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UMD and Holiday Theater in Chicago

Schedule for Friday, December 9, 2011
6:00 Chicago Alumni Reception (appetizers and cash bar - Rehearsal Room)
7:40 Cast member conversations and holiday carols
8:00 Curtain time for It's a Wonderful Life: Live at the Biograph
9:30 Milk and cookies with the cast
The price is $35/person and it includes reception and performance. To reserve tickets or for more information, contact the UMD Alumni office at 1-866-726-7164 or email

The UMD Alumni Association is presenting some holiday hoopla in Chicago with a night at the theater.

Alumni and friends are invited to an Alumni Reception and the performance of It's a Wonderful Life: Live at the Biograph on Friday, December 9, beginning at 6 pm at the American Blues Theater (ABT), 2433 North Lincoln Ave. in Chicago.

The Chicago-based ABT has a connection to UMD. UMD’s William Payne, professor of theater and interim dean in the School of Fine Arts, is the co-founder of the ensemble and has been an ensemble member since in 1985. He’s directed nearly a dozen shows for American Blues Theater including: Half of Plenty, Quake, The Skin of Our Teeth, A Stone Carver, Food From Trash, Bad Moon, Desire Under the Elms, The Hairy Ape, Summer Brave, Geography of a Horse Dreamer, and Dogman’s Last Stand.

Payne highly recommends the theater ensemble, and he has praise for the play as well. "It's a Wonderful Life is one of the most enjoyable, beautiful, and powerful pieces of theater I have ever seen," he said.

American Blues Theater changed its name in 1997 to the American Theater Company. In 2009, citing “major administrative and artistic differences” almost all of the ensemble members, twenty-three in all, walked out and announced they were reforming under their original name, American Blues Theater.

Without a space and a budget, the ensemble started over. Today they are once again a force on the Chicago theater scene, having successfully produced two full seasons, created a thriving board of directors, all while garnering several Joseph Jefferson awards (Chicago's version of the Tony) along the way. Their audience has been loyal, especially to the ensemble's unique presentation of It's a Wonderful Life, now considered a holiday mainstay for the Chicago theater scene. American Blues is producing fewer times a year, but creating critically acclaimed hit shows like Waiting for Lefty, fall 2011 and Tobacco Road in 2010.

Read a review of It's a Wonderful Life: Live at the Biograph.


Written by Cheryl Reitan, November 2011

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