Tag: Chicago

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

Why coming out still matters.

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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!

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Monday, June 8, 11:09 PM written by About Face Theatre

Who is your Abe Lincoln?

Our current show ABRAHAM LINCOLN WAS A F*GG*T explores relationships of all kinds from romance and friendship to family connections (and disconnections.) But perhaps one of the most compelling relationships of the show is actually the one that exists only in the mind and heart of our main character – the relationship between 17 year old Cal and his hero, Abe Lincoln.

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On his journey to find himself, Cal finds a mentor in Abe Lincoln, a figure who so many people look up to for so many different reasons. As we watch Cal develop this relationship with Abe, we consider how mentors help us become our authentic selves and just how important seeing ourselves in others really is.

Inspired by this beautiful aspect of the play, we asked our cast to share who their “Abe Lincoln” is – someone who has inspired them and/or helped them into being, whether they ever met them or not. Check out the video below to see their answers and share your own with us in the comments! Then make sure to grab your ticket to come see for yourself what this show is all about.

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Wednesday, May 13, 8:15 PM written by About Face Theatre

It’s Flat Abe!

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Past and present collide in our upcoming show ABRAHAM LINCOLN WAS A F*GG*T which got us thinking, what if Abe were to visit contemporary Chicago? Where would he go? What would he think? What would his favorite gay bar be? *wink*

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A fun, semi-historic, definitely gay twist on “Flat Stanley”, our “Flat Abe” will be traveling all around Chicago and posting his adventures to the About Face Theatre Instagram page. Seem like fun? You can play too! Download our Flat Abe PDF, print and cut him out and photograph him at your favorite Chicago places. Tag your photos with our show hashtag #ALWAF and be entered to win one of our AFT On Demand memberships good for 365 days of shows and readings (including all of our 20th season!)

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Plus, make sure to get your tickets to come learn the colorful truth about one of our greatest presidents. ABRAHAM LINCOLN WAS A F*GG*T starts previews June 5th at The Greenhouse Theater Center and runs through 4th of July weekend. Visit the show page for more information.

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Monday, May 4, 9:18 PM written by About Face Theatre

The “F” Word

ALWAF-posterimag-900pxAbout Face Theatre is thrilled to be presenting the Chicago premiere of Bixby Elliot’s play, ABRAHAM LINCOLN WAS A F*GG*T. We hope this play will incite exciting conversation around relevant issues including the absence of LGBT figures in history, how we use language to empower and educate, and the importance of mentors for queer youth. To this end, we are busy planning another round of Sunday Symposium discussions as well as a series of blog posts exploring these issues and themes stemming from the show.

To kick off this blog series, we invited playwright Bixby Elliot to share some of his thoughts and feelings around the title of the show. We hope this post will be enlightening for you and will ignite a dialogue that we look forward to continuing over the course of the next couple of months (and beyond!)

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Why the F Word?

by Bixby Elliot

Bixby Elliot with Bow TieSeveral years ago my partner Paul brought home a set of vintage books. He loves to collect things (he says “vintage, sometimes I say “junk”) and often I am surprised with things such as, taxidermy frogs playing the bongos or portraits of society ladies with fangs and vampire bites (he paid way too much for that one). One time he surprised me with a set of books. They were called Step Up Books – educational books for kids. This series was on the presidents. George Washington: A Step Up Book. John F. Kennedy: A Step Up Book. Abraham Lincoln: A Step Up Book.

il_fullxfull.303276036I picked up the book with the bearded man and the stove pipe hat and I started flipping through the pages and reading the reductive, watered down retelling of Abraham Lincoln’s life (“Abraham was tall. Abraham read a lot of books. Abraham married Mary Todd”). Not only was it poorly written but it lacked any substance or nuance. Where were the moral dilemmas that he faced, the crippling melancholia he lived with and, something I had been hearing about for several years…all the rumors of his sexuality? “Shouldn’t kids be exposed to the complexity of our American heroes?”, I thought. “Why do our president’s have to be unblemished or one dimensional – why can’t they be who they really are? Why can’t we learn about the true and authentic life of Abe Lincoln?” My mind started spinning.

That night I crawled into bed with Paul (along with our aging dog and two cats – the bed gets crowded) and lay in the darkness thinking about all of this. Paul was snoring (he will deny this) and the moon was coming in through the window. Then all at once I rolled over and said, “What if I wrote a play called ABRAHAM LINCOLN WAS A FAGGOT”? He woke up from a deep sleep. His eyes widened. He let out a loud laugh and said, “That is a good idea,” and went back to sleep.

At that moment, the idea was lodged in my brain and I began a journey writing this play – a journey that is culminating in the production of ABRAHAM LINCOLN WAS A FAGGOT at About Face Theater. I am overjoyed that AFT is producing this play. It’s really a dream come true! I am aware, however, that when the AFT season was announced, there might have been some raising of eyebrows and a question or two about the title of this play and that many might be wondering, “Why the F word”? That is a great question.

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There are several things I start to discuss when people ask me about the title. One, I talk about that first moment laying in bed with my partner. The way it captured his attention and he literally woke up. I would like to awaken people to the play, to capture their minds and their imaginations from the very beginning. The title announces that we are going to go right to the heart of the matter – we aren’t going to pussy foot around and walk on eggshells. This is a play about Abraham Lincoln, our nation’s greatest president, and the idea that he is a big ol’ mo. And, I believe, that it announces that we are going to have some fun…this is gonna be fun! The title is dynamic and exciting and, yes, controversial. The title isn’t ABRAHAM LINCOLN WAS A GAY GUY or ABRAHAM LINCOLN LIKED TO HAVE SEX WITH GUYS. The title is ABRAHAM LINCOLN WAS A F*GG*T.

The second thing I always start to discuss is the idea that the title indicates some kind of radical nature of the play. Many think the play will be this revolutionary, political treatise on taking back the word “fag” and reclaiming it and owning it and doing so in the context of tearing down our beloved Abe Lincoln. That is actually not what the play is and not what I am trying to do with the title. The play itself is really funny and touching and, I hope, moving. It is the exploration of a young man’s journey to understand his authentic self through this framework of Abe Lincoln’s sexuality.

Which leads to me third point I make. The title is not the slur of a bigot – it is the voice of our young man who has been labeled with this epithet and is trying to empower himself. He is saying “I am a faggot and Abraham Lincoln is a faggot…and that is a good thing.” I know that is convoluted but it makes a big difference to me – the difference between hatred and empowerment.

gay-abeFrankly, I love that starting with just the title, we are already having a dialogue about sexuality and language and politics and many other things, because that is what I find super exciting about theater. I want people to talk about theater. I want to engage them and have them laugh and cry and gasp and, yes, talk about it. I want people to go over to Boystown or the Gold Coast or Andersonville and get a drink or a coffee or a whatever and run into a friend who says, “Oh gosh, I am not going to see that play because of the title,” and be engaged in a discussion right there in Starbucks around the pros and cons of the title and even the the larger question of language and empowerment as a whole. It is exciting that this play has the possibility to entertain and encourage robust discussion. That is the magic and joy of theater!

I hope that you will come see the play. I hope that if you are having feelings or thoughts about the title (either good or bad) that you will move towards those feelings (not away from them) and join us. After the play you can come up and tell us what you thought and we can talk about it and it will be awesome! Awesome!

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Thursday, January 15, 10:14 PM written by About Face Theatre

Behind the interviews: Kyla N.

At the end of January, AFT will proudly present the first public reading of the beginning portions of STANDING UNDERNEATH NIGHT AND DAY, a new project led by AFT Artistic Associate, Kelli Simpkins. The piece uses a collection of 50 interviews conducted over a five month period with intergenerational members of the Chicago LGBTQIA community and those advocating for youth and seniors. In the weeks leading up to the show, we will be sharing posts from a few of these folks to share their perspective on the piece and why they wanted to be involved.
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INTERVIEW #3: Kyla N.

What inspired you to become part of this project?

The resonance it had with the community as a whole, especially within the LGBTQIA community. Across generations of oppressed and marginalized people, loneliness is a daily part of life. This piece is inspiring because it speaks to the similarities among groups of people thought to have nothing in common. This project will give youth, elders, and everyone in between common ground because we all know what it is to be isolated. This project will bring light to these profound yet simple human emotions that haunt the fringes of society. It is enlightening to share the most vulnerable part of yourself to strangers in hopes that they will connect deeply with a piece of art no matter what community they identify with.

How would you explain this problem of loneliness within the LGBTQIA community to someone unfamiliar with the issue?

Loneliness in the LGBTQIA community is isolation by discrimination. This community is plagued by othering. People in the LGBTQIA community are constantly being left out of the idea of normalcy. Society holds tightly to it’s strict gender binaries and heteronormativity. This pushes people within this community into isolation because holding their girlfriend’s hand on the CTA grants looks from strangers, because wearing a dress could potentially get someone beaten to a pulp, because according to many people, the LGBTQIA community is not valid. It’s tough to hear someone tell you that you are not valid, that you are somehow fundamentally flawed. LGBTQIA in both the young and older communities become isolated. They feel lonely. They are called names and meant to feel “weird” for being who they are. It is isolating to think that who you are is wrong. If this is the case, then you will never be “right” or “normal” because that goes against who you fundamentally are. The denial of who we are leads to isolation and denial of self. LGBTQIA people feel as if they are the only ones who feel this way, that they cannot relate nor will they ever feel as if their thoughts and feelings are valid. The fear of being different drives this loneliness that leaves LGBTQIA feeling isolated and alone. Too often it feels as if there is no way out, that there will always be an uphill battle with the ones around you and ultimately with yourself. This is why loneliness is so deeply rooted in the LGBTQIA community.

How do you hope the piece will ultimately build community or change around this issue?

I hope this piece will get people in the LGBTQIA community to rally around one another, to increase the support for one another. Community can dilute loneliness. I hope this piece brings people outside of the community who will fight to uplift the LGBTQIA community. Not only to uplift, but to really connect to the loneliness and understand how much worse it may be. I want this to turn apathetic people outside of the community, into spokespeople for what the new idea of normal really is. To be normal is to be true to yourself. I also hope that this can strengthen the existing community and provide common ground for youth and elders despite the differences. I hope this project strengthens the existing community and embraces the people in the intersections as we look toward the future.

At this phase, the piece primarily explores the voices of young people and seniors in the community. What is one thing you’d like to tell to your younger self about life/love/community?

The future, without a doubt, will be better as long you are dedicated to creating it. This future can only happen if you are dedicated to being the best person you can be, staying true to yourself, loving yourself and giving back to the community from which you took. Don’t forget the importance of your community. Know that there is always work to be done. Never stop believing in the power of art. Never buy into apathy.

The piece also aims to find common ground between generations, so with that in mind, what is one thing you would want an elder community member to know about you?

I am still fighting for the community’s validity and I am standing on the shoulders of many people like you, who fought just to be seen.

Kyla is an actor, playwright and director in Chicago and is a member of About Face Theatre’s Youth Task Force.
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OutFront-SUND

OUT FRONT: STANDING UNDERNEATH NIGHT AND DAY
by AFT Artistic Associate Kelli Simpkins
JANUARY 24th @ 7:00pm & JANUARY 25th @ 3:00pm
Center on Halsted | 3656 N Halsted St in Chicago

Register now to reserve your seat!

To help About Face nurture new work like STANDING UNDERNEATH NIGHT AND DAY, please consider making a $10 donation when you reserve your ticket.

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Wednesday, January 14, 11:52 PM written by AFT Theatre

Behind the interviews: Eric A.

At the end of January, AFT will proudly present the first public reading of the beginning portions of STANDING UNDERNEATH NIGHT AND DAY, a new project led by AFT Artistic Associate, Kelli Simpkins. The piece uses a collection of 50 interviews conducted over a five month period with intergenerational members of the Chicago LGBTQIA community and those advocating for youth and seniors. In the weeks leading up to the show, we will be sharing posts from a few of these folks to share their perspective on the piece and why they wanted to be involved.
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INTERVIEW #2: Eric A.

What inspired you to become part of this project?

Initially SK reached out to me about this project. They didn’t get too in depth about what it was about. Once I was informed, I thought about how interesting the concept would be. The thought of loneliness in our community is something I would never have given a second thought to. In answering the questions, I got really emotional and started crying just thinking of issues that impact our community. I was inspired to lend my voice to our community. Art heals! Whether it be music, paintings, poetry readings, singing, drag – whatever it is! I’ve seen what About Face Theatre has done. Every time I leave a show of theirs, it really gets me thinking about the bigger picture of the issues in the plays. I was more than happy to bring a new play of theirs in About Face-style into fruition.

How would you explain this problem of loneliness within the LGBTQIA community to someone unfamiliar with the issue?

In our community, we experience isolation from the moment we realize our sexual identity. We become liars out of the fear of our most nurtured secrets. We learn to become our own security blanket, best friend, and our guard is always up. In putting our energies into our own protection we lose ourselves in the process. The world becomes a lonely place at this time. It makes me sad writing this and thinking about it because I know from experience this used to be my case. It feels like acceptance could be taken away in a matter of seconds. Friends you thought would be with you for a long time dissipate, family could look at you like you were a different person, people can call you names as you go about your daily life – and for what reason? Because you love the same gender or in other cases you don’t feel you were born in the correct gender you were assigned. This is what loneliness is in our community.

How do you hope the piece will ultimately build community or change around this issue?

I hope that it makes people in our community bond. I’m aware of the shade that goes on. I hope that it can make everyone in the Queer alphabet soup join hands and walk through this journey together as brother and sister. I know this sounds like a church preaching but that would make me extremely happy. We need to fix our community internally so we can be a force to be reckoned with againest oppression.

At this phase, the piece primarily explores the voices of young people and seniors in the community. What is one thing you’d like to tell to your younger self about life/love/community?

Life continues on, love always has a way to find you, and community will always back you up in times of strain.

Eric is a cast member of the online show QueerCode and is involved in HIV counseling and testing at Calor, a non-profit that provides HIV and AIDS serviced to the Latino and Hispanic community in Chicago.
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OutFront-SUND

OUT FRONT: STANDING UNDERNEATH NIGHT AND DAY
by AFT Artistic Associate Kelli Simpkins
JANUARY 24th @ 7:00pm & JANUARY 25th @ 3:00pm
Center on Halsted | 3656 N Halsted St in Chicago

Register now to reserve your seat!

To help About Face nurture new work like STANDING UNDERNEATH NIGHT AND DAY, please consider making a $10 donation when you reserve your ticket.

Read more
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