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 11 Award winners, 95 finalists, and 139 semi-finalists.  Over $9,000 in cash and prizes will be distributed to playwrights in 2021.

Each year American Blues Theater accepts worldwide submissions of original, unpublished full-length plays.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 2021 winning playwright receives a monetary prize of $2,000. 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 2022 Blue Ink Playwriting Award open July 1, 2021.

Send any questions to Associate Producer Elyse Dolan –

2022 Semi-finalists, finalists, and the award winner will be notified January – March 2022.

2022 Blue Ink Playwriting Award rules – Download guidelines pdf











2021 Blue Ink Award Winner

Yussef El Guindi

Refugee Rhapsody

Featured Finalists: Juan Alfonso (An Educated Guess), Matthew Libby (The Machine), Wendy MacLeod (The Good Samaritan), chandra thomas (The Buzzer).

Finalists: Jaisey Bates (When We Breathe), Mardee Bennett (CANE), Xavier Clark (backstroke boys), Gina Femia (the thing about air), Nancy Garcia Loza (RUST), Keiko Green (wad), Zora Howard (Hang Time), Kristin Idaszak (Tidy), Sam Kebede (Jericho), Matthew Paul Olmos (that drive through monterey), Audley Puglisi (the salt women), Caridad Svich (Albemarle).

Semi-finalists: Ian August (Everything You Can Do [To Make the World a Better Place]), Melda Beaty (Coconut Cake), Brysen Boyd (RD/Suite Meeting RM, 204), Toccara Castleman (Maybe a Mexican), Harold Ellis Clark (Back in the Day), Greg Congleton (High Ground), Messiah Cristine (The Topography of Dreams of Where Wolves Go to Whisper), Angela J. Davis (AGATHE), Spenser Davis (Underdogz), Raul Garza (Running Bear), Patty Kim Hamilton (Peeling Oranges), Amina Henry (Burned), Michele Kushner (Somewhere in My Sunset), Rachel Lynett (Apologies to Lorraine Hansberry [You Too August Wilson]), Rajendra Ramoon Maharaj ([Un]Documented), Madeline Mahrer (Arcade), Eric Marlin (Denial), Katarzyna Muller (American Monster), Karissa Murrell Myers (On the Greenbelt), Paloma Nozicka (Enough to Let the Light In), Daniel Olivas (Waiting for Godinez), Zack Peercy (Essential Starlite), Kira Rockwell (The Tragic Ecstasy of Girlhood), Lia Romeo (The Agency), Andrew Rosendorf (One-Shot), Marcus Scott (Sibling Rivalries), Scott Sickles (Pangea), Kristen Spencer (Dutch Kings), Nathan Yungerberg (THEA), Emily Zemba (But if the Train Comes to Her).



2020 – Recent Unsettling Events by Andrea Stolowitz

2019 – Alma by Benjamin Benne | world premiere American Blues Theater, Chicago, 2022

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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