Tag: theatre

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.


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.”


November 12th & 13th at 7:30 pm

Stage 773


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
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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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, 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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Thursday, September 18, 7:25 PM written by About Face Theatre

Flying Solo: The Art of the One Person Show




Once you’ve marveled at Steven’s masterful one-man show, join us for an informal conversation about creating and performing solo work. We’ll talk about what it’s like to put your life on stage as well as what makes this performance art form so compelling.

Joining Steven for this informal chat is writer, actor and educator Arlene Malinowski. Arlene has taught acting and solo writing/ performing at Chicago Dramatist, Victory Gardens, the College of the Canyons and in Chicago, Los Angeles, San Francisco as well as in theaters and colleges nationwide. She currently teaches a “Writing in Mixed Genres” class, as well as solo intensives and does private coaching with students from across the country. As an actor and playwright Arlene views her solo work as an artistic extension of the social justice work she has been committed to for the last twenty-five years. She has been performing her five critically acclaimed solo shows across the country and has been honored nationally with numerous awards for her work.

Learn more about Arlene on her website www.arlenemalinowski.com.

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