Announcing About Face’s 2019-2020 Season

Wednesday, September 11, 9:48 PM written by AFT Theatre

An intimate season of local and world premiere stories

About Face Theatre’s 2019-20 season will feature three hyper-intimate main stage productions that reveal the history and diversity of the LGBTQ community in new ways. The season will feature three Chicago-premiere productions, a new initiative from About Face’s groundbreaking Youth Task Force, and a regional touring production designed to spark dialogue about gender and sexuality. The mainstage productions will explore LGBTQ experiences through the perspectives of members of three different segments of the community – a gay man, a lesbian couple, and a group of twenty-something queer friends. Taken as a whole, the range of perspectives offered in the season highlight the challenges shared across generations of the LGBTQ community.

About Face Theatre’s 24thseason kicks off this fall in October with Scott Bradley’s solo show PACKING, directed by Victory Gardens Theater Artistic Director Chay Yew. PACKING follows one Midwestern artist’s personal journey of self-discovery as it intersects with the past half-century of queer history. The season continues in January 2020 with Audrey Cefaly’s THE GULF, directed by AFT Artistic Director Megan Carney. THE GULF is an intimate drama in which a lesbian couple tests the bonds of their relationship while boat fishing in the American South. The mainstage season concludes in May and June 2020 with LACED by Sam Mueller, directed by Lexi Saunders, which tells the frighteningly contemporary story of how an LGBTQ community comes together after its local hangout is vandalized. All three mainstage productions will be performed at Theatre Wit, 1227 W. Belmont Ave.

“As one of the country’s few LGBTQ theatres, we have an important role to play as storytellers and innovators,” says Artistic Director Megan Carney. “For our 24thseason, we’re continuing to showcase the wide range of voices within our community, both locally and nationally.  Between our innovative mainstage shows and our phenomenal education and outreach programming, we are amplifying the voices of seasoned artists alongside those of emerging leaders. I look forward to sharing these remarkable stories in the year ahead.”

Additionally, About Face Youth Theatre’s KINSHIP and POWER IN PRIDE will return to highlight the voices of up-and-coming LGBTQ leaders as they tell their own stories and help others find their voices in order to build a strong tomorrow for everyone in the queer community.



World Premiere
Written and performed by AFT Artistic Associate Scott Bradley
Directed by Victory Gardens Artistic  Director Chay Yew
October 31 – December 7, 2019
at Theater Wit, 1229 W. Belmont Ave, Chicago

Packing (temp) posterHalf of discovering who you are is finding where you belong. PACKING, a solo performance from writer/performer Scott Bradley (WE THREE LIZAS, Scooty & Jojo’s ALIEN QUEEN and CARPENTERS HALLOWEEN), is the tale of a genderqueer vagabond leaving small-town boyhood on an Iowa farm in the 1960s and ‘70s on a three-decade long odyssey through England, New York City, and Chicago. His journey of reinvention captures a snapshot of recent history through personal accounts of assaults, addictions, the plague years of the AIDS crisis, and the fight for marriage equality. Combining personal memoir, historical record, popular music, and ancestral frontier stories, Bradley’s story illuminates the deeply personal LGBTQ struggles too-often erased from U.S. history.

“I’m thrilled to be collaborating with Scott Bradley on his powerful play,” says Director Chay Yew.“This deeply personal autobiography about survival, addiction, family and the search for self, courses through the milestones of gay history of the last fifty years. Throughout his harrowing journey, Scott courageously bares his soul to us through humor, brutal honesty and poetry. What emerges is an American portrait of an incredible man who is willing to risk it all to find a place called home.”


Chicago Premiere
Written by Audrey Cefaly
Directed by AFT Artistic Director Megan Carney
Featuring AFT Artistic Associate Kelli Simpkins
January 9 – February 15, 2020
at Theater Wit, 1229 W. Belmont Ave, Chicago

The Gulf (temp) posterIn the middle of a river and long past the middle of their relationship, Kendra and Betty are questioning where their life together will go next. On a muggy summer evening somewhere down in the Alabama Delta, the two women troll the flats looking for redfish. As passions and tensions flare over past infidelities, life-choices, and job struggles, the couple must confront what it takes to overcome the space between them. THE GULF won the Lambda Literary Award for LGBTQ Drama, the David Calicchio American Playwright Prize, and the Samuel French Off Off Broadway Festival.

“THE GULF is both funny and deeply vulnerable as it explores connecting across differences and what gets shaken up in the pursuit of a bigger life,” says director Megan Carney. “There’s something truly compelling and even scary about those moments when we find the courage to speak the truth, especially when it puts everything we know and love at risk. These two women, both lovers and fighters, are doing just that. And the results are breathtaking.”


World Premiere
Written by Samantha Mueller
Directed by AFT Artistic Associate Lexi Saunders
May 13 – June 13, 2020
at Theater Wit, 1229 W. Belmont Ave, Chicago

Laced (temp) posterThe night after a queer bar outside of Tampa, Florida, is vandalized, three twenty-something bartenders gather to grieve, riot, and above all, piece together the events of the night before. But as these three friends process the violation of their space, they must decide if it is healthier to understand what happened or to just clean up and move on. Fiery, poetic, and up-to-the-minute contemporary, LACED ferociously celebrates the spaces in which we find our truest selves and the spectrum of ways the LGBTQ community comes together in the face of hate.

“What struck me most about this play are these unapologetically queer femme identities we hardly ever get to see onstage,” says director Lexi Saunders. “Sam Mueller has crafted a world full of laughter, heart, and muscle in the midst of absolute ruin. LACED is a poetic ode to Stonewall, to Pulse, to Berlin, to the places we make home and the strangers we call family. In a landscape that wants to only further politicize and vandalize our bodies, our love, our spaces – how can we keep ourselves and each other safe?”

Kidship (temp) poster


An All-Ages Queer Variety Show
Curated by Youth Task Force Members Angelica Grace, Micah Manternach, and Sharon Pasia
Dates and venue TBD

Centering on the voices of LGBTQ youth of color, KINSHIP is an all-ages queer variety show series that brings emerging artists center stage. Curated through a partnership between rising LGBTQ community leaders and the artistic staff at About Face Theatre, KINSHIP invites brave acts of storytelling, drag, and music, and connects LGBTQ people and their allies throughout the city. Five KINSHIP events will take place in the 2019-season.

Pwoer in Pride (temp) poster


An Original Touring Performance and Civic Dialogue Program
Developed by the AFT Outreach cast including Aimy Tien, Dionne Addai, and Youth Task Force Member Angelíca Grace
Directed by AFT Artistic Associate Lexi Saunders
Touring production, dates, and venues TBD

POWER IN PRIDE uses humorous and brave stories about gender and sexuality to spark conversations with middle and high school students, educators, church groups, workplaces, and community members of all ages. Based in true experiences of building chosen family, maintaining self-care, being a strong ally, and finding personal joy, POWER IN PRIDE meets audiences where they are to build understanding about gender and sexuality and take conversations to the next level. This touring show will be performed at approximately 20 venues around the Chicagoland region, reaching approximately 5000 people during the season.


SCOTT BRADLEY (PACKING Playwright/Actor) is a writer, performer, educator, and director. He wrote the books for, directed, and performed in Chicago’s long-running genderqueer-rock-puppet-spectacles ALIEN QUEEN (BroadwayWorld Chicago Award: Best Special Theatrical Event) and CARPENTERS HALLOWEEN, as well as the acclaimed MOLLYWOOD, and TRAN: THE ATARI MUSICAL. His musical WE THREE LIZAS (book, lyrics, performer) premiered at About Face Theatre and has enjoyed multiple productions nationally. As a writer, actor, and/or director, his work has been seen at Joe’s Pub at the Public Theatre, PNBC/HERE, adobe theater company, HOME for Contemporary Theatre & Art, BACA Downtown, About Face Theatre, The Scooty & JoJo Show, Metro Chicago, The Hypocrites, Walkabout Theatre Company, Hell In A Handbag Productions, Bailiwick Repertory, Arena Stage, The Shakespeare Theatre, UMO Ensemble, and Open Circle Theater. Bradley is an Artistic Associate of About Face Theatre, alumnus of the Iowa Playwrights Workshop, and a member of Dramatists Guild, AEA and SAG/AFTRA.

CHAY YEW (PACKING Director) is the artistic director of Victory Gardens Theatre in Chicago. His Chicago theatre credits include productions with Victory Gardens Theatre, Goodman Theatre, Northlight Theater, and Teatro Visa. His regional production credits include Public Theater, Playwrights Horizons, New York Theatre Workshop, Rattlestick, Playwrights Realm, Ensemble Studio Theatre, Humana Festival, Mark Taper Forum, American Conservatory Theatre, South Coast Rep, Berkeley Rep, Long Wharf, Huntington Theatre, Oregon Shakespeare Festival, Denver Theater Center, Kennedy Center, Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company, Seattle Rep, Cincinnati Playhouse, Portland Center Stage, Playmakers Rep, Boise Contemporary Theatre, Cornerstone Theatre Company, Round House Theatre, Geva Theater Center, Ma Yi Theatre Company, East West Players, National Asian American Theatre Company, Empty Space, Curious Theatre, Theatre at Boston Court, Pillsbury Theatre, Gala Hispanic Theatre, Mosaic Theatre, Singapore Repertory Theatre, amongst others. His opera credits include the world premieres of Osvaldo Golijov and David Henry Hwang’s AINADAMAR (co-production with Tanglewood Music Center, Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts and Los Angeles Philharmonic) and Rob Zuidam’s RAGE D’AMORS (Tanglewood). He is a recipient of the OBIE Award and a DramaLogue for Direction.

AUDREY CEFALY (THE GULF Director) is a southern writer and Alabama native based in the DC region. Her plays include THE GULF, ALABASTER, MAYTAG VIRGIN, THE LAST WIDE OPEN; THE STORY OF WALTER (adapted from her podcast of the same name), and LOVE IS A BLUE TICK HOUND (a collection of award-winning one-acts). She has developed plays with the National New Play Network, Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park, Signature Theatre, Serenbe Playhouse (New Territories), Aurora Theatre, Florida Rep, Theater Alliance, Quotidian Theatre Company, University of Alabama – Birmingham, and Contemporary American Theater Festival. Cefaly is a member of the 2019 Playwrights’ Arena cohort at Arena Stage and was recently named a Traveling Master by the Dramatist Guild Foundation. She is an outspoken proponent of silence in storytelling and has authored numerous articles on the topic of playwriting for HowlRound and Samuel French’s BREAKING CHARACTER Magazine.

MEGAN CARNEY (THE GULF Director) is a director, playwright, and teaching artist, and the Artistic Director of About Face Theatre. Recent Chicago directing credits include TIME IS ON OUR SIDE (About Face), WINTER, GRIZZLY MAMA, Danielle Pinnock’s BODY/COURAGE, AMERICAN WEE PIE, and THE WALLS (Rivendell). Megan has written several plays based on true stories, including WOMEN AT WAR, based on 75 interviews with women in the military (Rivendell); OPEN SYSTEMS, about the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina (Goodman Theatre); LET THEM EAT CAKE, about marriage equality (Dixon Place, NYC); and multiple large ensemble plays with About Face Youth Theatre, which she co-founded. Megan’s work in theatre and community building has been recognized with multiple After Dark Awards, the GLSEN Pathfinder Award, an APA Presidential Citation, induction into Chicago’s LGBT Hall of Fame, and a Rockefeller Foundation MAP Grant. Megan served as the Director of the Gender and Sexuality Center at the University of Illinois at Chicago, where she developed public arts-based programs and led interactive workshops. She is a certified mediator with the Center for Conflict Resolution, earned an MFA in Theatre with a focus on Directing and Public Dialogue from Virginia Tech as well as a BA from Kalamazoo College, where her ideas about art as a tool for social justice and activism began to take shape.

KELLI SIMPKINS (THE GULF Actor) is a theater, film and television actor. She has been a company member of NYC’s Tectonic Theater Project since 1999. She is one of the original creators/dramaturges/performers of THE LARAMIE PROJECT and appeared in HBO’s THE LARAMIE PROJECT, for which she and fellow company members share a Humanitas Prize and an Emmy nomination. She is a Tectonic Moment Work teaching artist and has led training labs throughout the country. She co-wrote, directed and devised an original play with students at Western Michigan University called GOOD DEATH, which was subsequently performed at the Kennedy Center’s Region III American College Theatre Festival. Simpkins is a contributing writer to the book MOMENT WORK—TECTONIC THEATER PROJECT’S PROCESS OF DEVISING THEATER. After living in New York for fifteen years, Simpkins relocated to Chicago, where she has worked with Steppenwolf Theatre, The Goodman, American Theater Company, Timeline, Victory Gardens, and About Face Theater, where she is also an artistic associate. She returns to NYC frequently to perform and to devise and develop work with longtime artistic collaborators. Simpkins is represented by NYC manager Jodi Schoenbrun Carter at 1022m Management. She is a proud recipient of the 2013 3ARTS award.

SAMANTHA MUELLER (LACED Playwright) is a Chicago-born, New York-based playwright. Her play THE WAY THIS CITY BLEEDS was a 2017 semi-finalist for the Bay Area Playwrights Festival, as well as a 2015 winner of the Agnes Nixon Playwriting Award. She is an artistic associate with the NYC theater collective G45 Productions and a proud graduate of Northwestern University, where she first began working with Seesaw Theatre to create pieces of theater for children with disabilities. She has published two articles about immersive theater on Howlround, including one about Seesaw’s 2017 production.

LEXI SAUNDERS (LACED Director, POWER IN PRIDE Director) is a queer director, writer, performer, and teaching artist originally from Los Angeles with a BA in Theatre from UC San Diego. She has been part of the About Face’s touring Outreach Ensemble since 2015. Saunders’ recent Chicago directing credits include EURYDICE (Jedlicka Performing Arts Center), MISSED OPPORTUNITIES (Cuckoo’s Theatre Project), THE DEPARTURE (Haven Theatre), GROUNDED (Theater of Thought/Pride Arts), FIFTY SHADES OF SHAKESPEARE ((re)discover theatre), SUPER (Mudlark Theater), and various other workshops, readings, and short plays at The Gift, Victory Gardens, Chicago Dramatists, 2nd Story, Something Marvelous, and Pride Films & Plays. She currently teaches theatre with TimeLine Theatre, The Viola Project, 2nd Story, Mudlark Theater, Silk Road Rising, Camp Bravo, and Chicago Children Theatre’s Red Kite Project.