CHICAGO: American Blues Theater has announced its 35th anniversary season. The 2020-21 season, titled “Breaking Boundaries,” will feature a world premiere from Benjamin Benne as well as the company’s first August Wilson production.
“This season showcases the best of the human spirit, depicting opportunities of growth each person faces when confronted by boundaries of self-defined or perceived identity,” said artistic director Gwendolyn Whiteside in a statement. “This season is dedicated, in gratitude, to Chicago for its incredible 35 years of support to American Blues Theater as we redefined and reinvented our own identity.”
The season will open with Wilson’s Fences (Sept. 4-Oct. 17). The Pulitzer-winning play first premiered in 1985, the same year American Blues Theater was formed. Monty Cole will direct this classic about how a former Negro League star’s bitterness takes a toll on his relationships and family.
Next up will be the 19th anniversary production of It’s a Wonderful Life: Live in Chicago! (Nov. 12-Jan. 2), adapted from the Frank Capra film. Whiteside will direct with Michael Mahler as music director for this live 1940s radio broadcast of the beloved holiday film, complete with Foley sound effects, an original score, and carols.
Following will be the world premiere of Alma (Jan. 29-March 13), by Benjamin Benne, winner of the 2019 Blue Ink Playwriting Award. Directed by Ana Velazquez, the play follows a woman who starts to fear her worst nightmare may become a reality after she discovers her daughter isn’t at home studying for the SAT.
The season will conclude with Airness (May 7-June 13), by Chelsea Marcantel, a comedy about Nina’s desire to win her first air guitar competition and the discovery that there is more to the art form than playing pretend. Whiteside will direct.
Additional programming will include the Ripped Festival: Edition 19, featuring short plays inspired by news headlines, and The Lincoln Project, conceived and adapted by Whiteside from James Still’s The Heavens Are Hung in Black and aligned with Illinois Learning Standards to engage 5th-10th graders about Abraham Lincoln’s life.
Founded in 1985, American Blues Theater develops and produces plays and musicals that explore the American identity.
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