Tag: Chicago

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.”


November 12th & 13th at 7:30 pm

Stage 773


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


Read more

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
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.

Read more

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

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

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!
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.


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

Read more

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

AFT Looks Back: THE HOMOSEXUALS (2011)

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

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.


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

Read more

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

AFT Looks Back: PULP (2004 and 2007)

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!

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.


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

Read more

Thursday, June 25, 8:49 PM written by About Face Theatre

Why coming out still matters.

This weekend marks the second to last for our run of ABRAHAM LINCOLN WAS A F*GG*T and also coincides with a ton of amazing Pride celebrations throughout Chicago. It feels particularly special to present this show during a time of year when the LGBT community celebrates, reflects, and embraces visibility. The fictional characters in ABE (including the version of Abe Lincoln we see played out on stage and in the heart and mind of our main character, Cal) represent a cultural cross-section of individuals that all of us have probably met at some point in real life. The optimist, the realist, the person hiding…people celebrating, deeply sad people, people expanding their views….brave people.

This Sunday, we will reflect on the idea of “Why coming out still matters” with an inter-generational conversation as part of our Sunday Symposium series. Additionally, we invited our youth ensemble members, artistic associates, board members and symposium panelists to share their thoughts on the subject here on our blog. Read on to see what a few of them had to say and share your own in the comments!


Casual photo 9-2-14

Rob Abernathy, AFT Board President

It’s all about honesty. Being honest with yourself is liberating and increases your self-worth. Being honest with others is powerful and earns you the right to get honesty from them in return. Never be afraid to admit to doing the right things in life, and being honest about who you are is “the right thing”. Being honest with the world shows the world that LGBT people are all around them, they now know someone – they know you, and you are worthy of respect since you demonstrated bravery by being honest. If you project the attitude that being LGBT is normal it is easier for others to accept that fact.


Fain 2

Mitchell Fain, AFT Artistic Associate

I came out at 17yo in 1983. I grew up in a very macho mafia culture town in Rhode Island. I was lucky to find easy acceptance and celebration from my best friends and family. Thirty-one yrs. later I work doing improv/sketch comedy for The Second City in front of mostly conservative audiences aboard a cruise ship.

I am unabashedly queer in my self-presentation, even singing a verse about my “ex-boyfriend” in an archival song from Second City’s main stage repertoire. The response I receive from audiences is OVERWHELMINGLY positive. Humans respond to authenticity. Old WWII vets, Latina grandmothers, Jersey frat bros all find me after the show to tell me how much they enjoy the shows and particularly my honesty and humor. I get a LOT of free drinks!! ( esp. from the frat boys!!)

There are 64 countries represented in the crew on this ship. I meet closeted men and women who are afraid be themselves. Occasionally I receive a text or FB message, some time after, telling me how my ease of authenticity has inspired them to come out and start their life free of fear. I meet straight people from homophobic cultures who tell me that my lack of shame and lack of apology about my true self has inspired them to rethink their own prejudices. I love my job. I love making people laugh. I love navigating the world on my own terms and those moments, where the fact that I am OUT inspires positive change in someone’s heart and mind… Well… I LOVE THAT the most. That is the reason why Coming Out still matters and will always matter.



Nikki Veit, About Face Youth Ensemble & Youth Task Force member

Coming out is acknowledging one’s own sexuality in a public manner.
…is courageously claiming your identity.
…is life or death.
…is privilege.

So, why does it matter?

To acknowledge a minority of people that are still being neglected and harassed is powerful in itself. Because those of us that run for cover under the “queer” umbrella are still being marginalized on a daily basis. Even by those politicians, CEOs, commercial companies, and the like that claim to be doing good by “openly accepting people of the LGBTQ community” are too often exploiting our community to sway votes, obtain grants, and sell merchandise.

To acknowledge that queerness (in all its colors of the rainbow) is a vertical minority-it transcends race, class, age, gender, religion, political parties-is necessary as we progress deeper into the 21st century. We are everywhere. And no, it’s not a disease, it’s not contagious, it’s human nature.

But why it really matters, to quote the omnipresent statement, “we’re here, we’re queer, get used to it!” We’re not going anywhere. Our voices are getting louder, our movement is getting stronger, and we are only going to keep on keeping on. So, get over it.

If you are queer, and have been blessed with the support and resources to come out publicly, I recommend doing so. It will only help those of us that are unable to come out due to fear of rejection and isolation. No one is alone in this fight for equality, so let’s acknowledge that and stand up for ourselves and our community.



Allen Ratliff, Director of Clinical Programs, Youth Service Project, Sunday Symposium Panelist

Coming out has always been a revolutionary process. Every time we say who we are, every time we push back against the status quo, we are driving human culture toward a world that is stronger for it. Coming out might be easier in 2015 than it was in 2005 or in 1995 or in 1965, but is still matters just as much.

While LGBT people in America have seen huge strides in acceptance of same-gender relationships and gender diversity, while we see out and open LGBT people across professional fields and backgrounds, there are still people who are hurt, bullied, harassed, and killed for being who they are. Transgender people, particularly trans women of color, continue to experience staggering levels of violence and discrimination. LGBT people (especially young people) experience much higher rates of homelessness, mental health issues, domestic violence, and incarceration. If LGBT people are inherently just like everyone else, which we are, then these experiences can only be attributed to the continued stress of being a queer person in a heteronormative world. We must work together, every single person, to fight against the microaggressions and macroaggressions that form systems of oppression. Come out as an ally, come out as a sister, a father, a friend, a doctor, a police officer, a social worker, a teacher, an accountant, a barista, a person. Come out and say that all human lives are valuable, important, and precious. Come out and demand that all people are treated with dignity and respect.

Coming out connects us to each other, it helps us to build relationships and communities. Gender and sexuality are tied directly to our identities and how we understand ourselves and form the foundation for our individual experiences in the world. Queer cultures have grown into beautiful and diverse cosmologies within humankind. Coming out still matters because our identities give us opportunities for connection to other people, regardless of what out individual identity might actually be. Coming out will always matter, because even when humankind finds a way to bring about collaborative global peace and prosperity, we will still all have our own individual unique experiences to share with the people in our lives. Coming out gives us the voice to celebrate our shared humanity, our shared experience of thinking, loving, hoping, and dreaming.

Read more