FEBRUARY 16 – MARCH 24, 2024

The Reclamation of Madison Hemings


Written by Artistic Affiliate Charles Smith
Directed by Artistic Affiliate Chuck Smith

It’s 1866, and the Civil War has ended. Madison Hemings, son of Thomas Jefferson and Sally Hemings, and Israel Jefferson, formerly enslaved footman, return to Monticello in search of Israel’s long-lost brother. Their search gets sidetracked when Madison decides to claim what’s left of his birthright as the son of an American president. Together, the two men must face their conflicting feelings about the man who wrote “All men are created equal.” Slavery has been abolished, but what has changed? What do we need to keep with us as we move through this world and what should we leave behind?

Read Backstage Guide, Playwright Charles Smith’s note, or welcome from the Artistic Director.

Read our digital program.


5627 N. Lincoln Ave, Chicago 60659

Box Office: (773) 654-3103

Runs 2 hours with an intermission
Tickets range $25-$55
Recommended for ages 12+

Read Frequently Asked Questions

Thursdays: 7:30 PM
Fridays: 7:30 PM
Saturdays: 3:00 PM (except Feb 17 & Mar 2) & 7:30 PM (except Feb 24 & Mar 9)
Sundays: 2:30 PM

Student matinees on Wednesdays @ 10:30 AM (Feb 28 & Mar 6 only)

Photography by Michael Brosilow; Video by Stage Channel.


CAST: Jon Hudson Odom (Madison Hemings), Manny Buckley* (Israel Jefferson). Understudies are Nathaniel Andrew (Madison Hemings), Martel Manning* (Israel Jefferson).

PRODUCTION TEAM: Charles Smith* (playwright), Chuck Smith* (director), Jonathan Berg-Einhorn (scenic & prop design), Jared Gooding* (co-lighting design), Rachel West* (co-lighting design & lighting supervisor), Brenden Marble (assoc. lighting design), Lily Walls* (costume design & wardrobe supervisor), Rick Sims* (sound design), Warren Levon* (assoc. sound design), Richard Lundy (stage manager), Michael Trudeau* (facilities manager), John McTaggart (technical director), and Joe Court (audio supervisor).

*Ensemble member or Artistic Affiliate of American Blues Theater.

Joseph Jefferson Award recommended. As seen and heard on ABC, CBS, NBC, WGN, WBEZ, WVON.

Highly recommended




“3.5 stars! [Jon Hudson Odom and Manny Buckley] tear up American Blues’ brand new 137-seat stage.”Chicago Tribune. Read full review.

“3.5 stars…Intensity level high throughout, tempering it with moments of undeniable humor. [Director Chuck] Smith has shaped a drama that you can’t look away from.” – Chicago Sun Times. Read full review.

“Highly recommended…Compassionate and thoughtful historical fiction that ultimately succeeds at centering those often forgotten.” – Chicago Reader. Read full review.

“4 out of 4 stars. Brilliantly told!”Third Coast Review. Read full review.

“Exceptional! [Charles Smith & Chuck Smith] – both deans of their crafts, make this sing with wonder of music.”City Pleasures. Read full review.

“Well-acted and beautifully staged.”NewCity Chicago. Read full review.

“5 out of 5 stars. Sterling production!”Around the Town Chicago. Read full review.

“Moving and often humorous two-act play.”Chicago Theatre Review. Read full review.

“Highest Rated Shows in Chicago”Theatre in Chicago. Read full list.


JON HUDSON ODOM (Madison Hemings) – Chicago credits: On Clover Road (American Blues Theater); No Man’s Land, Describe the Night, The Seagull, Ms Black For President (Steppenwolf Theatre Company); Toni Stone, A Christmas Carol (Goodman Theatre); Witch (Writers Theatre) Regional: Ain’t No Mo’, An Octoroon, Botticelli in the Fire, Shipwreck (Woolly Mammoth Theatre); Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf (Denver Center for the Performing Arts); The Magic Play (Actors Theatre of Louisville); Angels in America (Round House Theatre & Olney Theatre Center) TV: “Lovecraft Country “(HBO), “Somebody Somewhere” (HBO Max), “South Side” (HBO Max), “Chicago PD” (NBC) Film: “The Year Between”, “A Savage Nature”, “Reporting for Christmas.” Five-time nominee and recipient of the Helen Hayes Awards & Jeff Award nominee. Education: University of North Carolina School of the Arts. Represented by Paonessa Talent and Kaplan Mills Entertainment.




MANNY BUCKLEY (Israel Jefferson) is an Ensemble member of American Blues Theater. He is a Chicago based actor, director, and writer. Directing credits include Driving Miss DaisyThe Bad Seed (Jedlicka Performing Arts), Kingdom, an audio play (Broken Nose Theatre), Uhuru, CaneOrigin StoryMother of Pearl and The Reapers On Woodbrook Avenue (Blue Ink Festival), multiple short plays in the Ripped: The Living Newspaper#ENOUGH: Plays to End Gun Violence, and The One Minute Play Festival. Acting credits include work with Chicago Shakespeare, Steppenwolf, Goodman, Court, Victory Gardens, Chicago Dramatists, Next Theater, House Theatre, Shattered Globe Theater, Cincinnati Children’s Theatre and Studio Theatre. Manny has numerous credits with American Blues Theater, including his critically-acclaimed, award-winning solo performance in Looking Over the President’s Shoulder. Film credits: Proven Innocent, Chicago Fire, Chicago PD, The US Navy, Northwestern University, and The Onion. He has received nominations for the Joseph Jefferson Award, the Helen Hayes Award and the 3Arts Award; he is the recipient of both a Black Theater Alliance Award and Black Excellence Award. Mr. Buckley was recently seen in American Blues Theater’s sold-out production of Fences and annually in American Blues’ annual production of It’s a Wonderful Life: Live in Chicago!

NATHANIEL ANDREW (u/s Madison Hemings) was born and raised in Markham, IL. His most recent theatre credits include Wants and Needs (Second Site), The October Storm (Raven Theatre), Marie Antionette and the Magical Negroes (The Story Theatre) winning a Jeff Award for Best Ensemble. Recent TV/Film credits include Chicago Fire (NBC), Nerds Incognito (Junior Giant Productions) and Embers (Chaotic Good). This is his first time working with American Blues Theater, and he couldn’t be more excited. He looks forward to continuing to establish himself in the Chicago theatre community, and exploring more television and film projects. Currently represented by Shirley Hamilton.

MARTEL MANNING (u/s Israel Jefferson) is an Artistic Affiliate of American Blues Theater. He is glad to return to American Blues where he last appeared as Bono in Fences. As an ensemble member with The Gift Theatre, he’s appeared in multiple productions including Little Voice, The Pillowman, and Hamlet. Other Chicago credits include Photograph 51 (Court Theatre), Cymbeline (Strawdog Theatre), Her Majesty’s Will (Lifeline Theatre), Pirandello’s Henry IV (Remy Bumppo Theatre), Twelfth Night (Midsommer Flight). Additional credits include Still Dance the Stars (New Light Theatre), Two Gentlemen of Verona and King Lear (Michigan Shakespeare Festival), and Romeo and Juliet (Oregon Shakespeare Festival SVP). Martel holds an MFA in Acting from the University of Houston PATP and is represented by Shirley Hamilton.


CHARLES SMITH (playwright) is an Artistic Affiliate of American Blues Thaeter. His plays include The Reclamation of Madison Hemings, Objects in the Mirror, Free Man of Color, Knock Me a Kiss, The Golden Leaf Ragtime Blues, Freefall, The Gospel According to James, Jelly Belly, Pudd’nhead Wilson, Les Trois Dumas, Denmark, Sister Carrie, The Sutherland, Black Star Line, Takunda, Cane, and City of Gold. His plays have been produced by Indiana Repertory Theatre, Goodman Theatre, Victory Gardens Theater, The Acting Company, People’s Light, The New Federal Theatre, Penumbra, Crossroads Theatre Company, Shakespeare & Company, Penguin Repertory Theatre, Ujima Theatre Company, The Colony Theatre, St. Louis Black Rep, Weissberger Theater Group, Seattle Repertory Theatre, Jubilee Theatre, Ensemble Theatre in Houston, Pegasus Theatre Chicago, Westcoast Black Rep., Robey Theatre Company, Berkeley Repertory Theater, Ensemble Theatre in Cleveland, IndependentTheatre in Adelaide, South Australia, the HBO New Writers Project, the International Children’s Theater Festival in Seattle, and The National Black Theatre Festival.

He has been commissioned by Cleveland Play House and The Acting Company, and has received multiple commissions from Victory Gardens, Indiana Rep, and Goodman. His awards include a Joseph Jefferson Award, a John W. Schmid Award, two Ohio Arts Council Individual Excellence Awards, the Illinois Arts Council Governors Award, the Joyce Award, the Cornerstone National Playwriting Award, The National Black Theatre Festival’s August Wilson Playwriting Award, Princess Grace Fellowship, the Theodore Ward National Playwriting Award, two Black Theatre Alliance Awards for New Work, the NBC New Voices Award, and numerous other AUDELCO, Jeff, NAACP, and Black Theatre Alliance award nominations.

He is an alumnus of New Dramatists, a graduate of the University of Iowa Playwrights Workshop, one of the founding members of the Playwrights Ensemble at the Tony Award-winning Victory Gardens Theatre in Chicago, Distinguished Professor Emeritus and Presidential Research Scholar in the Arts and Humanities at Ohio University and has taught playwriting at Northwestern University, for the Prague Summer Program in Creative Writing in the Czech Republic, and for the Center for Dramatic Art in Groznjan, Croatia.

His plays may be obtained through Dramatic Publishing, Samuel French, Northwestern Press, Smith and Kraus, Swallow Press, and Alexander Street Press.

CHUCK SMITH (director) is an Ensemble member of American Blues Theater where he directed Leroi Jones’ Dutchman and Flyin’ West. He is a member of Goodman Theatre’s Board of Trustees and is a Goodman Theatre Resident Director. He is also a resident director at the Westcoast Black Theatre Troupe in Sarasota, Florida. Goodman credits include the Chicago premieres of Pullman Porter Blues; By the Way, Meet Vera Stark; Race; The Good Negro; Proof and The Story; the world premieres of By the Music of the Spheres and The Gift Horse; James Baldwin’s The Amen Corner, which transferred to Boston’s Huntington Theatre Company, where it won the Independent Reviewers of New England (IRNE) Award for Best Direction; A Raisin in the Sun; Blues for an Alabama Sky; August Wilson’s Gem of the Ocean, Two Trains Running and Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom; Objects in the Mirror, Having Our Say, Ain’t Misbehavin’ the 1993 to 1995 productions of A Christmas Carol; Crumbs From the Table of Joy; Vivisections from a Blown Mind and The Meeting.

He served as dramaturg for the Goodman’s world-premiere production of August Wilson’s Gem of the Ocean. He directed the New York premiere of Knock Me a Kiss and The Hooch for the New Federal Theatre and the world premiere of Knock Me a Kiss at Chicago’s Victory Gardens Theater, where his other directing credits include Master Harold… and the Boys, Home, Dame Lorraine and Eden, for which he received a Jeff Award nomination.

Regionally, Mr. Smith directed Death and the King’s Horseman (Oregon Shakespeare Festival), Birdie Blue (Seattle Repertory Theatre), Jitney and Gem of the Ocean (Nashville Shakespeare Festival), The Story (Milwaukee Repertory Theater), Blues for an Alabama Sky (Alabama Shakespeare Festival) and The Last Season (Robey Theatre Company). At Columbia College he was facilitator of the Theodore Ward Prize playwriting contest for 20 years and editor of the contest anthologies Seven Black Plays and Best Black Plays. He won a Chicago Emmy Award as associate producer/theatrical director for the NBC teleplay “Crime of Innocence” and was theatrical director for the Emmy-winning “Fast Break to Glory” and the Emmy-nominated “The Martin Luther King Suite”.

He was a founding member of the Chicago Theatre Company, where he served as artistic director for four seasons and directed the Jeff-nominated Suspenders and the Jeff-winning musical Po’. His directing credits include productions at Fisk University, Vanderbilt University, Roosevelt University, Eclipse Theatre, ETA, Black Ensemble Theater, Northlight Theatre, MPAACT, Congo Square Theatre Company, The New Regal Theater, Kuumba Theatre Company, Fleetwood-Jourdain Theatre, Pegasus Players, the Timber Lake Playhouse in Mt. Carroll, Illinois, the University of Illinois in Champaign-Urbana, and the University of Wisconsin in Madison. In 2019 he received an Honorary Ph.D. from his alma mater Governors State University and has received lifetime achievement awards from The African-American Arts Alliance of Chicago, the League of Chicago Theaters and the Joseph Jefferson Awards Committee. He is a 2003 inductee into the Chicago State University Gwendolyn Brooks Center’s Literary Hall of Fame and a 2001 Chicago Tribune Chicagoan of the Year. He is the proud recipient of the 1982 Paul Robeson Award and the 1997 Award of Merit presented by the Black Theater Alliance of Chicago.

JONATHAN BERG-EINHORN (Scenic & Props Design) is a Chicago based designer and artisan. Favorite scenic design credits: Priscilla, Queen of the Desert (Mercury Theater), Hand to God (Paramount Theatre), Picasso at the Lapin Agile (Citadel), Isaac’s Eye (Redtwist), Who Killed Joan Crawford? (Glitterati Productions), Alice in Wonderland, The ARC Trials (Mudlark Theatre); Curious George: The Golden Meatball (Hope Summer Repertory Theater); Brooke Astor’s Last Affair (Chicago Musical Theatre Festival), The Seven Deadly Sins, Endgame (Boston University). Jonathanbergeinhorn.com.​

JARED GOODING (Co-Lighting Design) is a proud Ensemble member of American Blues Theater. His design credits include designs for Writers Theatre, Court Theatre, Florentine Opera Company, Indiana Repertory Theatre, First Stage Theater, Depaul University, Milwaukee Repertory Theater, Victory Gardens Theater, TimeLine Theatre, Bristol Riverside Theater, Madison Children’s Theater, University of Illinois Chicago Theatre, University of Indiana Northwest, Remy Bumpo Theatre, Strawdog Theatre, The Hypocrites, Definition Theatre, Windy City Playhouse, Sideshow Theatre, Jackalope Theatre, First Floor Theater, About Face Theatre, MPAACT, Pegasus Theatre, and serving as the Lighting Assistant for The Wiz Live on NBC along with Associate Designing for Lookingglass Theatre’s touring of Lookingglass Alice in Miami and Denver. He spends weekends as a professional DJ and his design work is work is featured at goodingdesigns.com.

RACHEL WEST (Co-Lighting Design & Lighting Supervisor) is a proud Artistic Affiliate of American Blues Theater and is excited to team up with Jared on another lighting design. Recent Blues credits include Alma (Lighting Design) and Fences (Associate Lighting Design). She has been the Master Electrician for American Blues since 2018 and is now the Lighting Supervisor for our new home! Rachel is the Lighting Director for Porchlight Music Theatre and the Master Electrician for the Black Ensemble Theater. She is a Chicago-area native and a graduate of the Boston University School of Theatre.

BRENDEN MARBLE (Associate Lighting Designer) After studying theater design at Eastern Michigan University, the Detroit MI native moved to Chicago to start living their dream of becoming a lighting designer! Recent credits include A Hit Dog Will Holler (Artemisia Theatre), Fairview (Definition Theater), Currents (Chicago Fringe Opera), and Dance Like There Are Black People Watching (Second City Chicago).

LILY WALLS (Costume Design & Wardrobe Supervisor) is a proud Artistic Affiliate of American Blues Theater. Other Chicago companies she has worked with have included Haven (Science Fiction/Double Feature, Titus Andronicus), Midsummer Flight (Twelfth Night, A Midsummer Night’s Dream), Akvavit (Bad Girls, Rising Temperatures, Family Drama) and City Lit (Hound of the Baskervilles). She would like to thank her friends, family and community for the support and renewal they give, her husband Michael for everything, and August for being the best.

RICK SIMS (Sound Design) is a proud Artistic Affiliate of American Blues Theater. He has composed and designed sound for numerous Chicago-area theaters, including Steppenwolf Theatre, Lookingglass Theatre Company, American Blues Theater, Congo Square Theatre, Writers Theatre, Lifeline Theatre, Griffin Theatre, Chicago Children’s Theatre, The Hypocrites, House Theatre of Chicago, Court Theatre, American Theater Company, Victory Gardens Theater, Raven Theatre, Steep Theatre, Northlight Theatre, and About Face Theatre. His additional credits include The Getty, Boston Playwrights’ Theatre, Arden Theatre Company, Playwrights Horizons, Actors Theatre of Louisville, and Portland Playhouse. Rick won Jeff Awards for Sound Design for Moby Dick and Hepheastus (Lookingglass Theatre Company), a Black Theatre Alliance Award for Brothers in the Dust (Congo Square Theatre), and has received several nominations for both awards. Rick also wrote the book, music, and lyrics for Hillbilly Antigone at Lookingglass Theatre Company, where he is an Artistic Associate.

WARREN LEVON (Associate Sound Designer) is a proud Ensemble member of American Blues Theater. His previous Blues credits (as an actor) include Dutchman/Transit, Waiting for Lefty, and Ripped. Warren is a sound designer and engineer years who works with various theatre companies throughout the city, including recent credits at Invictus Theatre, Pulse Theatre Company, and Oakton College.

JOE COURT (Audio Supervisor) is a sound designer, engineer, and educator. His work has been heard in Chicago (TUTA, A Red Orchid, Mary-Arrchie, Emerald City, and many, many more), New York (59E59, Off-Broadway, NYC), Los Angeles (REDCAT at the Disney Concert Hall), McCarter Theatre Center (Princeton, NJ), The Clarence Brown Theatre (Knoxville, TN.), Great Lakes Theatre (Cleveland, OH), Virginia Stage Company (Norfolk, VA), Actors Theatre of Indiana, and the Idaho, Lake Tahoe, and Illinois Shakespeare Festivals. As an educator he has taught at Virginia Tech, and the University of Chicago. Joe is an artistic associate with TUTA theatre, Chicago. From 2008 until 2016, Joe served as sound engineer for the Chicago production of the Tony Award-winning musical Million Dollar Quartet. He has received 3 Joseph Jefferson Award nominations for his design work.

RICHARD LUNDY (Production Stage Manager) Chicago credits include: Raven Theatre: Night Watch. Theater Wit: The Whistleblower. Mercury Theater: Clue. Venus Cabaret: Lady Day at Emerson’s…, Company. Timeline Theater: Paradise Blue, The Last Wife, Sunset Baby. Levin Productions: Assassination Theater. Next Theatre:16 productions including The Adding Machine: A Chamber Musical (World Premiere). Writers’ Theatre: Oh Coward!, The Maids. Famous Door: Suburban Motel, Porchlight: Meet John Doe. Also: Hypocrites, Northlight, Remains, Victory Gardens, Organic, Halstead Theatre, Wisdom Bridge. National tours: Miss Saigon (First National Company: Cameron Mackintosh). I Love Lucy Live! (David George). Regional: Olney Theatre Center: Miss You Like Hell, Oil. Also: Trinity Rep, Cleveland Playhouse, Shakespeare & Company, Folger Shakespeare. 37-year member of Actors Equity. 31-year husband of the remarkable Carmel Carroll.

MARY SCHORE (Asst. Stage Manager) is excited to join the company of The Reclamation of Madison Hemings for her first production with American Blues Theater. She has made appearances on and off the stage at Oakton College, her alma mater, since 2017. Recent credits include Let Me Down Easy, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, and Next to Normal at the Oakton Performing Arts Center. She thanks her girlfriend, Lauren, for her continued love and support.

JOHN MCTAGGART (Technical Director) recently got his BFA from Rutgers University Mason Gross School of the Arts with a focus in Technical Direction. His background is mostly in carpentry with skills in basic lighting, sound, and projection design.

ISA NOE (Scenic Charge) is delighted to work with American Blues Theater for the first time. Recent Chicago paint credits include Welcome to Matteson (Congo Square Theatre Company) and Port of Entry (Albany Park Theatre Project). Isa received their Bachelor of Arts from Northwestern University with a focus in scenic design. They would like to thank their family, mentors, and partner for their loving encouragement and unwavering support. Website: www.ign-design.com


We raise awareness of other non-profit organizations’ great causes through creative collaborations. We’re proud to partner and amplify NAMI Chicago, Northwestern University’s The Family Institute, National African American Reparations Commission, and NAACP. We offer complimentary tickets to Chicago Public Schools students.


Playwright Charles Smith’s Note

Playwright Charles Smith’s Note

“The Reclamation of Madison Hemings” was envisioned as, and commissioned to be, a two-person play about Madison Hemings and Israel Gillette Jefferson, two men who were enslaved at Thomas Jefferson’s forced labor camp, Monticello.

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