Gwendolyn (Wendy) Whiteside is the Artistic Director of American Blues Theater.
She joined the Ensemble of American Blues Theater in 1998 and has served as Artistic Director since 2010. Under her leadership, American Blues has nearly doubled the size of its Ensemble, added 30 Artistic Affiliates, and diversified its base of artists. She created the annual Blue Ink Playwriting Award, Blueprint Development for new work, implemented community service into the company’s mission, and adapted the free arts education program The Lincoln Project for Chicago Public Schools serving over 2,000 students annually. She fiscally led American Blues through its 2009 rebirth and built the operational budget from zero to $1 million in seven years.
Whiteside served numerous panels for the National Endowment for the Arts and sat on the national Board of Directors for Network of Ensemble Theaters. She's a graduate of Northwestern University (cum laude), The School of the Art Institute of Chicago (MFA), and a Kellogg Executive Scholar in Nonprofit Management (Kellogg School of Management, Northwestern University).
Her written work has been produced, published, and read at American Blues Theater in Ripped: The Living Newspaper Project and Big Shoulders, Lankershim Arts Center, Mary Arrchie Theatre’s Abbie Hoffman Festival, All-Story: Zoetrope Writers’ Retreat, Waiting Room Magazine, Ink, Edinburgh College of Art, Betty Rymer Gallery, G2 Gallery, AgrAbility, Illinois Farm Bureau’s Partners Magazine, and Powell’s Bookstore. She was a fiction finalist for Bomb Magazine’s annual prize (judged by A.M. Homes) and Glimmertrain Press.
She was nominated for “Chicagoan of the Year” in Chicago Magazine and twice listed in Newcity’s annual Players list. In seven years, eight American Blues’ productions won or were nominated for best production by the Joseph Jefferson Award committee. She’s received 13 Joseph Jefferson Awards, Citations, and nominations as an actress and Artistic Director. Her favorite performances include Jeff Award for Solo Performance (Grounded), Jeff Award nomination for Solo Performance (the K of D), Mary’s Wedding (Top 5 performances in Indianapolis), Collected Stories (Best Actress Broadway World Chicago Award), and 6 years as “Mary Bailey” (It’s a Wonderful Life: Live in Chicago!). She’s the recipient of two (2) After Dark Awards and numerous Broadway World Chicago Awards and nominations. She's the director of Chicago's holiday tradition It's a Wonderful Life: Live in Chicago!
She’s grateful to the Chicago artistic community.
photo by Joe Mazza / brave lux