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, AFT Development Director and Artistic Associate Ben Sprunger reflects on TAKE ME OUT. Read on to learn more and stay tuned as we share AFT history every week throughout our 20th Anniversary campaign!
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Before TAKE ME OUT even opened, About Face was adding performances to the schedule. That’s the kind of buzz that existed around the Chicago premiere of this play. TAKE ME OUT had stirred up the New York theatre scene with its locker room shower scenes, but this play proved to be about so much more than nudity which is what made it one of AFT’s most memorable shows to date. In fact, we still hear from audience members all the time about how much they loved TAKE ME OUT…ten years later!
TAKE ME OUT was directed by AFT co-founder Eric Rosen and cast by the incredible Erica Daniels. Sprunger was living in LA at the time and recalls the day he got the call from Daniels telling him to get ready to come back to Chicago in February to start rehearsals. “I was actually at the table read for the episodes of Will & Grace that I did when I got the call. I wrote in my journal that day, ‘Best day ever!'”
The show was performed in the upstairs space at Steppenwolf and rehearsed at, of all places, Ebenezer Lutheran Church at Foster and Ashland. “Yep. We rehearsed a naked baseball play in a church,” jokes Sprunger. While the nudity was certainly present, TAKE ME OUT was not just another naked gay play by any stretch. The play includes two unique narratives of gay men in the world of baseball, notably a haven for heterosexuality and masculinity. The first, a story of an incredibly famous athlete coming out of the closet (still a rarity today and something quite unheard of in 2005). The other, a gay accountant who lands a superstar baseball player as a client and finds himself discovering the game and a way to relate to it for the first time.
Sprunger remarks on how expertly written the play was. “The whole entire show never wore out its welcome for me. Listening backstage to the monologues every night, I never got sick of them. I always found something new to consider. They were so expertly written and so deep and they never got old for me.” With TAKE ME OUT, playwright Richard Greenberg demonstrates one of the beautiful things about writing: the ability to write your way into a world where you are an outsider and bust it open. TAKE ME OUT explores issues around sexuality, race and class in a context where they are so often shuttered but so present, and that’s the real brilliance of this play.