents and hard work! Cheers!

TAMMY MADER (Director) is a proud member of SDC, the union of professional Stage Directors and Choreographers. Credits include: Bye Bye Birdie, Hairspray (Jeff Nomination), and Buddy – The Buddy Holly Story at Drury Lane Theatre; My One and Only (Jeff Nomination) at Marriott’s Lincolnshire Theatre; Buddy – The Buddy Holly Story and The Full Monty (Assistant Director/Choreographer) at Water Tower Place. Tammy is also a full-time faculty member in the theatre department at Roosevelt University’s Chicago College of Performing Arts.

MALCOLM RUHL (Music Director & Accordion) is excited to return to American Blues Theater, where he received the Jeff Award for Music Direction for Hank Williams: Lost Highway. His Chicago musical direction credits include 7 Jeff Award nominations (2 Jeff Awards), productions for Goodman Theatre, Lookingglass Theatre, Drury Lane Theatre, Mercury Theater, Northlight Theatre, Steppenwolf Theatre, Apollo Theater, Apple Tree Theatres, and Theatre at the Center. He has done orchestrations for productions at American Theater Company, Drury Lane Theatre, Writers Theatre, and BoHo Theatre. Album production credits include W.O.M.A.N. and Wildwood Flower for Cory Goodrich and Love is Everything for Christine Mild. Malcolm has played with Harry Chapin, The Osmond Brothers, Big Joe Turner, Jim Lauderdale, Jason Robert Brown, and Loudon Wainright III. He appeared as “Jackson” in the 1982 Broadway production of Pump Boys and Dinettes. With degrees in music composition from Missouri State University and Coe College, Malcolm maintains a teaching and recording studio in Elk Grove Village. malcolmruhl.com

SARAH E. ROSS (Scenic Design) is a proud Ensemble member of American Blues Theater. Sarah returns to Chicago from Stevens Point, Wisconsin where she teaches scenic and properties design at UWSP. Past American Blues Theater productions include Buddy – The Buddy Holly Story (scenic), Little Shop of Horrors (puppets, Jeff Nomination), Dutchman/TRANSit (scenic),  The Rainmaker (scenic, Jeff Award), Side Man (scenic), Grounded (scenic), Hank Williams: Lost Highway (costumes), Collected Stories (Scenic, Jeff Nomination), and Tobacco Road (costumes, Jeff Award). Her work has also been seen at 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, and others. Sarah is a proud member of USA Local 826 and the Society of Properties Artisans Managers.

JARED GOODING (Lighting Design) is a proud Ensemble member of American Blues Theater. His design credits include designs for American Blues Theater, Writers Theatre, Milwaukee Rep, Victory Gardens Theater, TimeLine Theatre, Madison Children’s Theater, UIC Theatre, Strawdog Theatre, The Hypocrites, Definition Theatre, Windy City Playhouse, Sideshow Theatre, First Floor Theater, About Face Theatre, MPAACT, Pegasus Theatre, Next Theatre, Congo Square, Citadel Theatre, ETA, Fleetwood Jourdain Theatre, and serving as the Lighting Assistant for The Wiz Live on NBC, along with Associate Designing for Lookingglass Theatre’s tour of Lookingglass Alice. He is a company member with MPACCT. He spends his off time managing a DJ company for Chicago area bars. You can find his work at goodingdesigns.com.

LILY GRACE WALLS (Costume Design)is overjoyed to be back with American Blues for The Spitfire Grill. Previous credits include Akvavit Theatre’s English language premiere of Bad Girls: The Stylists, American Blues Theater’s Flyin’ West, Misdsommer Flight’s Twelfth Night, Citadel Theatre’s The Roommate, and Artemisia Theatre’s Sweet Texas Reckoning. She would like to thank Michael (husband), as well as Bamba and Khoshekh (cats) for their respective support, love, and ankle bites. 

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, 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), 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, where he is an Artistic Associate.

MARY O’DOWD (Properties Design) is honored to return to American Blues, having designed props for On Clover Road, Six Corners, This Wonderful Life, and Beauty’s Daughter. She has created props/set dressing for dozens of shows and received several Jeff nominations. Most recent design: Into the Breeches! (Northlight Theatre); favorite projects ever: Rock ‘N’ Roll (Artistic Home) and Bakersfield Mist (TimeLine Theatre). Mary is a graduate of the United States Merchant Marine Academy in Kings Point, NY.

SCOTT SEDLACEK (Guitar/Mandolin) is extremely happy to be back with American Blues Theater where he made his professional theater debut with Oklahoma.  More recently he has been a regular at the Mercury Theater, playing The Color Purple (sub), Avenue Q, The Addams Family, Hair, Avenue Q (again), and Little Shop of Horrors. Scott is a graduate of Columbia College class of ‘93 where he studied music composition.  Scott would like to thank his family—wife Janet, son Joey, and daughter Kristiana—for letting his freak flag fly!! Scott would also like to wish “Peace on all of ya’s!”

GREG HIRTE (Violin) is a violinist, actor and composer. He recently performed in Lookingglass Theatre’s hit production of The Steadfast Tin Solder. Other theatre credits include: 19 seasons with Goodman Theatre’s A Christmas Carol; role of “Luther” in Ring of Fire: The Music of Johnny Cash, and “Leon” in Hank Williams: Lost Highway (American Blues Theater). Greg has performed and composed music for Goodman Theatre, Chicago Shakespeare Theater, Court Theatre, Drury Lane Theatre, Victory Gardens Theater, and Piven Theatre Workshop, as well as several international music festivals. He has also performed with bands, Mucca Pazza, The Flashbulb, Gin Palace Jesters, Can.Ky.Ree, and Mojo & The Bayou Gypsies.

MAGDALENA SUSTERE (Cello) Originally from Latvia, Magdalena Sustere is a cellist who is passionate about music in a wide variety of forms. From playing classical to World music, she finds joy in taking part in various projects. Her passion is reflected in her versatile career, encompassing the baroque, classical, and modern genres, as well as opera, gospel, musicals, world music, jazz, and improvisation. Ms. Sustere serves as freelance studio recording artist, educator, chamber musician, and orchestral musician. She is principal cellist for Chicago Composers’ Orchestra, sectional cellist with Oistrakh Symphony Orchestra, and cellist with Chicago based Sonder Trio. Additionally, she runes private cello studio and teaches at El Sistema in Cathalist Circle Rock in Chicago and Science Academy of Chicago. Ms. Sustere love collaborations and she is a strong supporter of new music.

KATE OCKER (Production Stage Manager) is a Chicago based stage manager and has worked for such companies as Northlight Theatre, Paramount Theatre, Court Theatre, Goodman Theatre, American Blues Theater, The Great River Shakespeare Festival, Resident Ensemble Players, Lyric Theatre of Oklahoma, and the Oklahoma City Ballet. Kate is a proud member of Actors’ Equity Association.

BRIANNA CONSALVO (Assistant Stage Manager) is currently pursuing a degree in Theatre Design, Production and Technology at the University of Illinois at Chicago. The Spitfire Grill is her second show with American Blues Theater after Assistant Stage Managing On Clover Road.  

MICHAEL MAHLER (Music Consultant) is a proud Ensemble member of American Blues Theater. He is thrilled to be collaborating with Malcolm and Tammy once again. Recent credits include: Miracle the Musical (Royal George Theatre – composer/lyricist), Buddy – The Buddy Holly Story (American Blues – actor/music director – Jeff Award), Holiday Inn (Marriott Theatre – actor), The Man who Murdered Sherlock Holmes (Mercury Theater – composer/lyricist – Jeff Award), October Sky (Marriott Theatre – composer/lyricist), and Hero (Marriott Theatre – composer/lyricist – Jeff Award). Projects in development include The Secret of My Success (Paramount Theatre), Monster (Chicago Shakespeare Theater), and Jonestown (Writers Theatre). He can be seen onstage this fall in Into the Woods at Writers Theatre. Love to his wife, actor Dara Cameron, and their son Ezra.

SHANDEE VAUGHAN (Production Manager) is a proud Artistic Affiliate of American Blues Theater and serves as the production manager. She is excited to be working with such a stellar team for The Spitfire Grill!Blues credits: The Absolute Brightness of Leonard PelkeyOn Clover RoadIt’s a Wonderful Life: Live in Chicago! (2016 & 2018), Flyin’ WestBuddy – The Buddy Holly StoryThe Columnist, and Little Shop of Horrors. Other recent Chicago credits include: Time Is on Our Side (About Face Theatre), Deathscribe X (WildClaw Theatre), Night in Alachua County (WildClaw Theatre), and The Woman in Black (WildClaw Theatre). Shandee is a freelance stage manager & production manager from Arizona. shandeevaughan.com  

MANNY ORTIZ (Technical Director) is a Chicago native actor, carpenter, designer and photographer. He received his BFA in Acting at DePaul University. When he is not building and/or performing on stage, you can find him at home joyfully playing with all 15 of his animal friends (yes, he has pictures). As an artist, he has devoted himself to many artistic mediums such as puppeteering, makeup, lighting, and more. Working in such a prodigiously diverse community of captivating artists, Manny has grown and hopes to continue to collaborate and cultivate communities of inclusion and equity filled with ardent passion of theater.

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 20 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 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, served as a Board member for Network of Ensemble Theaters and League of Chicago 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’s been named in Newcity’s annual Players list numerous times. In eight years, nine American Blues’ productions won or were nominated for production by the Joseph Jefferson Award committee. She’s received 14 Joseph Jefferson Awards, Citations, and nominations as an actress and Artistic Director. Her favorite performances include Jeff Award for Solo Performance (Grounded), seven years as “Mary Bailey” (It’s a Wonderful Life: Live in Chicago!), and “Kate” in On Clover Road. She’s the recipient of two After Dark Awards and numerous Broadway World Chicago Awards and nominations.

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