American Blues Theater's GROUNDED - photo by Johnny Knight horizProducing Artistic Director Gwendolyn Whiteside and American Blues Theater, Chicago’s second oldest Equity ensemble, are proud to announce the  SaturdayJune 21 performance of Grounded, by George Brant and directed by Lisa Portes, at the Greenhouse Theater Center, 2257 N. Lincoln Ave. is a benefit performance for Children of War Foundation. Proceeds from the performance will go directly to surgery and medical treatment for Shah Bibi Tarakhail, an Afghan Child Affected by War. The running time is approximately 80 minutes.  Grounded runs through July 13. The performance schedule is Thursdays – Saturdays at 7:30 p.m. and Sundays at 2:30 p.m. Tickets are $19 – $49 and are available at 773.404.7336 or

A hot-rod F16 fighter pilot’s (Gwendolyn Whiteside) unexpected pregnancy ends her career in the sky.  Repurposed to flying remote-controlled drones in Afghanistan from an air-conditioned trailer near Vegas, the pilot struggles through surreal twelve-hour shifts far from the battlefield, hunting terrorists by day and being a wife and mother by night. Grounded flies from the heights of lyricism to the shallows of workaday existence, targeting assumptions about war, family, technology and the power of storytelling.

Grounded won the National New Play Network’s 2012 Smith Prize, which honors a new play on American politics, as well as acclaimed productions at the San Francisco Playhouse and at Borderlands Theater in Tucson. It won a Fringe First award at the 2013 Edinburgh Festival Fringe and had a run at London’s Gate Theater extended twice.  Both The London Evening Standard and The Guardian included Grounded in their top 10 plays of 2013. In 2014, in addition to American Blues Theater, Grounded will be produced in three other American cities and Australia.

ABOUT Shah Bibi Tarakhail

In early 2013, Tarakhail was at home in Afghanistan when she went outside one morning to play with her brother. There had been a violent battle pitting Taliban fighters against U.S. military forces the night before, but that was not unusual for this area. Tarakhail thought she was picking up a rock and when she threw it on the ground, the device exploded. The explosion had destroyed her right eye, taken off most of her right arm, put a few scars on her face and killed her brother.

A Children of War Foundation member brought her to the United States, where Shriners Hospital treated her injuries and she continues to get treated in the United States for her injuries and rehab.

The production staff of Grounded includes American Blues Theater Ensemble members Sarah E. Ross (scenic design);  Lindsay Jones (sound design)and Jaclyn Holsey (stage manager); Artistic Affiliate Arianna Soloway(properties); with guest artists Elsa Hiltner (costume design);  Sarah Hughey (lighting design); Mike Tutaj(projection design);  Ellen Willett (production manager) and Kristin Leahey (dramaturg).

American Blues Theater’s TOWN HALLS

American Blues Theater offers a free opportunity for audiences and fans of the theater to learn more about the current presentation. All Town Halls are held immediately following Sunday’s 2:30 p.m. performances, June 15 – July 6.


American Blues Theater is proud to continue Pink Previews for this production. Proceeds from preview performances are donated to the Lynn Sage Foundation for breast cancer research.  In addition, American Blues Theater with its production of Grounded raises public awareness of several organizations including National Veterans Art Museum and Women Vetrepeneurship Program (with Woman’s Business Development Center).


George Brant’s plays include Elephant’s GraveyardThe Mourners’ Bench, Salvage, Three Voyages of the Lobotomobile, Grizzly Mama, Any Other NameDefiant, Dark Room, Miracle: A Tragedy, Good on Paper, Ashes, NOK, The Lonesome HoboesOne Hand Clapping, The Royal Historian of Oz, Lovely Letters, Three Men in a Boat, Borglum! The Mount Rushmore Musical, Tights on a Wire and Night of the Mime.   A core writer at the Playwrights’ Center, his work has been produced nationally and internationally. Brant’s plays have been developed by the Kennedy Center, Asolo Rep, McCarter Theatre Center, New Harmony Project, Bay Area Playwrights Festival, WordBRIDGE Playwright’s Lab, Theatre @ Boston Court, Playwright and Director Center of Moscow, Florida Studio Theatre, New Jersey Rep, Contemporary Drama Festival of Hungary, the Hangar Theatre, Equity Library Theatre, and Ground UP Productions, among others.

His scripts have been awarded the David Mark Cohen National Playwriting Award from the Kennedy Center, the Smith Prize, the Keene Prize for Literature, an NNPN Rolling World Premiere, a Fringe First Award, a Creative Workforce Fellowship, an Austin Critic’s Circle Best New Play Award and an Ohio Arts Council Individual Excellence Award.  He has received writing fellowships from the James A. Michener Center for Writers, the McCarter Theatre Sallie B. Goodman Artist’s Retreat, the MacDowell Colony, the Djerassi Resident Artists Program, Fundacion Valparaiso and the Blue Mountain Center as well as commissions from Dobama Theatre and Theatre 4.


Lisa Portes’s recent Chicago projects include:  Concerning Strange Devices from the Distant West at Timeline Theatre, Ghostwritten at the Goodman Theatre and After a Hundred Years at the Guthrie Theatre; all by Naomi Iizuka; Highway 47 by KJ Sanchez at Yo Solo Festival; Night Over Erzinga by Adriana Sevahn-Nichols at Silk Road Rising;  Elliot, A Soldiers Fugue by Quiara Alegria Hudes with Teatro Vista and Rivendell at Steppenwolf Theatre; Permanent Collection by Thomas Gibbons at Northlight Theatre, Ski Dubai by Laura Jacqmin and Spare Change by Mia McCullough for the First Look program at Steppenwolf Theatre; Undoneby Andrea Thome and Seven Spots on the Sun by Martín Zimmerman during Ignition at Victory Gardens;  The Piano Teacher by Julia Cho, In the Blood by Suzan-Lori Parks and Far Away by Caryl Churchill all with Next Theatre.  Portes heads the MFA Directing Program at The Theatre School at DePaul University.


Whiteside is currently in her fifth year as producing artistic director of American Blues Theater as well as an established actress. As producing artistic director she has helped lead the transition during the rebirth of American Blues Theater.  She ushered in the annual Blue Ink Playwriting ContestBlueprint Play DevelopmentThe Lincoln Project and implemented community outreach as central to the company’s mission. She served three terms on the National Endowment for the Arts’ theater panel and sat on the national Board of Directors for Network of Ensemble Theaters. Whiteside is a cum laude graduate of Northwestern University, received her MFA at The School of the Art Institute of Chicago and is a Kellogg Executive Scholar in Nonprofit Management (Kellogg School of Management, Northwestern University). For her Chicago stage work, she’s received eight Joseph Jefferson Awards, Citations, and nominations.  She’s the recipient of two After Dark Awards and numerous Broadway World Chicago Award nominations for producing and acting.  She was named in Newcity’s “The Players: The Fifty People Who Really Perform in Chicago” and nominated for Chicago Magazine’s Chicagoan of the Year.


American Blues Theater is the premier American theater producing visceral theatrical works while engaging its audience in worthwhile missions of local service agencies.  American Blues Theater illuminates the American ideas of freedom, equality, and opportunity in the plays we produce and communities we serve.

The multi-generational and interdisciplined artists have established the second-oldest professional Equity Ensemble theater in Chicago.  The 39-member Ensemble has nearly 500 combined years of collaboration on stage. As of 2014, they’ve individually received over 126 Joseph Jefferson Awards and nominations that celebrate excellence in Chicago theater and over 20 Black Theatre Alliance Awards. The artists are honored with Pulitzer Prize nominations, Academy Awards, Golden Globe Awards, Emmy Awards, and numerous other accolades.

The American Blues Theater Ensemble includes all four Founders Ed Blatchford, Rick Cleveland, James Leaming, and William Payne with Dawn Bach, Matthew Brumlow, Manny Buckley, Kate Buddeke, Sarah Burnham, Dara Cameron, Casey Campbell, Brian Claggett, Dennis Cockrum, Austin Cook, Laura Coover, Lauri Dahl, Kristin DeiTos, Joe Foust, Tom Geraty, Cheryl Graeff, Marty Higginbotham, Jaclyn Holsey, Lindsay Jones, Samantha Jones, Nambi E. Kelley, Kevin R. Kelly, Steve Key, Ed Kross, Warren Levon, Michael Mahler, Kelli Marino, Heather Meyers , John Mohrlein, Jim Ortlieb, Suzanne Petri, Carmen Roman, Editha Rosario, Sarah E. Ross and Gwendolyn Whiteside.

Producing Artistic Director Gwendolyn Whiteside and American Blues Theater, Chicago’s second oldest Equity ensemble, are proud to announce the  Saturday, June 21 performance of Grounded, by George Brant and directed by Lisa Portes, at the Greenhouse Theater Center, 2257 N. Lincoln Ave. is a benefit performance for Children of War Foundation. Proceeds from the performance will go directly to surgery and medical treatment for Shah Bibi Tarakhail, an Afghan Child Affected by War. The running time is approximately 80 minutes.  Grounded runs through July 13. The performance schedule is Thursdays – Saturdays at 7:30 p.m.and Sundays at 2:30 p.m. Tickets are $19 – $49 and are available at 773.404.7336 or


American Blues Theater programs and activities are made possible, in part, by funding by The Richard H. Driehaus Foundation, the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, Actors’ Equity Foundation, Eurex, Arts Work Fund, Illinois Arts Council, the Chip Pringle Fund, and the “Special Ops” Sponsors.  ComEd is the official lighting season sponsor.