Looking Over the President’s Shoulder at American Blues Theater Opens Feb. 11 at the Greenhouse


American Blues Theater continues its 30th anniversary season with the Chicago premiere of Looking Over the President’s Shoulder, by Artistic Affiliate James Still and directed by Timothy Douglas. A solo show featuring Ensemble Member Manny Buckley, Looking Over the President’s Shoulder tells the story of African-American White House Butler Alonzo Fields, who served four presidents between 1931 and 1953. Looking Over the President’s Shoulder runs February 5 – March 6 at the Greenhouse Theater Center, 2257 N Lincoln Avenue. Opening night is Thursday, Feb. 11, 2016 at 7:30 p.m. Tickets can be purchased by calling 773-404-7336 or visiting www.AmericanBluesTheater.com.

“Long before the election of President Barack Obama, there was an African-American man who, for 21 years, had very much been running things at the White House,” comments Director Timothy Douglas. “It is with great honor and eagerness that I return to Chicago to stage this intimate and moving tribute composed by longtime friend and colleague James Still.”

Before Lee Daniels’ “The Butler,” playwright James Still shared the real-life, inspirational story of Alonzo Fields, grandson of a freed slave, who grew up in an all-black town in southern Indiana. Forced by the Depression to give up his dreams of becoming an opera singer, Fields accepts a job at the White House and served there for 21 years. This tour-de-force solo play is told from the unique perspective of serving four U.S. presidents and their families: Herbert Hoover, Franklin Roosevelt, Harry Truman, and Dwight Eisenhower. “Gentle Americana, amiable, and dignified…the appeal is its peeking through the keyhole quality,” said The Washington Post.

The creative team for Looking Over the President’s Shoulder includes Brian Sidney Bembridge (scenic and light design), Christopher J. Neville (costume design), Rick Sims (sound design), Amanda Herrmann (properties) and Jaclyn Holsey* (stage manager).

*Denotes Ensemble member or Artistic Affiliate of American Blues Theater.

About the Artists

James Still’s (Playwright) award-winning plays have been produced throughout the U.S., Canada, Europe, Australia, South Africa, China, and Japan. Recent premiers include Appoggiatura at Denver Center, The Widow Lincoln at Ford’s Theatre, and Before We Forgot How to Dream at Indiana Repertory where he is the Playwright in Residence. His new play Miranda premiers later this year at Illusion in Minneapolis. He is a four-time Pulitzer Prize nominee for his work in the theater, and a five-time Emmy nominee for his work in television. He received the Otis Guernsey New Voices Award from the William Inge Festival, the Todd McNerney New Play Prize from Spoleto and is an elected member at the Kennedy Center. He is proud to be an Artistic Affiliate of American Blues. He lives in Los Angeles.

Timothy Douglas (Director) Chicago directing credits include Robert O’Hara’s Etiquette of Vigilance at Steppenwolf, Rajiv Joseph’s The Lake Effect at Silk Road Rising (Jeff Award Best New Work), and Mourning Becomes Electra and Changes of Heart at Remy Bumppo. National credits include King Hedley II at Arena Stage, Father Comes Home From the Wars at Roundhouse Theatre, Bronte: A Portrait of Charlotte off-Broadway, and the world premiere of August Wilson’s Radio Golf at Yale Rep. He currently serves as an Associate Artist at Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park where he has directed Clybourne Park, Trip to Bountiful, The North Pool, Buzzer, and the world premiere of Safe House, and served as Associate Artistic Director at Actors Theatre of Louisville where he directed ten productions including three Humana Festival premieres. Timothy has directed over 100 projects for, American Conservatory Theater, Guthrie, Berkeley Rep, Center Theatre Group, South Coast Rep, Steppenwolf, Playmakers Rep, Berkshire Theatre Festival, Downstage (NZ), National Theatre (Norway), Milwaukee Rep (associate artist), and many others. MFA Yale.

Manny Buckley (Alonzo Fields) joined the ensemble of American Blues Theater in 2012. Most recently, Buckley was seen in 1984 at Steppenwolf, and in Waiting For Lefty at American Blues. He originated the role of “Carson” in Hit the Wall (The Inconvenience), which sold out houses at Steppenwolf’s Garage Rep and Theater on the Lake. His performance earned him the “Best Actor Award” from the Chicago Reader and a Black Theater Alliance Award as “Best Featured Actor.” He has also performed with Steppenwolf for Young Audiences in Of Mice and Men, House Theater of Chicago’s Dorian, Chicago Dramatists’ Southbridge, Profiles Theater’s Hellcab, Next Theater’s The Piano Teacher, Pavement Group’s Harry and the Thief, City Lit’s Comrades Mine, and Gift Theater’s The Last Days of Judas Iscariot and Streamers. Buckley was on national tour as “Satchel Paige” in the original touring production of The Satchel Paige Story. He also had the privilege of performing at the Kennedy Center and in the only selection from the U.S. to appear in the English Language Theatre Festival in Bratislava, Slovakia. His other credits include “Chicago Fire,” “Under Covers,” “Sugar” and “Pilgrim.”

American Blues Theater’s Town Halls

American Blues Theater offers free post-show events Sundays February 14 –28.

Community Service for Looking Over the President’s Shoulder

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 collaborates with DuSable Museum and The Family Institute at Northwestern University.

Looking Over the President’s Shoulder is made possible in part by funding by The MacArthur Funds for Arts & Culture at Prince, the Shubert Foundation, The Chicago Community Trust, SMART Growth Grant, Arts Work Fund, Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors, the Illinois Arts Council Agency, Robert R. McCormick Foundation, Anixter Foundation, Actors’ Equity Foundation, Northern Trust, Eurex, Seyfarth Shaw LLP, and the Chip Pringle Fund. ComEd is the 2015-2016 Season Lighting Sponsor.

FACT SHEET/Looking Over the President’s Shoulder

Title: Looking Over the President’s Shoulder

Written by: Artistic Affiliate James Still

Directed by: Timothy Douglas

Featuring: Ensemble Member Manny Buckley


Previews: February 5-7, 2016

Press opening: Thursday, February 11, 2016 at 7:30 PM

Regular run: February 12 – March 6, 2016

Times: \

Thursdays: 7:30 p.m.

Fridays: 7:30 p.m.

Saturdays: 3:00 p.m. (Feb 27 and March 5 only); 7:30 p.m.

Sundays: 2:30 p.m.


Performance: Audio Description and Touch Tour: Sunday, February 14 at 2:30 p.m.

Location: American Blues Theater performs at the Greenhouse Theater Center; 2257 N. Lincoln

Ave, Chicago.

Prices: Previews are $19. American Blues Theater hosts “Pink Previews” where tickets sales benefit the Lynn Sage Foundation for breast cancer research. Opening Night tickets are $49. Regular Run tickets are $29 – $39.

Students receive a $10 discount with a valid student ID.

Seniors (60 yrs +) receive $5 off.

Groups of 6 or more patrons receive a $10 discount per ticket.

Box Office: Buy online at www.AmericanBluesTheater.com or by phone at 773-404-7336.

About American Blues Theater

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


The multi-generational and interdisciplined artists have established the second-oldest professional Equity Ensemble theater in Chicago. The 38-member Ensemble has 530 combined years of collaboration on stage. As of 2016, the theater and artists received 172 Joseph Jefferson Awards and nominations that celebrate excellence in Chicago theater and over 28 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, Suzanne Petri, Carmen Roman, Editha Rosario, Sarah E. Ross and Gwendolyn Whiteside.