“You’ve got an overworked maitre d…a bartender bleeding all over the guests, a general manager who sits in the office all night because he DOESN’T KNOW WHAT THE F*^K HE’S DOING, and a chef who throws raw steaks at his sous chef.” – Lucy, a character in Cane

Set in an upscale, Black-owned Philadelphia restaurant, CANE is a fresh, funny take on what it means to be of service. Written by the recipient of the 2022 Blue Ink Award, Mardee Bennett returns to American Blues for the latest Room reading.

Sunday, May 21 @ 7:00 PM Central on Zoom

Join us for a live reading via Zoom. The reading runs 80 minutes with no intermission. Following the reading, stay in our virtual space for a group discussion and meet our artists. For more information, read our Backstage Guide or downloadable pdf.

Buy tickets HERE or call (773) 654-3103. Suggested donation is $10 or pay-what-you-can. Your Zoom link will be sent the day before the reading and again 1 hour before the reading starts.


MARDEE BENNETT he/him (playwright) is a playwright, screenwriter, and actor based in New York. With a sharp ear for dialogue, Mardee’s work explores the collective triumphs of Black people in America. His comedy Cane was a 2021 Blue Ink Award Finalist. The Reapers on Woodbrook Avenue was a finalist for the Eugene O’Neill Playwrights Conference and the Seven Devils Playwrights Conference. Other full-length titles include LorettaThe NerveIn the Ramble, and A Pleasant Place to Be. His work has been developed at Center Stage, National Black Theatre, Signature Theatre, and Gloucester Stage Company. He will premier his one-man show Men I’ve Known in April 2023. A proud Baltimore hometown boy, he trained at New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts. Mardee is represented by A3 Artists Agency.

MANNY BUCKLEY he/him (director) is a proud Ensemble member of American Blues Theater. He is a Chicago-based director, actor, playwright and teaching artist. Blues credits include FencesIt’s a Wonderful Life: Live in Chicago!Six CornersLooking Over the President’s Shoulder (Jeff Award Nomination-Best Solo Performance), and Dutchman/TRANSit (Black Theatre Alliance Award Nomination). Manny toured nationally as “Satchel Paige” in the original production of The Satchel Paige Story, and appeared in The Father (Helen Hayes Award Nomination) at Studio Theatre in Washington, D.C. He originated the role of “Carson” in Hit the Wall, which sold out extensions in Steppenwolf’s Garage Rep. Select Chicago credits include The Brothers Size1984, and Of Mice and Men (Steppenwolf); Dorian (House Theater); and Love’s Labor’s Lost (Chicago Shakespeare Theatre). Mr. Buckley is the recipient of a Black Theatre Alliance, and Black Excellence Award. He most recently directed Kingdom, an audio drama, with Broken Nose Theatre.

BRIAN BRADFORD he/him (Jefferson) is delighted to be working with American Blues Theater again, where he understudied & performed in Five Presidents and performed in The Room reading of Origin Story and in The Ripped Festival. Chicago theatre credits include The Winter’s Tale (Oak Park Festival Theatre); Titus Andronicus (Haven); Hamlet (Gift Theatre); Fuente Ovejuna, The Bloodhound Law (City Lit Theater); Force Continuum (Eclipse Theatre Company); Romeo and Juliet (Muse of Fire Theatre Company); Estrella Cruz, In Love and Warcraft, From Every Mountainside/or does it explode, Emperor of the Moon (Halcyon Theatre); Macbeth (Accidental Shakespeare Company); and Today We Escape (Tympanic Theatre Company).

LISA MCCONNELL she/her (Ellen) A student of Acting Studio Chicago and the world, Lisa has had the good fortune to play Lula Green in the Jeff Recommended, Wedding Band:A Love/Hate Story in Black & White, with The Artistic Home Theater, and Dr. Martha Livingstone in Agnes of God with The Aleatoric Theatre.  A native New Yorker, Lisa lives in Hyde Park with her teenage son.



she/her (Mo) is a proud Ensemble member of American Blues Theater. She has been with the company since 2016, after making her debut in the critically-acclaimed production of Little Shop of Horrors. She has also appeared in 4 productions of Blues’ smash holiday tradition, It’s a Wonderful Life: Live in Chicago!  Recent theater credits include: Once on This Island (Oregon Shakespeare Festival), Cinderella (Paramount Theatre) and The Color Purple (Drury Lane Theatre). Proud member of AEA and SAG-AFTRA. Represented by Gray Talent Group. camille-robinson.com


CHUCK SMITH he/him (Sydney) is a proud Ensemble member of American Blues Theater where he previously directed Flyin’ West. He is a member of Goodman Theatre’s Board of Trustees and is Goodman Theatre’s Resident Director, as well as a resident director at the Westcoast Black Theatre Troupe in Sarasota, Florida. Goodman credits include the Chicago premieres of Objects in the MirrorPullman Porter BluesBy the Way, Meet Vera StarkRaceThe Good NegroProof 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 SunBlues for an Alabama Sky; August Wilson’s Two Trains Running and Ma Rainey’s Black BottomAin’t Misbehavin’; the 1993 to 1995 productions of A Christmas CarolCrumbs From the Table of JoyVivisections 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 BoysHomeDame 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.

WANDACHRISTINE she/her (Donna) is a proud Ensemble member of American Blues Theater. She has starred on many stages throughout the country in notable productions as the touring company of Fences, The Vagina Monologues, Gee’s Bend, and Thyestes. For her work in Old Settler, she received a Joseph Jefferson Award nomination for Supporting Actress and a Best Actress nomination for the noted Ruby Dee/Black Theater Alliance Award. For her work in American Blues Theater’s production of Beauty’s Daughter, she won the Ruby Dee/Black Theater Alliance Award for her solo performance. She’s toured regionally in Danai Gurira’s (“Black Panther” & “Walking Dead”) production of Familiar as well as the San Diego’s Old Globe production. Other recent productions include A Wonder in My Soul at Baltimore Center Stage and Incendiary at Goodman Theater. In film she’s worked alongside Whoopie Goldberg in “Clara’s Heart” and starred in the hit comedy as Mrs. Jones in “Me and Mrs. Jones” with Kym Fields. She’s appeared in the television series “Chicago PD”, numerous commercials, and voiced the animated characters in “The PJ’s”, “The Justice League”, and “Scarface” the video game. She’s written a fiction novel, “I Love You More…Than Shoes!” about four actresses over 50 years old still trying to make it in Hollywood; she is working on a Zoom production of the popular novel. As a playwright, she’s written for American Blues Theater’s Ripped Festival for many years.

HELEN YOUNG she/her (Lucy) is an actor and director. Recent directing credits: What the Constitution Means to Me at TimeLine Theatre (5/18/23 open!), The Chinese Lady, also at TimeLine Theatre, The Great Leap at Farmers Alley Theatre in Kalamazoo, Wild Boar and lead director for New China Festival at Silk Road Rising, American Hwangap and Tiny Dynamite at A-Squared/Halcyon, and Tea at Prologue. Other selected credits include work with Remy Bumppo, Artistic Home, Playground-Chicago, and Miranda Theatre in New York. Helen is a member of SAG/AFTRA. Recent acting credits include: Chicago PD, Chicago Justice and other Chicago stage productions.



NAMI Chicago –  promotes community wellness, break down barriers to mental health care and provide support and expertise for families, professionals and individuals in Chicago and beyond.
SAMHSA (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration) – the agency within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services that leads public health efforts to advance the behavioral health of the nation. SAMHSA’s mission is to reduce the impact of substance abuse and mental illness on America’s communities.
RESTAURANT WORKERS’ COMMUNITY FOUNDATION  – envisions a hospitality industry in which employees are not costs to be minimized but essential partners in creating prosperity for all. They raise and distribute funds to grow the power of workers in public discourse and workplace policies on wages, equity and health.
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