Welcome to the American Blues family. Learn more about our Staff, Ensemble, Artistic Affiliates, and Board of Directors – extra credit for the mascot. We are the second oldest professional AEA Ensemble theater in Chicago. Our 36-member Ensemble has nearly 600 combined years of collaboration on stage.
GWENDOLYN (WENDY) WHITESIDE
Wendy joined the Ensemble of American Blues Theater in 1998 and has served as Artistic Director since 2010. Under her leadership, American Blues has nearly doubled the size of its Ensemble, added 28 Artistic Affiliates, and diversified its base of artists. She created the nationally-recognized annual Blue Ink Playwriting Award, Blueprint Development for new work, implemented community service into the company’s mission, and adapted the arts education program The Lincoln Project for Chicago Public Schools serving nearly 3,000 students annually. She led American Blues through its 2009 rebirth and built the operational budget from zero to $1 million in seven years. Whiteside served numerous panels for the National Endowment for the Arts and sat on the national Board of Directors for Network of Ensemble Theaters. She’s a graduate of Northwestern University (cum laude), The School of the Art Institute of Chicago (MFA), and a Kellogg Executive Scholar in Nonprofit management (Kellogg School of Management, Northwestern University). She was nominated for “Chicagoan of the Year” in Chicago Magazine and named in Newcity’s annual Players list numerous times. In seven years, eight American Blues Theater shows were nominated for production by the Joseph Jefferson Award committee. She’s received 14 Joseph Jefferson Awards, Citations, and nominations as an actress and Artistic Director. Her favorite performances include Jeff Award for Solo Performance (Grounded), Jeff Award for Solo Performance (The K of D), Mary’s Wedding (Top 5 Performances in Indianapolis), Collected Stories (Best Actress Broadway World Chicago Award), and six years as “Mary Bailey” (It’s a Wonderful Life: Live in Chicago!). She’s the recipient of two (2) After Dark Awards, and numerous Broadway World Chicago Awards and nominations. She directs the Chicago holiday tradition It’s a Wonderful Life: Live in Chicago!
the EnsembleOur 36 members have 600+ combined years of collaboration on stage.
Currently she runs her award-winning interior decorating firm, Eye to Eye Interiors.
Los Angeles, 1985
Recently he directed The Rainmaker, here at American Blues Theater.
Los Angeles, 2001
Recently he received his MFA from University of Idaho.
Currently he’s writing his commissioned solo performance, here at American Blues Theater.
Currently she is the production manager at Lookingglass Theater.
Currently, she will reprise“Violet” in It’s a Wonderful Life: Live in Chicago! here at American Blues Theater.
Los Angeles, 2008
Currently he recurs on Disney’s “Bunk’d”. He is also the spokesperson for the Stratosphere Hotel in Las Vegas.
Recently his world-premiere play TRANSit opened to critical acclaim at American Blues Theater.
Los Angeles, 1985
Recently he wrote and produced the second season of Amazon’s “Man in the High Castle”.
New York, 2013
Recently he was the music director for Little Shop of Horrors, here at American Blues Theater.
IAN PAUL CUSTER
Currently he appears in It’s a Wonderful Life: Live in Chicago!, here at American Blues Theater.
Recently she was the dramaturg for The Rainmaker, here at American Blues Theater.
Currently she is the Associate Producer and will design properties and set dressing for It’s a Wonderful Life: Live in Chicago!, here at American Blues Theater.
Upcoming he will perform in the solo performance The Absolute Brightness of Leonard Pelkey.
Recently he designed lights for Buddy – The Buddy Holly Story, here at American Blues.
Currently he runs his national company StageChannel.
Currently she is pursuing a Masters in Nonprofit Administration at North Park University.
PHILIP EARL JOHNSON
Next he’ll appear in On Clover Road, here at American Blues.
Los Angeles, 1998
Recently he designed sound for Six Corners, here at American Blues Theater.
NAMBI E. KELLEY
New York, 2011
Currently her adaptation of Richard Wright’s “Native Son” will be produced at several theaters across the United States.
Los Angeles, 1993
Recently he made a special one-day only appearance as “George Bailey” in It’s a Wonderful Life: Live in Chicago!, here at American Blues Theater.
Recently finished a national tour of The Public Theater’s production of Sweat.
Recently he appeared on “Chicago Fire”, episodes of the Amazon series “Patriot”, and national commercial for Kellogg’s Frosted Mini Wheats.
Currently he is on a national tour of Defamation.
Recently he appeared in Dutchman / TRANSit, here at American Blues Theater.
Recently he appeared in Buddy – The Buddy Holly Story, here at American Blues Theater. Currently he’s the Music Director of It’s a Wonderful Life: Live in Chicago!
Artistic Programming Support for American Blues Theater. Recently she directed selections for Something Wicked This Way Comes at Bradbury Carnegie Center.
Currently he performs “Mr. Potter” & “Clarence” in It’s a Wonderful Life: Live in Chicago!, here at American Blues Theater.
CHRISTOPHER J. NEVILLE
Currently he designs costumes for It’s a Wonderful Life: Live in Chicago!, here at American Blues Theater.
Audio Describer for American Blues Theater. Recently she performed her cabaret show Torch, Sass, & Swing at Steppenwolf’s 1700 Theatre and appeared on CBS’s “Kevin Can Wait”.
Currently she appears in Rivendell Theater’s production of Scientific Method.
Currently she works as an appellate public defender in the Chicagoland area.
SARAH E. ROSS
Recently she designed the set for Buddy – The Buddy Holly Story, here at American Blues Theater.
Recently he directed Flyin’ West, here at American Blues Theater.
Recently she won many awards for her solo performance Beauty’s Daughter, here at American Blues Theater.
Artistic Director for American Blues Theater. Currently she’s directing It’s a Wonderful Life: Live in Chicago!, here at American Blues Theater.
Board of DirectorsJuly 1, 2018 to June 30, 2019 term
If you are interested in joining our Board of Directors, please contact Gwendolyn Whiteside, Artistic Director at WendyW@AmericanBluesTheater.com or call (773) 654-3103.
Ben joined American Blues Theater in 2011 on a dare – it was theater or Chicago politics. (He’s scared of jail; we won.) Ben appeared in our production of Rantoul and Die and sat patiently inside a wrapped present beneath the It’s a Wonderful Life Christmas tree. Like every artist, he’s had disappointments throughout his career: rejected from the union meeting during Waiting for Lefty; no call-back for Hank Williams: Lost Highway because he was too stiff; couldn’t audition for the Pilot in Grounded because of the height requirement. He also suffered a showmance heartbreak with Audrey II in Little Shop of Horrors. He currently resides in the American Blues office.
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