American Blues Theater develops the classic plays and musicals of tomorrow. More than 65% 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 the annual Ripped Festival of new short-plays. American Blues Theater does not accept unsolicited scripts.

Blue Ink Playwriting Award


The nationally-renown Blue Ink Playwriting Award was created in 2010 to support new work. Since inception, we’ve named 10 Award winners, 79 finalists, and 109 semi-finalists.  Over $6,000 in cash and prizes will be distributed to playwrights in 2020.

Each year American Blues Theater accepts worldwide submissions of original, unpublished full-length plays.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 $1,250. 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 2021 Blue Ink Playwriting Award are closed.

Send any questions to Associate Producer Elyse Dolan –

Semi-finalists, finalists, and the award winner will be notified January – March 2021.

2021 Blue Ink Playwriting Award rulesDownload PDF | Open in browser.











2020 WINNER: Andrea Stolowitz, Recent Unsettling Events

Featured Finalists: Kristoffer Diaz (Football Football Football Football, or I Love Lave Dash), Gina Femia (The Mermaids’ Parade), R. Eric Thomas (Crying on Television).

Finalists: Jennifer Barclay (Housebound), Stephen Brown (The Candidate), Marisa Carr (Punk Rock Mix Tape Play), Franky Gonzalez (Even Flowers Bloom in Hell, Sometimes), Kristin Idaszak, Lily Kelting, Kate Jopson, & Regan Linton (Eleven Months), Zizi Majid (Return to Fall), Dino Mintu (209), Susan Pak (Miguk Saram), Andrew Rosendorf (Cottontail), Caridad Svich (Arbor Falls), Kurt Weitzmann (In Gods We Trust), Nathan Yungerberg (Abuelita).

Semi-finalists: Bret Angelos (American Whoknew), Bennett Ayres (Bombs and Guns), Mike Bencivenga (Compromised), Amy Berryman (The New Galileos), Darcy Bruce (The Place That Made You), Lilly Camp (All Eight), Toccara Castleman (“Maybe a Mexican”), Dolores Diaz (The Curse of Giles Corey), Reginald Edmund (All the Dying Voices), Taylor Geu (Passing Over), Allison Gregory (Lulu in Rochester), Amina Henry (Columbus Street), Kyle McCloskey (Where the Lovelight Gleams), Matthew Paul Olmos (the broken hearts of a corrupted white house), Marco Antonio Rodriguez (Bloom), Brant Russell (Bankers), Phillip Christian Smith (We Can’t Breathe), Peter Snoad (Seeing Violet), Thomas W. Stephens (Paddy’s Pot), Joe Sutton (Enough is Enough), Caity-Shea Violette (Credible), Carl Williams (Unfinished Puzzles), LaDarrion Williams (Black Creek Risin’), Brad McKnight Wilson (Nebalah), Amy E. Witting (Day 392), Kit Yan & Simone Wolff (Mr. Transman).



2019 – Alma by Benjamin Benne | world premiere American Blues Theater, Chicago, 2021

2018 – Welcome to Matteson! by Inda Craig-Galván

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 Telesca 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 Darren Canady (commission).
  • Sessions by Ensemble member Austin Cook (commission)
  • Untitled by Artistic Affiliate Christina Telesca (commission).
  • The Lion by Ensemble member Manny Buckley (commission).
  • Untitled by Artistic Affiliate Zachary Stevenson (commission).
  • Untitled by Artistic Affiliate James Still (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.

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 Telesca’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 produced 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) received a world premiere in 2012 at American Blues Theater.

Ripped Festival Chicago


Chicago’s Original – Est. 2009 Since 2009, we’ve produced fifteen editions utilizing over 550 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 Spring.


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