How did you get your name – American Blues Theater?

Legend has it: our 1985 Founders were drinking at a bar, discussing the difficulty of getting paid employment as working-class artists. They created a theater company for the blue-collar artist and patron.

Are you a professional theater?

Yes, we are a professional theater that hires union and non-union artists. We are Chicago’s second oldest Ensemble theater and work with industry unions – AEA, SDC, and USA.

Where can we find you?

Our administrative office is currently located at 4809 N. Ravenswood Ave., Suite 221, Chicago, IL 60640. Coming in late fall 2023, we will move into our permanent home at 5627 N. Lincoln Ave, Chicago, IL 60659.

What's your history of renting venues?

We’ve produced in 15+ theater venues. Established in 1985, American Blues Theater was itinerant for 9 years before seeking a long-term residency. Next, our Ensemble rented a warehouse for 15 years while looking for a permanent venue. In 2009, the Ensemble reorganized and lost the rental space. Since then, we’ve been itinerant for another 14 years with short-term residencies at Victory Gardens Theater (2009-2013), Greenhouse Theater (2013-2016), and Stage 773 (2017-2020). We produced 5 productions at 4 different venues (2021-2022) in a “one-off model” due to lack of available space. In 2022, our company purchased a building at 5627 N. Lincoln Ave and began renovations for our first permanent home.

What is an Ensemble theater?
An Ensemble theater is a group of individuals dedicated to collaborative creation and committed to consistently working together over years to develop a distinctive body of work and practices. Ensemble members, both artists and administrators, are empowered to help shape their theater’s artistic direction and organizational structure.
Do you hire outside your Ensemble?

Yes! For nearly 40 years, we’ve used incredible talent outside our Ensemble and Artistic Affiliates. We hire both union and non-union artists and pay both equal wages.

Weren’t you called “ATC” at some point?

Yes, for 11 years (1998-2009), our Ensemble went by the name, American Theater Company (ATC). In March 2009, we reclaimed our original name American Blues Theater.

Do you perform a holiday radio play annually?

Do bells jingle? You bet!  For over 20 years, we’ve produced Chicago’s holiday hit – It’s a Wonderful Life: Live in Chicago! To date, over 65,000 patrons have earned their wings!

HISTORY: Our Ensemble and former Artistic Director Damon Kiely, presented staged-readings of It’s a Wonderful Life in 2002 & 2003. In 2004, the American Blues family expanded the event to a fully-staged production of Joe Landry’s adaptation, directed by Ensemble member Marty Higginbotham. In the years that followed, Higginbotham created a live-radio experience for the audience, adding audio grams, lobby refreshments of cookies and milk, dramatized scenes from Capra’s film, and singing of holiday carols. In 2009, under Artistic Director Gwendolyn Whiteside, the Soldier Spotlight was added to honor military personnel. Since then, Healthcare Heroes and Teacher Tributes have been honored as well. In 2015, Whiteside (director) and Michael Mahler (music director) expanded the heartfelt story into a musical celebration and modernized it for the next generations. Even the grinchiest of your relatives will walk away smiling.

Gwendolyn Whiteside (2015 to present)
Michael Mahler – music director (2015 to present)
Marty Higginbotham (2004-’07 & 2009-’14)
Damon Kiely (2002-’03 staged readings & 2008)

Chopin Theatre (2022)
Victory Gardens Biograph Theater (2021)
Zoom (2020)
Stage 773 (2017-’19)
Greenhouse Theatre (2013-’16)
Victory Gardens Biograph Theater (2009-’12)
American Theater Company (2002-’08).

Waiting for Lefty
Sideman American Blues Theater
It's a Wonderful Life Chicago


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