American Blues Theater is committed to developing the classic plays and musicals of tomorrow. More than 60% of our theatrical events are world and Chicago premieres. Our new play development consists of a variety of programs – including world and Chicago premieres, the nationally-recognized Blue Ink Playwriting Award, Blueprint commissions, and annual Ripped: the Living Newspaper Festival of new short-plays. American Blues Theater does not accept unsolicited scripts.

Blue Ink Playwriting Award


The international Blue Ink Playwriting Award was created in 2010 to support new work. Since inception, we’ve named 8 Award winners, 50 finalists, and 68 semi-finalists.  Over $5,000 in cash and prizes will be distributed to playwrights in 2019.

Each year American Blues Theater accepts worldwide submissions of original, unpublished full-length plays. The winning play will be selected by Artistic Director Gwendolyn Whiteside and the theater’s Ensemble. The playwright receives a monetary prize of $1,000 and a developmental workshop or staged reading at American Blues Theater in Chicago. Cash prizes are awarded to finalists and semi-finalists too.  All proceeds of the administrative fee are distributed for playwrights’ cash prizes.

Submissions for the 2019 Blue Ink Playwriting Award are now closed. . Semi-finalists, finalists, and the award winner will be notified January – March 2019.










Featured Finalists: Jennifer Barclay (Yellowstone: the ballad of the red-state man), Harold Ellis Clark (Run No More), Roy Conboy (A Song at Night), Silvia Gonzalez (An Evening with Joaquin Murrieta – ‘My Quest for Justice’).
Finalists: Benjamin Benne (querencia: an imagined autobiography about forbidden fruits), Janet Burroway (Headshots), Gina Femia (Allond(r)a), Jeffrey Fischer Smith (When the Son is Shining), Edith Freni (The Mystic), Adam Kraar (The Karpovsky Variations), Randy Neale (Last Rites – Detroit 1967), Caridad Svich (Life Jacket), Jenny Rachel Weiner (Part and Parcel), Ashley Rose Wellman (You Are the Blood), Alisa Zhulina (Algorithm).
Semi-finalists: Will Abery (Heroes of the Fourth Turning), P.G. Brody (Callaway), Timothy Guillot (Secondary Front Line), Arthur Holden (The Past), Elizabeth M. Kelly (Kitty, Cappy, Gypsy, & Snake), A. Emmanuel Leadon (Short Rib), Edward Morgan (So You Can Look Ahead), Edgar Sanchez (How Peter Changed the World), Adam Seidel (Original Sound), Kyle Therral Wilson (Yucca Corridor).



2017 – Hype Man by Idris Goodwin | world premiere Company One, Boston, 2018

2016 – The Wind and the Breeze by Nathan Alan Davis | world premiere Cygnet Theatre, San Diego, 2018

2015 – Other Than Honorable by Jamie Pachino | world premiere Geva Theatre Center, NY, 2017

2014 – Comden Mall Community Activists by Douglas Post

2013 – Graveyard of Empires by Elaine Romero | world premiere 16th Street Theater, Chicago, 2015

2012 – American Myth by Christina Gorman | world premiere American Blues Theater, Chicago, 2014

2011 – American Home by Stephanie Walker | world premiere, Pasadena, CA, 2017

Blue Print Play Development


Since 1985, American Blues Theater presented on 48 world premieres and 30 regional premieres for our stages. Blues continues to cultivate new work for the American canon. The Blueprint program offers commissions, workshops, staged-readings, and the opportunity to develop scripts for fully-staged productions.

Upcoming development includes:

  • Untitled by Ensemble member Rick Cleveland (commission).
  • Untitled by Ensemble Darren Canady (commission).
  • Joe Hill by Ensemble member Michael Mahler (commission).
  • Untitled by Artistic Director Gwendolyn Whiteside (commission).
  • Untitled by Ensemble member Lindsay Jones (commission).
  • The North Star: Frederick Douglass by Ensemble member Manny Buckley (commission).
  • Untitled by Artistic Affiliate Zachary Stevenson (commission).
  • Untitled by Artistic Affiliate Rohina Malik (commission).
  • I Promise I Will Find You by Caitlin Parrish & Erica Weiss (commission).

Past development includes:

We developed the world premiere of Keith Huff’s Six Corners.

Ensemble member Darren Canady’s world premiere TRANSit was commissioned and developed through American Blues Theater. It received a production in fall of 2016 at American Blues Theater.

Ensemble member Nambi E. Kelley’s adaptation of Native Son was commissioned and developed through American Blues Theater. It received a world-premiere co-production in 2014 with American Blues Theater and Court Theater.

Artistic Affiliate Christina Gorman’s Blue Ink script American Myth received a world-premiere production at American Blues Theater (2014) and 2nd production at Theatre Artists Studio (2015).

Other Than Honorable received a workshop in 2015 directed by Kimberly Senior; in 2017, Geva Theater will produce the world premiere.

Numerous workshops of the musical Empire Burlesque by Dan Castellaneta and Deb Lacusta with music by Laura Hall.

Illegal Use of Hands (James Still) which premiered in 2012 at American Blues Theater.
In addition, all Blue Ink Playwriting Award scripts received a workshop or reading.

Ripped Festival Chicago


Chicago’s Original – Est. 2009 Since 2009, we’ve produced fifteen editions utilizing over 450 artists! Based on the 1930s WPA era program that brought Orson Welles, Arthur Miller, and Clifford Odets into public attention, we present short plays ripped from today’s headlines.

Our annual festival cultivates new material and allows audiences to discuss topical issues together. American Blues Theater provides community service and raises awareness through creative collaborations. The following organizations have been supported by RIPPED events since its inception in 2009: AgrAbility, Chicago Public Schools, Greater Chicago Food Depository, Illinois Farm Bureau, Lincoln Park Community Shelter, University of Chicago’s Urban Education Teachers Program, and Open Books.

The annual festival occurs in May.


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