2023 Blue Ink Award Featured Finalist

Mshale, a Mount Kilimanjaro tour guide, dreams of marrying a white woman and moving to the West. Sprite doesn’t like white people and sets out to decolonize what he deems “his mountain”. Henry and Frannie are white missionaries who claim to be Tanzanian. As the four journey up to the roof of Africa, the looming ghost of colonialism dictates who gets to reach the peak, and who get left behind.

Monday, January 22 @ 7:00 PM.

Join us for a live, in person reading at our new home. The reading runs approximately 80 minutes with no intermission. Following the reading, meet our artists – including visiting playwright Gloria Majule – in the lobby. For more information, read our Backstage Guide.

Buy tickets HERE or call (773) 654-3103. Suggestion donation is $15 or pay-what-you-can.


GLORIA MAJULE (playwright) is from Dodoma, Tanzania presently residing in Seattle, WA. She seeks to tell stories that bring multiple black voices together from across the world, and are accessible to black audiences no matter where they are. She writes plays about Africans and the African diaspora. Gloria is an inaugural recipient of Atlantic Theater Company’s Judith Champion Launch Commission, and is the 2023 winner of the Leah Prize from the Leah Ryan Fund. Her plays have been developed at Vassar’s Powerhouse Theater, The New Group, Premiere Stages, Great Plains Theater Commons, A is For, Alliance Theater, Westport Country Playhouse and Aye Defy. She graduated summa cum laude from Cornell University with a BA in Performing & Media Arts and Spanish, and holds an MFA in Playwriting from Yale School of Drama.

MANNY BUCKLEY (director) is a proud Ensemble member of American Blues Theater. He was recently seen in American Blues sold-out show It’s a Wonderful Life: Live in Chicago! He is a Chicago based actor, director, and writer. Directing credits include The Bad Seed (Jedlicka Performing Arts); Kingdom, an audio play (Broken Nose Theatre); Origin StoryMother of Pearl, and The Reapers on Woodbrook Avenue in the Blue Ink Festival (American Blues); multiple short plays in the Ripped: The Living Newspaper and #ENOUGH: Plays to End Gun Violence (American Blues); and The One Minute Play Festival. Acting credits include work with Chicago Shakespeare, Steppenwolf, Goodman, Court, Victory Gardens, Chicago Dramatists, Next Theater, House Theatre, Shattered Globe Theater, Cincinnati Children’s Theatre and Studio Theatre. Manny has numerous credits with American Blues Theater, where he is an Ensemble member and turned in his critically-acclaimed, award-winning solo performance in Looking Over the President’s Shoulder and Fences. Film credits: Proven Innocent, Chicago Fire, Chicago PD, The US Navy, Northwestern University, and The Onion. He has received nominations for the Joseph Jefferson Award, the Helen Hayes Award and the 3Arts Award; he is the recipient of both a Black Theater Alliance Award and Black Excellence Award.

IAN PAUL CUSTER (Henry) is a proud Ensemble member of American Blues Theater. Ian is a Chicago actor and musician and a proud Ensemble Member of American Blues Theater.  American Blues credits include: Buddy: The Buddy Holly Story (Jeff Award, Best Ensemble, Best Musical – Midsize), The Columnist, Little Shop of Horrors, and It’s A Wonderful Life: Live in Chicago! (Jeff Nominations for Best Play/Musical of the Year). Chicago credits:  Bad Jews (Theatre Wit/Royal George), 33 Variations (Jeff Award– Best Production, Midsize), and To Master the Art (TimeLine Theatre), Annie Bosh is Missing (Steppenwolf Theatre), High Holidays (Goodman Theatre). Ian has also had the pleasure of working with The Lyric Opera, Porchlight Music Theatre, Marriott Theatre, A Red Orchid Theatre, MPAACT, Paramount and Court Theatre.  Regional credits: Hero: The Musical (Asolo Rep Theatre), Cymbeline (Notre Dame Shakespeare), Romeo and Juliet (Cardinal Stage), Peter Pan  (360 Entertainment – London, England).  Television credits: Somebody Somewhere, APB, Empire, Chicago Fire, and Chicago PD. Ian received his BFA from The Theatre School at DePaul University.

AJAX DONTAVIUS (Sprite) is a Haitian-American actor and excited to be partnering with the BLUES team again! Recent theater credits include: Blues for an Alabama Sky (Remy Bumppo Theatre); Last Night and The Night Before (Steppenwolf Theatre); Measure for Measure (Chicago Shakespeare Theater); Fences (American Blues Theater); Middle Passage (Lifeline Theatre). TELEVISION: Chicago Fire (NBC), Chicago P.D (NBC), 61st Street (CW). AWARDS: Black Theater Alliance – Most Promising Actor (Fences). EDUCATION: BFA Acting, Roosevelt University – Chicago College of Performing Arts. “All love to God, my Wife, and my Mom”. Proverbs 3:5


WILLIAM ANTHONY SEBASTIAN ROSE II (Mshale) is a proud Artistic Affiliate of American Blues Theater. Chicago credits include: Tambo in Tambo and Bones (Refracted Theater); Lyons in Fences (American Blues Theater, Jeff Award winner for Production-midsize, Director, and Best Ensemble); Arthur Brooks in Boulevard of Bold Dreams (u/s); David in A Mile in the Dark (Rivendell Theater); giving new life to King Christophe in The Tragedy of King Christophe (BTAA Award winner Best Actor in a Play); John in Labyrinth (Broken Nose Theater, BTAA Nominee Best Actor).Represented by Big Mouth Talent. IG @HisWillness


J.G. SMITH (Frannie) is a proud Ensemble member of American Blues Theater. You may have seen her performing with Blues in It’s a Wonderful Life: Live in Chicago!, On Clover Road, Ripped, and virtual readings of The Thanksgiving Play and On the Greenbelt. Theatre: I And You (Peninsula Players); Mother of the Maid (Northlight); Plantation! (Lookingglass); The Art of Sisters (Vision Productions); MARYSHELLEYSHOW (National Tour, Chicago Fringe, The Tank NYC); Peter and the Starcatcher (City Equity Theatre); Alice in Wonderland, As You Like It, King LearA Christmas Carol (Alabama Shakespeare); and Censored on Final Approach (The GYM at Judson). Film/TV credits include Jennifer Reeder’s Knives and Skin, MTV’s Short Comings, The Dancing Monkey, Dreaming Grand Avenue, Pry Me Open, and Dorm Therapy. Her original films and performance art have shown at New Orleans’ Hell Yes Film Festival, Williamsburg Circus, Salonathon!, Undiscovered Countries: The Infinite Fest, and TransVisions’ virtual SOFT PALETTE festival. She is a proud Equity member and repped by Paonessa Talent Agency. AEA. jgsmithactor.com


NAMI Chicagoeducates to fight stigma and discrimination, fiercely advocates for our community, and shares hope, connection and expertise with people on their mental health journey.
REACH specifically engages youth who arrive to the U.S. as refugees and asylum seekers. 

We wish to express our gratitude to the Performers’ Unions:
through Theatre Authority, Inc for their cooperation in permitting the Artists to appear in this program.



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