Outreach and Engagement

An outreach performance at Chicago Talent Development High School
                                             The AFT outreach cast at Chicago Talent Development High School.
As a writer and performer Looking Out//Looking in challenged me to be genuine in my vulnerability. Not just emotional. But genuine. I think that’s what kids respond to the most profoundly: honesty from an adult figure. Especially a queer person. It became so clear to me that these kids have so many unanswered questions that they don’t know where to begin until we start sharing ourselves. Then, the floodgates open and some of the most powerful and honest discussions about identity, confidence, self worth, and origins occur between audience and performers. Queer magic at its finest.” -Xander, Outreach Ensemble Member 2018

Transforming Communities through Stories and Conversation

About Face Theatre understands that exposure to the arts and opportunities to engage with professional artists supports well-rounded education and provides students with opportunities for emotional growth and community involvement.

For the last twenty years, About Face Theatre Outreach Ensemble has toured productions to schools and organizations around Chicago to deliver LGBTQIA stories and advocate for safe and equitable environments. About Face Theatre is committed to creating performance and dialogue programs that provide safe and brave spaces to talk about LGBTQIA equity and inclusion.

We reach around 5,000 people every year in the Chicagoland area, using our productions and programs to build community, allyship, and foster understanding of LGBTQIA expressions and experiences. We have a touring show, we can customize interactive workshops, and we have guest speakers. We can meet you at your school, workplace, community organization, faith group, business, or wherever you’re advocating for some positive change.

What is an Outreach event? 

There are 3 steps to an About Face Theatre Outreach show or event. These steps are Consultation, the Performance or Workshop, and Evaluation of the event.

  1. Consultation

    • Reach out to our Associate Director of About Face Youth Theatre at donny@aboutfacetheatre.com to request a consultation. A member of AFT Outreach will speak to you about your programming needs to plan an event that best targets your school or workplace environment. We will also request the contact information of a point-person at your institution who will support our process and stay in touch with us afterwards to evaluate our event.
  2. Performance or Workshop

    • Whether a performance, workshop or guest speaker, our primary goals are to:

      1. Model community building and allyship through LGBTQIA representation and storytelling on stage.
      2. Increase understanding of evolving gender and sexuality experiences with regard to language, identities, and expressions.
      3. Embolden individuals and communities to identify actionable strategies for cultivating inclusion.
    • We provide time and space for feedback and for answering questions. Additionally, we end our show with an invitation for youth to join our Youth Ensemble. Adults are encouraged to stay engaged with About Face Theatre by seeing our full productions or engaging with our board.  
  3. Evaluation

    • A point-person at your institution will follow up with us to take a survey after our event. This survey will help inform the work that we do, and will help reflect to you what the next steps might be to make your institution more inclusive of diverse gender and sexuality identities.

For more information, or to book a performance, please email to Associate Director of About Face Youth Theatre Donny Acosta at donny@aboutfacetheatre.com or call 773-784-8565 x105.

What are we touring now?

Our Current Touring Production is POWER IN PRIDE.

About Face Theatre presents the premiere of POWER IN PRIDE, an original touring show developed by the celebrated About Face Theatre Education & Outreach Program. POWER IN PRIDE brings humorous and brave stories about gender and sexuality to spark conversations with middle and high school students, educators, 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 invites audiences into positive dialogue to create more equitable and inclusive environments for all.

Along with the performance, AFT staff can provide workshops in storytelling, devising, and art for social justice. We can work with you to develop a program that is most beneficial for your group.

Meet the actors on tour in POWER IN PRIDE!

Donny Acosta (he/him/his) is a queer performance artist who was born in Orange County, California and crowned in Chicago. He has devised pieces and performed them all over the city, including the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago Actors Call to Action, and numerous festivals. He is also the Associate Director of About Face Youth Theatre and a proud ensemble member of The Wild Atlas Theatre Company and The Drinking and Writing Theatre.
Dionne Addai (she/her/hers) is an actor, teaching artist, and For Youth Inquiry company member.  She has many identities: bisexual, Christian, feminist, and Ghanaian American. She graduated from Loyola University with degrees in Gender Studies and History. She enjoys creating art based around reducing the stigma that can come with talks about sex and sexuality. As an actor, she’s worked with Writers Theatre, Eclipse Theatre, Raven Theatre, Stage Left Theatre, Cor Theatre, and ETA Creative Arts.
Jimbo Pestano (they/them/their) is a Chicago based actor and drag artist. Jimbo identifies as genderqueer. They have worked with About Face Youth Theatre, Route 66 Theatre Company, and the National New Play Network. This upcoming year will be their 6th year in a row working with AFYT, after being seen in Checking Boxes, 15 Breaths, Ad Hoc [Home], Brave Like Them, and Scary Stories to Save Your Life. They also serve on the Youth Task Force and will be a part of the Outreach production. Favorite past credits include RENT (Angel), A Midsummer Night’s Dream (Puck), Songs For a New World, and Shrek: The Musical (Donkey). Outside of theatre, they’ve been doing drag for 5 years, having performed with Salonathon, Trains Magazine, and now a regular with Random Acts Chicago’s monthly variety series, #SafeSpace.
Lexi Saunders Lexi Saunders (she/her/hers) is a queer director, performer, and teaching artist originally from Los Angeles. She has directed various works at Haven, The Gift, (re)discover, 2nd Story, Mudlark, 1MPF, Cuckoos, Pride Films & Plays, and assistant directed at Steppenwolf, Victory Gardens, Steep, and Jackalope. Lexi was also selected for Victory Gardens’ 2016 Directors Inclusion Initiative and Haven Theatre’s 2017 Directors Haven. She currently teaches Living History with TimeLine Theatre, Empathic Playwriting with Silk Road Rising, and Shakespeare for femme and non-binary youth empowerment with The Viola Project. Lexi has loved performing in the Outreach ensemble the past few years and is so grateful and thrilled to be directing it this year!
Aimy Tien (she/her/hers) is a Colorado transplant who fell into storytelling and performing due to a combination of an irrational childhood fear of lions, a Val Kilmer film, and an overactive imagination. Now a Chicago-based performer, writer, and producer, Aimy focuses on bringing the stories of people of color and marginalized groups to the page, stage, and screen. She is company member of 2nd Story and the Co-Director of Operations of Women of the Now, a womxn-run film collective. Find out more about upcoming shows and her other work on AimyTien.com
Mia Vivens (she/her/hers) is a multidisciplinary artist and educator; a queer poetess/mover/maker originally hailing from Columbus, Ohio. She is an alumna of Valparaiso University, having studied Theater and Dance. Her work centers around diversity and inclusion and the intersections of queerness and blackness. In her work for About Face Theatre as the Associate Director of Outreach and Engagement, she tours a show about gender and sexuality to local Chicagoland middle and high schools. She has also worked with many theatres in Chicago as both an actor and a director.