Tag: About Face Youth Theatre

Saturday, August 1, 4:51 PM written by About Face Theatre

AFT Looks Back: FIRST BREATH (1999)

In honor of our 20th anniversary, we are reflecting on some of our most popular and pivotal shows from the last two decades. This week, we sat down with Megan Carney as she shared her memories of helping to start the About Face Youth Theatre and stage their very first show, FIRST BREATH. Read on to learn more and stay tuned as we share AFT history every week throughout our 20th Anniversary campaign!
Help us reach our goal of raising $25,000 by August 31st in support of our 20th season!

“There is a sense of urgency from the first moment the About Face Youth Theatre ensemble steps on stage. A barely contained energy that, if not freed, threatens to splatter a rainbow of glitter, piercings, combat boots and those damn baggy pants all over the stage.”

– NewCity Chicago

That quote, taken from a review of FIRST BREATH printed in NewCity Chicago, is Megan Carney’s favorite. It speaks not only to the time and the age of the first participants of About Face Youth Theatre, but to the unbridled energy they brought to the project; an energy that was just waiting for an outlet to express itself.

“The year prior to the start of About Face Youth Theatre, Matthew Shephard was murdered and we all took the streets then. He certainly wasn’t the first, but that was such a high-profile hate crime case that it really galvanized the conversation in a different way about queer youth and bullying and school climate,” recalls Carney. The team of artists that started AFYT recognized the need for a safe space for LGBT youth to tell their stories and build community.

“The commitment was around the fact that the stories of these youth haven’t really been heard and it was a moment of bringing them into the light, turning on the mic and saying okay, what’s going on? It was electrifying. – Megan Carney

Through connections with Horizons (now the Center on Halsted) and Howard Brown as well as fliers on the street and word of mouth, 50 young people showed up to their first workshop. “It was unexpected, ” says Carney. “I remember standing in the middle of that room like ‘Oh my God! We’re really doing this, people are here.’”

FirstBreathFIRST BREATH was devised in a true sense. It started with the workshop exercises around oral history and improvisation. After that, it moved to rehearsals where the stories that would translate best to a stage were roughed out, improved and eventually put into a script. While Megan describes the process as “making it up at they went along,” this team of artists really built a foundation and an authentic way of working with the youth ensemble that is still used today.

And now, just two weeks ago, the About Face Youth Theatre ensemble opened their 15th anniversary show aptly titled 15 BREATHS. Written entirely by the youth theatre, the show’s rawness and vitality still rings true to that very first moment AFYT took to the stage. The energy that buzzed when those first 50 young people showed up to the AFT space in 1999 is still stirring in this next generation and it’s an incredible thing to see how it has evolved. “When I think back on that show and the beginning of it and then all these years since, it’s really gratifying to have been a part of it,” says Carney. “And I’m glad it’s going so strong! 15 BREATHS, how cool is that?!”

Now is a great time to support the kind of work that About Face and the About Face Youth Theatre is known for. Join us this fall and help us to continue bringing you this groundbreaking work by helping us reach our goal of raising $25,000 by August 31st in support of our 20th season!


Help us reach our goal of raising $25,000 by August 31st in support of our 20th season!

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Wednesday, May 28, 4:42 PM written by EmilyHaha

The About Face Youth Theatre Ensemble Presents Checking Boxes


About Face Theatre, in association with the Chicago Park District’s Night Out in the Parks initiative, is pleased to present the world premiere of Checking Boxes by Shannon Matesky in collaboration with the About Face Youth Theatre Ensemble, directed by AFT Education and Outreach Director Ali Hoefnagel and featuring Youth Ensemble members.  AFT’s annual youth production will playThursday and Friday evenings July 10 – August 1, 2014 at parks across the City. All performances are FREE and open to the public. The press opening is Friday, July 11 at 7 pm at Washington Park.

In this original play devised by the About Face Youth Theatre, characters explore the often overlooked intersection between immigration and the LGBTQIA experience. Through storytelling, spoken word and movement, these talented young artists share experiences of coming out, growing up and pursuing the American Dream. Inspired by the burgeoning “Undocuqueer” movement in the U.S., Checking Boxes is based on the true experiences of the ensemble members and other members of the LGBTQIA community.

“The topic of Checking Boxes is one that our young ensemble felt very strongly about exploring,” comments AFT Education and Outreach Director Ali Hoefnagel. “As issues within the LGBTQIA community grow more complex, it becomes vital to seek out the voices of young people who are fighting for change and growth in their society. ‘Checking Boxes’ refers to the simultaneous pride and limitation of the identities we often place ourselves in; we check boxes for our race, gender, age, sexual preference, ethnicity, etc.  Our tight-knit ensemble devised a play that explores the intersection of those identities to speak to the broken immigration system in America.  Shannon Matesky and I are honored to activate their beautiful stories in our beautiful parks this summer,” adds Hoefnagel.


Thursday, July 10 & Friday, July 11* at 7 pm
Washington Park, 5531 S. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Dr, Chicago
*Press opening

Thursday, July 17 & Friday, July 18 at 7 pm (outside, weather permitting)
Piotrowski Park, 4247 W. 31st St., Chicago

Thursday, July 24 & Friday, July 25 at 7 pm
Austin Town Hall, 5610 W. Lake St., Chicago

Thursday, July 31 and Friday, August 1 at 7 pm
Willye White Park, 1610 W. Howard St., Chicago

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Thursday, April 24, 6:00 PM written by AFT Theatre

Where Are Your Papers?

We’re excited to start offering periodical blog posts from members of the AFT family, sharing thoughts in their own words.  Our first post comes from Nikki R. Veit, About Face Youth Ensemble ’14. […]

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Wednesday, September 11, 11:56 PM written by EmilyHaha

Announcing About Face Theatre’s 2013-2014 Programming!

This spring, About Face Theatre is proud to present the Chicago premiere of Aditi Brennan Kapil’s stand-up comedy play, BRAHMAN/I: A ONE-HIJRA STAND-UP COMEDY SHOW, exploring gender, culture, mythology and puberty all through the lens of a hijra, an Indian intersex person.

In the summer, About Face Youth Theatre investigates the intersection of immigration and queer identity in the world premiere of CHECKING BOXES.

Our 2013-14 offerings also feature the OUT FRONT Series, a year-round line-up of workshops and readings of new and developmental works by LGBTQA playwrights, as well as a month-long PRIDE CABARET Music Series in June 2014.

Don’t miss a moment of this groundbreaking programming.
Memberships start at just $110.

Become A Member Today 



The About Face Theatre 2013–14 programming includes:

November 27, 2013 – January 5, 2014
The Return of the Hit Holiday Musical
Book and Lyrics by AFT Artistic Associate Scott Bradley
Music & Additional Lyrics by Alan Schmuckler
Directed by AFT Artistic Associate Scott Ferguson
Musical Direction by Aaron Benham
Choreography by AFT Artistic Associate Patrick Andrews
Featuring AFT Artistic Associates Scott Duff and John Francisco with Sharriese Hamilton, Mark David Kaplan, James Nedrud, Danielle Plisz (Jeff Award nominated), Bethany Thomas, Dana Tretta and Andrew Swan.
at Stage 773, 1225 W. Belmont Ave., Chicago

Fresh from a concert at Joe’s Pub in New York City with a revamped book and expanded score, last year’s sparkly, queer holiday hit is back… and better than ever!  Box maker Conrad Ticklebottom’s life has hit a block. Once, Conrad and his purple box ignited an entire movement in art and design, but now he finds himself alone, forgotten and teetering on ruin. The holidays bring three magical figures to his door – a trio of Liza Minnellis to escort him on a fabulous journey through what-was, what-could-be and what-the-f*?!, redeeming his lost promise and re-inventing a brand-new Conrad Ticklebottom.  A quirky holiday musical tale of hope, transformation… and the power of Liza!

March/April 2014
The Chicago Premiere of
By Aditi Brennan Kapil
Directed by Collective Artistic Director Andrew Volkoff
Location TBA

This hilarious stand-up comedy routine/play takes on history, mythology, gender roles and high school through the distinct comic lens of Brahman/i, an Indian intersex person – a hijra – tethered by neither gender nor culture, and wildly curious and inventive in their examination of both.

Aditi Brennan Kapil is a writer, actress and director of Bulgarian and Indian descent. She was raised in Sweden and resides in Minneapolis, MN. She performs extensively around the country and her writing has been produced nationally to critical acclaim. Her play Love Person received the 2009 Stavis Playwriting Award, and her play, Agnes Under the Big Top, a tall tale, was selected as a Distinguished New Play Development project by the NEA as administered by Arena Stage.  Her most recent work is the “Displaced Hindu Gods Trilogy,” consisting of the plays Brahman/i, The Chronicles of Kalki and Shiv.  Aditi is currently working on commissions with Yale Repertory Theatre, La Jolla Playhouse and South Coast Repertory Theatre, and is a resident artist at Mixed Blood Theatre, an artistic associate at Park Square Theatre and a Core Writer at The Playwrights’ Center in Minneapolis.

About Face’s OUT FRONT Series
A year round line-up of workshops and readings of new and developmental works, including:
BILLIE AND BILLY by AFT Artistic Associate Paul Oakley Stovall
7:30PM – Saturday, November 16, 2013 and Sunday, November 17, 2013
American Theatre Company, 1909 West Byron Street, Chicago, Illinois 60613
Tickets are FREE!

The divide between different cultures and ethnicities, between men and women, between straight and gay in America can be a great one.  Using only two characters, Paul Oakley Stovall aims to present what seems to be a tiny little drama, set in a small city apartment and the empty flat across the hall.  As Billie and Billy form an unexpected bond, their lives begin to intersect in strange ways. The audience is invited to explore with them: our need for companionship, our desire to solve the mysteries of existence and the ways in which we see ourselves in the eyes of others.  Billie and Billy explores the similarities ignored, our common needs and desires and the mutual ground we walk upon.

January 25 & 26, 2014
when last we flew by Harrison David Rivers
Location TBA

Inspired by Tony Kushner’s Angels in America and a testament to the power of theatre, when last we flew is a moving and often humorous look at life in small town America from a contemporary teenage perspective.  After stealing his local library’s only copy of Angels in America, misfit teenager Paul locks himself in the bathroom to begin reading the landmark play. He soon finds that his life and the lives of those around him in his small Kansas town are about to take flight, and over the course of a seemingly ordinary day, extraordinary things start to happen…

June 2014
Location TBA

To commemorate Pride Month, every weekend in June, About Face Theatre will be hosting a series of cabaret performances celebrating every aspect of the LGBTQA community.  From showtunes and standards to comedy to new music to open mics, we’ll be serving up the fun as we invite our community to join with us in making Pride laugh, sing and sparkle!

July 2014
The World Premiere of
By the About Face Youth Theatre Ensemble
Location TBA

Every two years, About Face’s acclaimed Youth Theatre devises a play as the result of workshops, in depth interviews, theatre training and improvisation.  Working with a professional writer and director, they produce plays that tackle challenging topics ranging from anti-gay violence to safe spaces for youth in the LGBTQA community.  This year, AFYT turns its attention to an exploration of immigration in the queer community.  Building off the work that they created in this summer’s research filled Youth Intensive, they’ll be bringing this brand new play to Chicagoans in July 2014.

About Face Theatre (Andrew Volkoff, Artistic Director) is one of Chicago’s most acclaimed theatre companies, and is a national leader in the development of new work exploring gender and sexual identity.  Since its founding by Kyle Hall and Eric Rosen in 1995, the company has premiered more than 48 world premieres by writers and directors who have been recognized with several Tony Awards, The Pulitzer Prize for Drama, The MacArthur Fellowship and dozens of Joseph Jefferson Awards.

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Tuesday, April 16, 10:00 AM written by EmilyHaha

About Face Theatre Presents a Remount of WHAT’S THE T?

About Face Theatre Presents a Remount of


By Sara Kerastas & The About Face Youth Theatre Ensemble

Directed by Artistic Associate Eric Hoff

May 19 – June 2, 2013

CHICAGO (April 11, 2013) About Face Theatre is pleased to present a remount of its wildly popular Youth Ensemble world premiere WHAT’S THE T? by Sara Kerastas and The About Face Youth Theatre Ensemble, directed by Artistic Associate Eric Hoff, playing May 19 – June 2, 2013 at the Prince Charitable Trusts Rehearsal Room at Victory Gardens Theater, 2433 N. Lincoln Ave., in Chicago. The production features members of the About Face Youth Theatre Ensemble. Tickets are available at www.aboutfacetheatre.com or at the door. The press performance is Sunday, May 19 at 3 pm.

Internet personality/trans activist/fierce community leader Ms. Ma uses her YouTube page to create community, serve glamour and spread the good word about queer safe spaces in Chicago. WHAT”S THE T? tells the story of Ms. Ma”s tangled web of connections, her struggle to stay positive and what happens to her community when she disappears. Inspired by issues of race, gender, age and class in Chicago’s “Boystown,” WHAT”S THE T? is based on true stories and interviews from LGBTQA youth and adults in and around Chicago.

WHAT’S THE T? began with the theme of trans identity, but after year-one, the youth ensemble chose to take it a step further by using this theme to address the significant tensions arising in the queer community. As such, the play examines issues of race, gender, class and age in the queer community, with trans characters at the heart of the story. For 13 years, the Youth Theatre has sought changes within the larger community through innovative thought, dialogue, and performance. AFYT hopes to move their ensemble from positions of marginalization into positions of inclusion and power.

“There’s a whole storyline in the play that takes place on the Internet – with two people documenting their lives through YouTube videos, and ultimately building a relationship in that digital elusive space,” comments playwright Sara Kerastas. “This play is so right now. The story speaks to how we communicate right now. How we build, how we own, and how we use space right now.”

The production team for WHAT’S THE T? includes: John Holt (set design/technical director), Mieka van der Ploeg (costume design), Jeff Glass (lighting design/production manager), Erik Roldan (sound design), Liviu Pasare (projections design), Nic K (choreography), Rupert Priniski (production coordinator) and John Rooney (stage manager).

Title: WHAT’S THE T?
Playwright: Sara Kerastas and The About Face Youth Theatre Ensemble
Director: Artistic Associate Eric Hoff
Featuring: About Face Youth Theatre Ensemble members
Location: Prince Charitable Trusts Rehearsal Room at Victory Gardens Theater
2433 N. Lincoln Ave. in Chicago.
Dates: Press Opening: Sunday, May 19 at 3 pm
Regular Run: Friday, May 24 – Sunday, June 2
Curtain Times: Fridays at Saturdays at 7 pm; Sundays at 3 pm. Note: there will an added 3 pm performance on Saturday, June 1.
Tickets: $15. $5 youth tickets; $25 AFYT Support Ticket.
Tickets for WHAT’S THE T? are  or at the door.


Sara Kerastas (Playwright/Creator) is the Education Programs Director for About Face Theatre, where she manages the Education Outreach program and directs the Queer Youth Theatre.  She is also an Artistic Associate with About Face Theatre.  Across Canada, she has directed with Pi Theatre, The Havana, Le Cagibi, F4L Productions and Théâtre Ste. Catherine.  In 2010 she received a Windy City Times 30-Under-30 Award for her leadership within and contributions to Chicago’s LGBT community.  She is a founding member of the Pride Youth Theatre Alliance, and will be mentoring an emerging queer youth theatre program with Creative Action Theatre this year in Austin, Texas.  She is a proud member of the queer performance collective GOLDMINE.  She received her BA in English-Drama & Theatre and Women’s Studies from McGill University in Montreal, Quebec.  Sara is a regular storyteller and former Associate Artistic Director of 2nd Story, and is published in their new anthology, “Briefly Knocked Unconscious by a Low-Flying Duck: Stories from 2nd Story,” with Elephant Rock Books.

Eric Hoff (Director) is a proud Artistic Associate at About Face Theatre, advancing the national dialogue on gender and sexual identity. For AFT, he directed WHAT”S THE T? in Summer 2012. Eric produced over thirty events for The Woyzeck Project, he served as dramaturg for Pony, and he co-conceived and will produce Revival this summer. Eric directed & developed Ike Holter”s Hit the Wall in Chicago at both The Steppenwolf Garage and Theatre on the Lake. He then directed the off-Broadway production at Barrow Street Theatre, just steps from The Stonewall Inn. Other Chicago credits: The Skriker, Ruby Wilder, (a)Symmetry Cycle. He has worked with Goodman, Court, Hypocrites, Steep, Playwrights Horizons, and NYU Tisch School of the Arts. Alumnus: Lincoln Center Directors Lab. Co-Founder: The Accidentals. Eric lives in Chicago and New York City.

The About Face Youth Theatre (AFYT) was created in 1998 as a safe space for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer or questioning, and allied young people to become activists and theatre-makers. Youth participants engage in a two-year process of sharing stories, conducting interviews, writing a script, and developing performances to create a full-length production that is produced in About Face Theatre’s mainstage season.

About Face Theatre is one of Chicago’s most acclaimed theatre companies, and is a national leader in the development of new work exploring gender and sexual identity.  Since its founding by Kyle Hall and Eric Rosen in 1995, the company has premiered more than 45 world premieres by writers and directors who have been recognized with several Tony Awards, The Pulitzer Prize for Drama, The MacArthur Fellowship and dozens of Joseph Jefferson Awards.


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