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"It's A Wonderful Life" by Frank Capra, at American Blues Theater in Chicago in 2012. Pictured: Kevin R. Kelly and John Mohrlein. (Photo by Johnny Knight)

American Blues Theater Announces 2 Chicago Premieres for 2016–17 Season

The season explores American ideals and adheres to the theatre’s mission to engage with the community.

CHICAGO: American Blues Theater has announced its 2016—17 season, featuring a holiday classic, one-act plays, and two Chicago premieres from David Auburn and Dael Orlandersmith.

“Lauded American poet Robert Frost wrote, ‘Never be bullied into silence. Never allow yourself to be made a victim.  Accept no one’s definition of your life; define yourself,’” said producing artistic director Gwendolyn Whiteside in a statement. “The unforgettable characters in our Season 31 productions heed this advice. They boldly claim their space in our imaginations and our stage.”

The season begins with a series of one-acts (Aug. 26—Sept. 25), including the Chicago revival of Amiri Baraka’s Dutchman, directed by Chuck Smith; and the world premiere of Darren Canady’s TRANSit, under the direction of Lisa Portes. Both plays explore race relations—one on a passenger train and the other on a New York City subway.

Next will be the 15th anniversary production of It’s a Wonderful Life: Live in Chicago! (Nov. 18—Dec. 31), a live broadcast of the holiday classic complete with Foley sound effects, and milk and cookies for the audience. Whiteside will direct.

Following will be the Chicago premiere of Auburn’s The Columnist (Feb. 17—April 19, 2017), a political drama about a journalist at the height of the Cold War. Keira Fromm will direct.

Next is the Chicago premiere of Orlandersmith’s Beauty’s Daughter (June 2—July 2, 2017), a one-woman show about a woman’s journey through life’s many obstacles in an East Harlem neighborhood. Artistic affiliate Wandachristine will take on the play’s six different characters. Ron OJ Parson will direct.

Also part of the season will be Ripped: The Living Newspaper Festival, in the spring 2017. Various Chicago artists will write and direct short plays inspired by today’s headlines for the festival, which is based by the 1930s WPA era program that brought Orson Welles, Arthur Miller, Richard Wright, and Clifford Odets to public attention.

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