The American Blues Team

OUR TEAM

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

GWENDOLYN (WENDY) WHITESIDE

Artistic Director

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 Ensemble

Our 36 members have 600+ combined years of collaboration on stage.
DAWN BACH

DAWN BACH

Chicago, 1993

Currently she runs her award-winning interior decorating firm, Eye to Eye Interiors.

ED BLATCHFORD

ED BLATCHFORD

Los Angeles, 1985

Recently he directed The Rainmaker, here at American Blues Theater.

MATTHEW BRUMLOW

MATTHEW BRUMLOW

Los Angeles, 2001

Recently he received his MFA from University of Idaho.

MANNY BUCKLEY

MANNY BUCKLEY

Chicago, 2012

Currently he’s writing his commissioned solo performance, here at American Blues Theater. 

SARAH BURNHAM

SARAH BURNHAM

Chicago, 2011

Currently she is the production manager at Lookingglass Theater.

DARA CAMERON

DARA CAMERON

Chicago, 2013

Currently, she will reprise“Violet” in It’s a Wonderful Life: Live in Chicago! here at American Blues Theater.

CASEY CAMPBELL

CASEY CAMPBELL

Los Angeles, 2008

Currently he recurs on Disney’s “Bunk’d”. He is also the spokesperson for the Stratosphere Hotel in Las Vegas.

DARREN CANADY

DARREN CANADY

Lawrence, 2016

Recently his world-premiere play TRANSit opened to critical acclaim at American Blues Theater.

RICK CLEVELAND

RICK CLEVELAND

Los Angeles, 1985

Recently he wrote and produced the second season of Amazon’s “Man in the High Castle”.

AUSTIN COOK

AUSTIN COOK

New York, 2013

Recently he was the music director for Little Shop of Horrors, here at American Blues Theater. 

IAN PAUL CUSTER

IAN PAUL CUSTER

Chicago, 2016

Currently he appears in It’s a Wonderful Life: Live in Chicago!, here at American Blues Theater.

LAURI DAHL

LAURI DAHL

Chicago, 1995

Recently she was the dramaturg for The Rainmaker, here at American Blues Theater.

ELYSE DOLAN

ELYSE DOLAN

Chicago, 2018

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.

JOE FOUST

JOE FOUST

Chicago, 2011

Upcoming he will perform in the solo performance The Absolute Brightness of Leonard Pelkey.

JARED GOODING

JARED GOODING

Chicago, 2018

Recently he designed lights for Buddy – The Buddy Holly Story, here at American Blues.

MARTY HIGGINBOTHAM

MARTY HIGGINBOTHAM

Birmingham, 1991

Currently he runs his national company StageChannel.

JACLYN HOLSEY

JACLYN HOLSEY

Chicago, 2011

Currently she is pursuing a Masters in Nonprofit Administration at North Park University.

PHILIP EARL JOHNSON

PHILIP EARL JOHNSON

Chicago, 2018

Next he’ll appear in On Clover Road, here at American Blues.

LINDSAY JONES

LINDSAY JONES

Los Angeles, 1998

Recently he designed sound for Six Corners, here at American Blues Theater.

NAMBI E. KELLEY

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.

KEVIN KELLY

KEVIN KELLY

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.

STEVE KEY

STEVE KEY

Chicago, 2011

Recently finished a national tour of The Public Theater’s production of Sweat.

ED KROSS

ED KROSS

Chicago, 1998

Recently he appeared on “Chicago Fire”, episodes of the Amazon series “Patriot”, and national commercial for Kellogg’s Frosted Mini Wheats.

JAMES LEAMING

JAMES LEAMING

Chicago, 1985

Currently he is on a national tour of Defamation.

WARREN LEVON

WARREN LEVON

Chicago, 2012

Recently he appeared in Dutchman / TRANSit, here at American Blues Theater.

MICHAEL MAHLER

MICHAEL MAHLER

Chicago, 2013

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!

HEATHER MEYERS

HEATHER MEYERS

Chicago, 1996

Artistic Programming Support for American Blues Theater.  Recently she directed selections for Something Wicked This Way Comes at Bradbury Carnegie Center.

JOHN MOHRLEIN

JOHN MOHRLEIN

Chicago, 1997

Currently he performs “Mr. Potter” & “Clarence” in It’s a Wonderful Life: Live in Chicago!, here at American Blues Theater.

CHRISTOPHER J. NEVILLE

CHRISTOPHER J. NEVILLE

Chicago, 2016

Currently he designs costumes for It’s a Wonderful Life: Live in Chicago!, here at American Blues Theater.

SUZANNE PETRI

SUZANNE PETRI

Chicago, 1999

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”.

CARMEN ROMAN

CARMEN ROMAN

Chicago, 1991

Currently she appears in Rivendell Theater’s production of Scientific Method.

EDITHA ROSARIO

EDITHA ROSARIO

Chicago, 2001

Currently she works as an appellate public defender in the Chicagoland area.

SARAH E. ROSS

SARAH E. ROSS

Chicago, 2011

Recently she designed the set for Buddy – The Buddy Holly Story, here at American Blues Theater.

CHUCK SMITH

CHUCK SMITH

Chicago, 2018

Recently he directed Flyin’ West, here at American Blues Theater.

WANDACHRISTINE

WANDACHRISTINE

Chicago, 2018

Recently she won many awards for her solo performance Beauty’s Daughter, here at American Blues Theater.

GWENDOLYN WHITESIDE

GWENDOLYN WHITESIDE

Chicago, 1998

Artistic Director for American Blues Theater. Currently she’s directing It’s a Wonderful Life: Live in Chicago!, here at American Blues Theater.

EMERITUS MEMBERS

EMERITUS MEMBERS

Dennis Cockrum
William Payne

Artistic Affiliates

Board of Directors

July 1, 2017 to June 30, 2018 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.

the Mascot

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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