American Blues Theater (ABT), Chicago's second oldest Equity ensemble, kicks off the Ensemble's 27th season with the world premiere of Illegal Use of Hands by Emmy Award-winner, two-time Pulitzer Prize finalist and ABT Artistic Affiliate James Still, directed by Sandy Shinner, August 31 – September 30 at Victory Gardens' Richard Christiansen Theater, 2433 N. Lincoln Avenue. Press opening for Illegal Use of Hands is Thursday, Sept. 6 at 7 p.m. Tickets range from $10 - $39. Complete ticket information including ticket on-sale date and performance schedule will be announced at a later date.
In a small town where buzzards feast on a dead Chevy and the local Wal-Mart hires only college graduates, three men [ABT ensemble member Steve Key (Broadway tour of August: Osage County), ABT Artistic Affiliate Dennis Zacek (founding artistic director of Victory Gardens Theater) and Howie Johnson (award-winning Killer Joe at Profiles Theater)] wait out the night in the company of a high school football trophy they have rescued from obscurity. It's a story about revenge,glory, and being a man-if only the characters could agree on what they can't remember.
"We're thrilled to present James Still's voice to Chicago audiences for the first time," says Gwendolyn Whiteside, ABT producing artistic director. "Many of our ensemble have worked with James at other regional theaters, and we're honored to bring him to our own artistic home."
"This is my first major production in Chicago – a homecoming that is long in the making. Right out of college in the 1980s, I moved to Chicago as a young actor where I got my Equity card doing CLOUD 9 with Steppenwolf. Doing that play at that time and also sitting in the audience witnessing dozens of other great collaborations going on Chicago made a huge impact on me. Illegal Use of Hands comes from that instinct. I deeply admire ABT's commitment to straight-shooting, muscular, hair-raisingly beautiful work with American plays," says ABT Artistic Affiliate James Still.
JAMES STILL (playwright) Still's award-winning plays have been produced at theaters throughout the United States, Canada, Europe, Japan, China and Australia. Still's plays include The Heavens are Hung in Black, Iron Kisses, The Velvet Rut, A Long Bridge Over Deep Waters, Looking Over the President's Shoulder, Searching for Eden, He Held Me Grand, And Then They Came for Me, A Village Fable, Hush: An Interview With America, and The Velocity of Gary (Not His Real Name). New plays include Illegal Use of Hands, I Love to Eat, The House That Jack Built, and The Mary Todd Lincoln Project. Still is the playwright-in-residence at the Indiana Repertory Theatre, an elected member of The National Theatre Conference, and a Fellow in the College of Fellows of the American Theatre. He is also a winner of the William Inge Festival's Otis Guernsey New Voices in American Theatre award, the Medallion for Sustained Achievement from the Children's Theatre Foundation of America, and the Charlotte B. Chorpenning Playwright Award for Distinguished Body of Work. Three of Still's plays have received the Distinguished Play Award from the American Alliance for Theatre and Education, and his work has twice been nominated for the Pulitzer Prize. His plays have been developed and workshopped at Sundance, the New Harmony Project, the O'Neill, The Lark, the Telluride Playwright's Festival and Oregon Shakespeare Festival's BLACK SWAN Lab. In addition to his work in the theater, Still also works in television and film and has been nominated for five Emmys, twice a finalist for the Humanitas Prize and a Television Critics Association Award. Still grew up in a small town in Kansas and lives in Los Angeles. After graduating from the University of Kansas, he began his professional theater career in Chicago. James Still is an Artistic Affiliate of American Blues Theater.
Sandy Shinner (director) Sandy Shinner recently directed the Chicago premiere of Crooked by Catherine Trieschmann at Rivendell Theatre as well as Sarah Ruhl's In the Next Room or the vibrator play at Victory Gardens Theater. Her recent directing credits include the world premieres of Joel Drake Johnson's The Boys Room, A Guide For The Perplexed, Four Places ( VG), and Tranquility Woods ( Steppenwolf's First Look) as well as Aditi Brennan Kapil's Love Person, Jeffrey Sweet's Flyovers (at New York's 78th Street Theatre Lab) and the revival of Eurydice by Sarah Ruhl (co-directed with Jessica Thebus). She has directed ten world premieres by Claudia Allen including I Sailed with Magellan, adapted from the book by Chicagoan Stuart Dybek, as well as Winter and Fossils, both starring Julie Harris. Other credits include the world premieres of Memory House by Kathleen Tolan (Actors Theatre of Louisville's Humana Festival and VG) and Trying by Joanna McClelland Glass, which transferred from Victory Gardens to off-Broadway's Promenade Theatre. Shinner created and produced IGNITION at Victory Gardens. The bi-annual festival brought the critically-acclaimed The Elaborate Entrance of Chad Deity by Kristoffer Diaz, the widely produced Year Zero by Michael Golamco, and Edith Can Shoot Things and Hit Them by A. Rey Pamatmat to national attention as well VG's world premiere of We Are Proud To Present A Presentation…by Jackie Sibblies Drury. With Dennis Zacek and Marcelle McVay, Shinner was honored to accept the 2001 Tony Award® for Outstanding Regional Theatre on behalf of Victory Gardens. Shinner is a member of the Society of Stage Directors and Choreographers and was a finalist for the Joe A. Callaway Director's Award for the New York production of Trying. She was recognized as one of the "Top 50 Players" in 2009 and as one of 16 "Chicagoans of the Year" in 2001. She is an editor of Victory Gardens Presents: Seven Plays from the Playwrights Ensemble, published by Northwestern University Press. She is also an adjunct professor at DePaul University.