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!)


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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.

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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.


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, 10:40 PM written by About Face Theatre

Join us for “The ‘F’ Word” at Center on Halsted!

We are thrilled to be collaborating with Center on Halsted to host our an additional presentation of our Sunday Symposium discussion “The ‘F’ Word” outside of the theater! The opportunity to expand this discussion, inspired by our upcoming show ABRAHAM LINCOLN WAS A F*GG*T, is so exciting to us and we hope you’ll join us for this FREE event.



The “F” Word

Wednesday, June 10th – 7-8pm
@ Center on Halsted
3656 N Halsted St. in Chicago

In this discussion between Bixby Elliot (playwright, ABRAHAM LINCOLN WAS A F*GG*T) and AFT Artistic Associate, actor and playwright Philip Dawkins (playwright, THE HOMOSEXUALS), we will explore the evolution of words and language as it pertains to the LGBT community. We will take a look in how the rejection and/or ownership of different words within a minority groups plays a role in the advancement of civil rights, power and acceptance. Additionally, we will discuss how contemporary queer theater is advancing the dialogue on language and visibility for LGBT stories.

Bixby Elliot with Bow Tie PhilipDawkins-252x300

Attendants of this discussion are invited to see the Chicago premiere of ABRAHAM LINCOLN WAS A F*GG*T and receive $5 their ticket! Additional info will be given out at the event – don’t miss it!


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

It’s Flat Abe!


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*

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!)


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!)


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.


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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