Another Theatre on the Brink: Chicago’s About Face

Peter Zumthor's St. Benedict Chapel (1988) is a humble, human-scaled church perched on a Swiss mountain slope.

Courtesy of Facebook, I received a note that I know many people in the business received. It’s very long, but it’s a real action item. I’ve covered work coming out of the About Face in the past and I hope the industry is able to save it.

And as much as I hate to say it, we’re back to the same thing I’ve been saying over and over — we’ve got to address the systemic fiscal problems that exist in the nonprofit theatre by means other than arts leaders making the same old arguments for increasing NEA or state or municipal legislative cash.

Anyway, here’s the information:

Dear friends and family,

Today, I am calling on you for a very important favor to help save About Face Theatre, which you may have heard is in dire financial trouble. As one of my most treasured artistic homes, my connections to this company run very deep. At About Face Theatre, and with my dear friend and founder Eric Rosen, I developed I AM MY OWN WIFE, ONE ARM and 33 VARIATIONS. And so it is my responsibility to turn this moment of crisis into a statement of my gratitude for this powerful company. As an artist, I am indebted to their investment in my work, and as a gay man, I am indebted to their mission.

I have had the honor of attending most of the About Face Youth Theatre productions over the past decade. As a direct witness to what this company accomplishes with young people on the stages of Chicago, I can tell you its legacy is so vital, so rich, so significant, it cannot be lost. From the stage, these young queer artists grab hold of their own lives, and they change all of our futures.

This is not the year to lose a company whose mission is to advance the national dialogue on sexuality and gender. If we lose this theatre today while the country is caught at the crossroads, we will lose crucial ground for the LGBTQ community. It is our collective responsibility to carry this brave company over this difficult economic terrain.

I urge you to donate to today.

Yours,
Most urgently,
Most warmly,
Moises Kaufman

And here is the call-to-action that prompted Moises’ note:

Save About Face Theatre!

About Face Theatre, one of Chicago’s leading LGBTQ institutions and the original home of Pulitzer-prizewinning I AM MY OWN WIFE, is in danger of closing.

To confront this immediate crisis, About Face has launched a national “FACE THE FUTURE” campaign to save the organization and ensure its future. The About Face Board of Directors is asking for immediate financial contributions in order to keep its doors open, staff paid, and the youth theatre program intact.

About Face Theatre creates exceptional, innovative and adventurous plays to advance the national dialogue on gender and sexual identity. If About Face does not survive, the country will lose one of the few high-profile theaters making new work by and about the LGBTQ experience. The award-winning About Face Youth Theater serves queer youth by providing artistic experiences and leadership training.

In response to the economic downturn and significant debt, About Face has reduced its budget by over 30%, implementing staff and production cuts while also postponing our third show, WHAT ONCE WE FELT. This is the responsible action to take, but it is not enough. If you help us raise $300,000, we will solve our immediate crisis and build a foundation for ongoing financial health. Here’s what you can do:

DONATE NOW
Donations can be made at www.aboutfacetheatre.com, by calling (773)784-8565, or by mailing a check to the theatre at 1222 W. Wilson, 2nd Floor West, Chicago, IL 60640. About Face Theatre is a 501c3 organization and all donations are fully tax deductible.

SPREAD THE WORD
Join our “Face The Future” Facebook group
Visit and share our “Face the Future” blog
Use the “Forward to a Friend” link at the bottom of this email

POST A VIDEO
Artistic contributions are encouraged as well, as About Face organizes a web-based video forum for testimony on the importance of About Face Theatre, of mentoring queer youth, and the vital need for innovative artmaking in today’s society. To participate, please email [email protected] or call 773-784-8565.

A BRIEF HISTORY OF ABOUT FACE THEATRE
About Face Theatre is one of Chicago’s most acclaimed theatre companies, and is a
national leader in the development of new work exploring gender and sexual identity. Since its founding by Kyle Hall and Eric Rosen in 1995, the company has premiered more than 30 new plays by writers and directors who have been recognized with several Tony Awards, The Pulitzer Prize for Drama, The MacArthur Fellowship and dozens of Joseph Jefferson Awards.

Landmark world premieres include Doug Wright’s Pulitzer and Tony-winning “I Am My Own Wife”; Moisés Kaufman’s production of Tennessee Williams’ “One Arm” (a co-production with Steppenwolf Theatre Company and Tectonic Theatre Project); Mary Zimmerman’s “M. Proust”, and, with Lookingglass Theatre, the famed “Eleven Rooms of Proust” and “Clay” that went on to be performed at Lincoln Center and Center Theater Group; Frank Galati and Stephen Flaherty’s “Loving Repeating: A Musical of Gertrude Stein” (a co-production with the Museum of Contemporary Art, Original Cast Album recorded by Jay Records); the multi-award winning musical “Winesburg, Ohio” by Eric Rosen, Andre Pluess, Ben Sussman and Jessica Thebus; and the cult hit “Pulp”, by Patricia Kane.

In addition to its award-winning mainstage performances, About Face is known nationally for its ground-breaking Youth Theatre, which creates critically acclaimed new work by and about LGBTQ youth and their allies. The Youth Theatre has performed on major stages across the country, and, through its outreach tour, changes the lives of thousands of young people each year. Building on the success of the youth theatre model, About Face recently launched its corporate outreach program to provide diversity training and onsite workshops to the corporate community.

In summer 2008, About Face welcomed Bonnie Metzgar as its new Artistic Director and Rick Dildine as its new Managing Director. Metzgar is a nationally known producer, director, playwright and dramaturg who has made a career developing innovative new work in the theater. Metzgar was co-creator of the grassroots 365 Festival, based on 365 Days/365 Plays, a yearlong play cycle written by Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Suzan Lori Parks. As artistic leader for 365, Metzgar shaped a global premiere involving 600 theaters around the world. Time Magazine named the 365 Festival one of its top ten theater events in 2006. Previously, Metzgar served as Associate Artistic Director of Curious Theatre Company in Denver. From 1995 to 2003, she served as Associate Producer at the Joseph Papp Public Theater under George C. Wolfe, where she oversaw a wide range of works including Broadway transfers Bring in ‘Da Noise, Bring in ‘Da Funk and Elaine Stritch: At Liberty. As founding producer of Joe’s Pub at the Public Theater, Metzgar provided the creative vision for a now world-famous performance venue. Previously, Metzgar served as Artistic Director of Brown University’s New Plays Festival with Paula Vogel and is currently teaching at the University of Chicago.


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