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 UMD News Releases

Communication Associate: Public Relations | Lori Melton | | (218) 726-8830

December 7, 2011
Susan Banovetz | Director of External Affairs | 218 726-6141|
Christiana Kapsner | UMD Public Relations Assistant | 218 726-8830 |

An Evening in Chicago

UMD Alumni Reception at the Victory Garden's Biograph Theater

During the 1940's, radio studios offered live performances with sound effects painting the scene with doors opening and closing, shoes tapping, and dishes clinking. Talented actors would bring life to a script, creating a world as entertaining as the modern day theater experience. The radio reached communities through the art of storytelling mingled with brief commercial breaks as announcers marketed the latest product with catchy tunes and rhymes.

At the Victory Garden's Biograph Theater in Chicago, Illinois, the American Blues Theater (ABT) is presenting "It's a Wonderful Life: Live at the Biograph" on Friday, December 9 from 6-9:30 p.m. The evening begins with a UMD alumni reception featuring appetizers and a cash bar in the Rehearsal Room of the Biograph located at 2433 North Lincoln Avenue.

The 90-minute "live" radio broadcast is based on the Frank Capra film "It's a Wonderful Life." The ABT performance encourages audience participation with actors handing out memo-grams for viewers to fill out with messages to their loved ones. The memo-grams are incorporated into the on-stage performance with the hosts guiding the show, and creating the live broadcast of an AM radio studio in Chicago.

In July 1985, ABT was co-founded by William Payne, UMD professor of theater and interim dean in the School of Fine Arts. The company dedicated itself to new and classic American plays.

"American Blues was founded on the idea that an artistic home would lead to better work," said Payne. "Our ability to collaborate for almost three decades embodies that concept in the rehearsal room, and in performance. My artistic family is precious - a rare gift in a business where the artist rarely gets to choose what they do, how they work, or who they get to work with. We get all three, and the work is the better for it."

Additional Information about the ABT
From 1985-1990, William Payne served as Artistic director. ABT produced critically-acclaimed productions of Eugene O'Neill's The Hairy Ape, Desire Under the Elms, and the world premieres of Cleveland's Dogman's Last Stand & Bad Moon. Richard Christiansen of the Chicago Tribune cited ABT as one of three companies in his editorial "Chicago Theater Forges New Standards of Glory."

ABT's multi-generational and disciplined Ensemble & Artistic Affiliates work in theater, television, and film. As of 2011, they've individually received over 100 Joseph Jefferson Awards, Citations, and nominations, 19 After Dark Awards, an Academy Award nomination, Golden Globe Award, Emmy Awards and nominations, Writers' Guild Awards, 17 Black Theatre Alliance Awards and nominations, and multiple Regional theater awards from NY, Los Angeles, DC, and Florida. ABT is the second-oldest Equity Ensemble in Chicago. ABT's 31-member Ensemble has over 382 combined years of collaboration on stage.

The Biograph Theater was originally a movie theater but now presents live productions. It is notable as the location where bank robber John Dillinger was shot by FBI agents after watching a gangster movie on July 22, 1934. The theater is on the National Register of Historic Places and was designated a Chicago Landmark on March 28, 2001.

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