About Face Theatre presents  

Since 2013, AFT’s OUT FRONT series has presented workshops and readings of new work exploring LGBTQIA themes.

For our 22nd season, in recognition of the under representation of women’s voices in theatre, we present BABES ON STAGE, a showcase of new work by emerging LGBTQIA women-identified playwrights.

In the summer of 2017, we put out a national call for new plays by queer women writers and received 85 plays from around the country. Reading the plays and getting to start conversations with so many writers has already been a phenomenal success. We hope to have ongoing relationships with these writers and to find ways to continue to support them and their work going forward.

In order to select plays for this year’s OutFront series, AJ Schwartz, Curator, and Cari Meixner, Artistic Intern, recruited a team of 12 readers and divided up the scripts. Through a rigorous process of reading and discussion, the team narrowed it down to four plays that will receive public readings in 2018.

These four plays were selected for their success in furthering the dialogue on gender and sexuality, pushing the boundaries of dramatic structure and form, and centering women/femmes in their storytelling. They are each exceptional for also creating opportunities for us to meet new actors and directors through this process.

We’re so excited to share this series with you.

Each reading will be followed by a discussion and light reception. We look forward to seeing you and having some fun conversation about these new works. All public readings will take place at Rivendell Theatre at 5779 North Ridge Avenue.



Monday April 23

Written by Hannah li-Epstein

Directed by Anna Sung-En Medill

The Play

Set in a six unit building in Chicago, #sisterneighbors follows the interconnected lives of a rambunctious and devoted chosen family of queer folks as the news sinks in that their home has been sold and they will all have to move. Exploring impacts of gentrification and change on this unique queer community, the play splits the audience during the first act and reunites them for the second creating an immersive and unpredictable experience of the story.

The Playwright

Born and raised on the North Shore of Oahu, Hannah (she/her) is currently attending The Graduate School at Northwestern University’s Writing for the Screen and Stage MFA Program. In 2015 Hannah graduated summa cum laude with a B.A in Fiction Writing at Columbia College Chicago. She is a writer of fiction, poetry, screenplays, plays, and musicals. She is a Co-Artistic Director, Board Member, and Founding Member of Nothing Without a Company. Since 2007, over ten of her plays and musicals have been produced in Hawaii by Kumu Kahua Theatre and in Chicago by Nothing Without a Company, Fury Theatre’s SAST, Mary-Arrchie’s Abbie Fest, and Nothing Special Production’s Fight Night. Hannah has participated as a writer in many 24 Hour Fests for Nothing Without a Company, Silent Theatre, Columbia College Chicago, and Northwestern University. She was awarded 30 under 30 in Windy City Times in 2014. Hannah’s film, Sweet, won Best Film Runner Up in Chicago’s 48 Hour Film Project in 2015. In 2016 Hannah and her play, Not One Batu, were honored by Hawai’i State Theatre Council Po’okela Awards in the categories of Non-Resident Guest Artist and Overall Play. Catch Not One Batu in the summer of 2018 in Chicago produced by Nothing Without a Company and in partnership with Lanialoha Lee and Aloha Center.



Monday May 7

Written by Gemma Cooper-Novack

Directed by Chika Ike

The Play

The triangle of lesbian relationships at the center of Break reveal a complex entanglement of love, desire and mental illness. With quick dialogue and a structure that moves backward in time, this story, rooted in hope, explores the impacts of bipolar disorder on intimacy, trust, and long-term relationships.

The Playwright

Gemma Cooper­Novack was most recently the resident playwright with The Theater Offensive’s Creative Action Crew from 2015­-2016, generating new plays (including Reporting Live from Under the Rainbow and Through the Glory Hole and What We Found There) based on the work of a queer youth performance ensemble. Her short play The Dating Game was performed in New York and Boston in 2015. Her light opera adaptation of Sense and Sensibility, co­written with Joshua Tyra, has been workshopped at colleges in New York and Chicago. Her play Blindside was produced in Chicago in 2008. In the spring of 2008 Gemma was also one of seven playwrights who created American Theatre Company’s inaugural community­-based Chicago Chronicle Project; her adaptation of The Book of Esther for children was a staple of young people’s Purim celebrations at Chicago’s Anshe Emet Synagogue from 2006­-2008. Gemma’s poetry collection We Might As Well Be Underwater was published by Unsolicited Press in 2017. Her poetry, fiction, and nonfiction have appeared in more than twenty journals; she has been awarded seven artists’ residencies from Catalonia to Virginia. Gemma is a former Barbara Deming Fund grantee and was a runner­ up for the James Jones First Novel Fellowship in 2016. She is a member of the Dramatists Guild of America.

Tiny Thin Woman Inside

Monday May 14

Written by Courtney Meaker

Directed by Elizabeth Swanson

Stage Managed by Jennifer Thusing

The Play

Tiny Thin Woman Inside is nestled in a vibrant surreal world of competitive dieting, The Biggest Loser, and our unending obsession with weight loss. Given contradictory messages around sexuality, obesity, food, sugar, fat, and health, how do we manage to live in our queer bodies? This outrageously funny and beautifully honest play brings queer sexuality and fat to the fore.

The Playwright

Courtney Meaker’s full-length plays include Buckshot (Published with Dramatic Publishing), Chaos Theory – a play seeking order (published with Original Works), Made of These (semi-finalist for Bay Area Playwrights Festival and Seven Devils Theater Conference 2016, Finalist Kitchen Dog New Works Festival 2017), The Lost Girls (Gregory Award Nominated Outstanding New Play), Candid InternationalTiny Thin Woman InsideNothing But Days, and You Must Wear a Hat. Her play That’swhatshesaid (Stranger Genius Award Nominee 2016) garnered international attention for using the female dialogue and stage directions of the most-produced plays in America (reported by Theatre Communications Group in American Theatre Magazine) as its inspiration and source material. She’s an alumna of Seattle Repertory Theatre’s Writers Group and a Walter E. Dakin Fellow at the 2017 Sewanee Writers’ Conference. She’s a graduate of Knox College with a degree in Creative Writing and Theatre and she’s currently pursuing her MFA in Playwriting from University of Iowa’s Playwrights Workshop. Tiny Thin Woman Inside received a reading at the Iowa Playwrights Workshop New Play Festival in 2017 and was workshopped with Naomi Iizuka and Dan O’Brien at the Sewanee Writers Conference that same year as a Fellow in residence.


Sunset Artists of the American West

Monday October 1

Written by Shualee Cook

Directed by Chika Ike

Stage Managed by Jennifer Thusing

The Play

Set in shifting locations from present day Tucson, Arizona to Los Angeles to the sky, Sunset Artists of the American West experiments with fantastical imagery and live painting onstage. Examining questions of personal voice, inheritance and making art, we meet multiple generations of a family preparing to say goodbye to the matriarchal Grandmother with the support of their ancestors in the spirit world. 

The Playwright

Shualee Cook has been writing theatre in the Midwest for so long that she’s starting to forget how to speak Californian. She is currently a resident playwright at Tesseract Theatre in Saint Louis and Stage Left Theatre in Chicago. Productions, readings, and workshops include An Invitation Out (Mustard Seed Theatre, Benchmark Theatre Fever Dream Festival), Sunset Artists of the American West, (2016 Chicago New Work Festival), Tempest In A Teapot (R-S Theatrics, 2016 Idle Muse Athena Festival), The Geography of Nowhere (Mustard Seed Theatre), Osgood Rex, (2012 Saint Louis Fringe Festival) and Music of the Goddess (SATE Aphra Behn Emerging Artists Showcase). She has been a finalist for the 2016 Jane Chambers Award, a two-time finalist for the Goodman Theatre Playwrights Unit, and a semi-finalist for the Princess Grace Award. Sunset Artists of the American West has received a reading as part of the Chicago New Work Festival.