Tag: Chicago

Monday, July 31, 2:53 PM written by AFT Theatre

Brave Like Them is Recommended!

Bikini Kill. Bratmobile. Sleater-Kinney. Heavens to Betsy. Excuse 17. Skinned Teen. If you’ve never heard of these bands then you’re probably unfamiliar with the feminist Riot Grrrl movement of the 1990’s. This underground hardcore punk rock crusade originated in the Pacific Northwest, particularly in the state of Washington. It began as a growing subcultural trend called third-wave feminism that sought to challenge the male-dominated punk rock scene. It addressed such issues as sexuality, domestic abuse, rape, racism, patriarchy and female empowerment. The movement inspired such queercore groups as Team Dresch and The Third Sex. In addition, the crusade spread beyond its musical roots, giving impetus to political activism, a DIY ethic, art and the creation of amateur, self-expressive “zines,” in the hope of quelling homophobia, sexism and, especially, physical and emotional violence toward women.

This two-act play with music was devised and created by the young actors of the About Face Youth Ensemble, under the guidance and direction of Ali Hoefnagel and Kieran Kredell. Inspired by The Riot Grrrl Collection, a sampling of original zines, posters and other printed matter from this pre-internet era, we have an historical drama by and about the feminists who had had enough. The result is a play that features a cast of 13 teenage gay, lesbian and gender-fluid actors playing characters who seethe with anger, passion and a need to be heard. The story is loud, earnest, filled with candor and empathy and as raw as anything seen on a Chicago stage.

Staged in the intimate Buena Theatre venue, with the audience seated up close on both sides of the playing area, this production bellows and brays, performing practically in the lap of each theatergoer. The show opens with the cast slam-dancing with rambunctious abandon to an ear-splitting grunge soundtrack. The story then settles down, focusing on Danni and her best friend Jamie. These two high school students are filled with all the typical teenage angst and anger we’ve come to expect from most contemporary adolescents.

Wandering over to the local record shop, they run into Sam, a punky fangirl who invites the two friends to a secret location where Hannah, a local alternative musical celeb, is playing that evening with her band. Danni soon notices how Hannah and her followers seem to contradict the principles they profess to support. For all their branding and boasting, claiming female power for all girls, Hannah’s band has turned into something very exclusive. Their group only includes white, middle-class women. Danni, a reticent, yet intelligent deep-thinker, sets out to right this wrong by joining with a band of other high school students, some who were born female but now identify as male. They’re shunned by Hannah and her group and that’s when the conflict arises.

Kyla Norton stars as Danni, sensitively portraying this quiet, introspective teenager on the verge of self-discovery. She lives with her recently divorced mother, a character played with humor and terrific strength by the remarkably talented Mia Vivens. As Jamie, Sandy Nguyen is fidgety, feisty and possessive over her friendship with Danni. She’s also filled with a hidden rage, the origins of which we discover much later. Ophelia Ashley Murillo makes her stylish About Face debut as a flirty, opinionated Sam. Other standouts in this cast include the gifted Sharon Pasia, so very funny as the drugged-out record store shopkeeper. She’s an older, kindred spirit who enjoys imparting warmth and wisdom to her customers. Ben Flores is strong, sincere and beautifully eloquent as Chris, one of the trans band members of Danni’s new band, led by the dynamic Jimbo Pestano, as lead vocalist, Coe.

Currently enjoying its world premiere, this play probably won’t be everyone’s piece of cake. Its raucous, in-your-face production can be hard to take. However, About Face Theatre’s ensemble of earnest, young actors, and the artists who support their production, are to be highly commended for their gumption and talent. They’ve clearly worked very hard to shine a light on an important social and political issue. The relevance of this 90’s movement and this ensemble’s energy speaks directly to each and every individual of the LGBT community, especially its younger members. Here is a courageous and spunky production, filled with power and passion, that offers an important, thought-provoking slice of American history…or, perhaps, herstory.

Recommended

Reviewed by Colin Douglas, Chicago Theatre Review 

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Wednesday, November 4, 8:43 PM written by AFT Theatre

A blog the creator of Pulp: Patricia Kane

“I’m a lesbian.  Plain and simple.  I don’t make any bones about it.” 

When I first started writing that line for PULP a year or two after the millennial turn, I couldn’t imagine that I would be sitting here now writing a blog post (“what the hell is a blog?”), legally married to my wife (although it was a distant hope), a show about a lesbian cartoonist who grew up in a funeral home with a suicidal gay dad would win the Tony Award for best musical, fab lesbian Lisa Kron (who I want to be when I grow up) would win for best book and score (along with Jeanine Tesori) for that musical, and transgender issues would be would be big stories in mainstream media.  Plus, a lesbian pulp classic (“The Price of Salt”) would be released as a major motion picture (“Carol”) and create a lot of Oscar buzz.  My oh my how times have changed.  But, in a way, I could see inklings of this from our first previews of PULP in 2004.  The show quickly became a hit, primarily because it appealed to a broad cross-section of Chicago theatregoers.  And what an amazing sight that was.  On any given night, the audience would be filled with lots of lesbians and gays, yes, but also with just as many straight folks – young and old – laughing and rooting for this group of middle-aged lesbians and drag performers in a 1950’s underground bar trying to find their one true love. Wow.

Pat Kane as Winchester Cox

Patricia Kane as Winchester Cox in the original production of Pulp

I wanted to write a play that reclaimed the marvelous lesbian pulp fiction novels of the mid-20th century, which were usually sad (at best) and tragic (most of the time).  I wanted to turn the genre on its head a bit and create an homage that was fun, funny, sexy, empowering, romantic, and ultimately, uplifting.  Who doesn’t want to see a play like that?  Luckily, with the vision of a fabulous director (Jessica Thebus), the artistic leadership of Eric Rosen, and the creativity of a fantastic group of designers and actors, we were able to build that play over the course of a couple of years.  Since its creation, PULP has had critically acclaimed productions across the country.  However, it’s interesting to note, that even with its success since its first outing in 2004, it was just published for the first time this summer by Chicago Dramaworks.  (I was told in 2004 that no one would publish it because it was about lesbians…)  Glad that change has finally come.

Pulp 2015

I’m thrilled that About Face is bringing PULP back to life for a two-night staged reading, with Jessica Thebus back at the helm.  It’s bittersweet, though, because Julia Neary (who played the lead, Terry Logan, in the About Face productions) died from cancer at the beginning of the year at the way too young age of 50.  However, I’m thrilled that my dear friend, Peggy Dunne, will be returning to Chicago to play Terry, a role she did in the Celebration Theatre production in Los Angeles in the fall of 2004.  The fantastic Amy Warren (who co-wrote the music) returns as Miss Vivian, and I’ll be reprising the role of Winny.  We’ll also be joined this time around by the fabulous About Face Artistic Associate Elizabeth Ledo as Pepper and gorgeous Angela Ingersoll as Bing.  I’m ecstatic that they will all be with us at The Well.   Should be a grand time, or as Bing says – “FAN-Tastic.”

DON’T MISS PULP!

November 12th & 13th at 7:30 pm

Stage 773

$15

TICKETS ARE SELLING FAST (only 4 remaining tickets for Friday night!)

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Tuesday, November 3, 7:28 PM written by AFT Theatre

Pulp returns for TWO NIGHTS ONLY!

The 2004 & 2007 smash-hit-musical-comedy returns as a 20th Anniversary Benefit Performance

 

Pulp 2015

By Patricia Kane
Music by Andre Pluess and Amy Warren
Lyrics by Patricia Kane
Starring: Patricia Kane, Amy Warren, Peggy Dunne, AFT Artistic Associate: Elizabeth Ledo and Angela Ingersoll
November 12th and 13th at 7:30pm
Stage 773 1225 W Belmont Ave, Chicago, IL 60657
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The 2004 and 2007 About Face Theatre smash hit returns for TWO NIGHTS ONLY! Set in the twilight world of 1950’s Chicago, Pulp is a deliciously campy homage to the sultry, jazzy world of lesbian pulp fiction.

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Wednesday, August 26, 3:29 PM written by About Face Theatre

AFT Looks Back: WE 3 LIZAS (2012 and 2013)

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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 discussed the magic of WE 3 LIZAS with its director AFT Artistic Associate, Scott Ferguson. 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!
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we-3-lizas-1In 2012, Bonnie Metzgar approached playwright and AFT Artistic Associates Scott Bradley and Ferguson with an artistic challenge: to create a queer Christmas show…in only a few months. For many artists, this would be laughably insurmountable, but Metzgar knew who she was talking to. That was how WE 3 LIZAS came to be.

unnamed-2Ferguson, Bradley and the incredibly talented composer Alan Schmuckler took a seed of an idea in August and grew it into a full-fledged, wacky, fun show by December. Ferguson reflects on the artistic process of LIZAS saying, “When you’re creating a new play, the final product always feels like you’re having a baby. Opening night comes and it’s painful and then it’s there out in the world and everyone can see it…and it was a pretty baby.” Ferguson goes on to recall that more than any other show in his memory, people who came to see it would reach out to him to say how much they loved it, throughout the run…throughout both runs actually.

de2ba971-6ec6-4b8f-910d-af4df8146459“The magic holiday spirit that is created in that show was so unconventional. People came to the theatre not knowing what to expect and would leave kind of with their brain exploded…’I can’t believe how crazy, kooky, fun and weird and beautiful that story was.’”

For all its wonderful zaniness, LIZAS also possessed a tremendous amount of heart. It was fun, but also moving, and it wasn’t the same old holiday show by any stretch. It was uniquely AFT and a show for anyone in the queer community that maybe never really felt fully a part of holiday celebrations. It created a place to call home for a couple of hours, and that in and of itself is one of the reasons why we still celebrate it now.

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

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Saturday, August 22, 4:14 PM written by About Face Theatre

AFT Looks Back: THE HOMOSEXUALS (2011)

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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 AFT Artistic Associate and cast member of THE HOMOSEXUALS, Elizabeth Ledo. Read on to learn more and stay tuned as we share AFT history every week throughout our 20th Anniversary campaign!
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homosIn 2011, Philip Dawkin’s play THE HOMOSEXUALS was a runaway hit. The show and its stellar cast enjoyed two extensions and has gone on to have many productions around the country. When you talk to people about THE HOMOSEXUALS, you find that they have a really special place for this genuine and incredibly human play. Elizabeth Ledo recalls the audience reaction at the time: “Everyone was just like ‘I just want to take this piece home with me. And what if we can found space like the Blue Man Group and you can just keep running it forever and ever?’ Nobody wanted it to end.”

ledoElizabeth Ledo was the only female in the cast and jokes, “I was the diamond among the aquamarines!” In a show that was primarily about gay men, it’s possible she could have felt like an outsider or like the story she was telling wasn’t really representative of her. Not so. She explains, “I wasn’t there to facilitate a story for gay men. I was there to tell a story about this guy’s life. My job wasn’t to be the ‘fag hag’ in this gay play, it was to be a friend to this guy that was going through this thing and I was one of the windows into that story. That’s human.”

2010-2011 homosexuals 2One of the truly remarkable things about this play (and really Philip Dawkins’ work in general) is that, while the title might suggest that this play might be exclusive, his way of story telling is incredibly inclusive. Ledo remarks, “You could sit in the theatre and just laugh at the absurdity and beauty of human behavior. And sure it spoke to the gay voice, but people could come who didn’t know anything about the gay experience and just be swept away by the great beauty and sometimes ‘ugh’ of human life.”

Philip Dawkins’ work is so representative of the kind of stories that AFT wants to put on stage now. The stories he tells are easy to relate to, genuine and representative of the queer voice as a whole and well-rounded voice in society. The queer experience in his hands is unique but also incredibly human. That was the magic of THE HOMOSEXUALS in 2011 and one of the reasons why we can’t wait to premiere LE SWITCH in our 20th season.

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Tuesday, August 18, 4:47 PM written by About Face Theatre

AFT Looks Back: PULP (2004 and 2007)

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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 had the great pleasure to speak with Patricia Kane about becoming a playwright with support from AFT and created her wildly successful show, PULP. 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!
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pulp2In 2001, About Face Theatre developed and produced Patricia Kane’s play, an adaptation of the novel SEVEN MOVES, the first play Kane had ever written. During a post-show talkback, AFT Founder Eric Rosen made a remark that would change how Kane viewed herself as an artist. “Eric said something like, ‘I love this production, but the parts of the play I like the best are the parts that came from Pat.’ It took me aback. I had never considered myself a playwright. That put the idea in my head.”

Pulp_PatKane2Not long after, Kane was in a bookstore and came across a book of lesbian pulp fiction cover images. She took the book home and her wheels began to turn. When an AFT artistic meeting turned to a need to put more “L” in their LGBT, the discussion of creating a play inspired by lesbian pulp fiction took hold. The seed for PULP was officially planted.

“One of the big things I wanted to accomplish with PULP was to twist that genre and making it affirming,” says Kane. And PULP did just that. The play turns the genre on its ear resulting in a tremendously fun love story with tons of heart. Kane also notes, “I also wanted to let people know that lesbians can be funny! Crazy, I know!”

PULP enjoyed two wildly successful runs with AFT, one in 2004 and the other in 2007 when Kane played a role in the show herself. When asked if this huge success opened doors for her as a lesbian playwright, Kane’s earnest response is, “Actually, it closed them.” While the play went on to have various productions across the country, no one would publish it. “My agent would try to get it in certain theaters and was told, ‘It’s a play about lesbians, we won’t do it.’”

Copy-of-Pulp-6---photo-by-Michael-BrosilowKane’s experience is a reminder of how far we’ve come, and also the work we still have to do. “One of the wonderful things about going to see PULP was seeing audience members from every walk of life,” remarks Kane. “We as gay folks have been going to see straight plays for…forever. And just the recognition that our stories are also pertinent to the straight world and that we can learn from each other…it’s a hard door to crack open, but it’s starting to,” remarks Kane.

Work like Kane’s is what AFT strives to accomplish. New work, developed with support of the company, that tells universal stories and helps to keep pushing that door open. Reflecting our lives on stage reflects the human condition, and every artist like Kane who puts their view of the world on stage contributes to helping more people understand that too.

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

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