About Face Theatre is launching its 25th season with Kickbackan online festival of 10 newly commissioned short plays and performances by Black LGBTQ+ artists, inspired by the Rebuild Foundation's collections at the Stony Island Arts Bank.
Conceived and directed by About Face Theatre Associate Artistic Director Mikael Burke, this performance series examines the intersection of queerness and Blackness in the present moment, inspired by the past, and looking toward the future. This program will stream Dec. 12, 2020, through Jan. 11, 2021.
The plays and performances may be viewed individually and in any order.
The program pieces are as follows:
Michael Turrentine | Black Woman on Purpose
Description: What starts out as a normal weekly family zoom call between a Grandmother, a Mother, and Her Daughter morphs into a beautiful coming out moment and a spoken shared word that is outward to the audience/watchers.
Inspiration: My inspiration came from a few historical images of black women standing in their prime, but mainly from a poem "Stations" by self-described "Black lesbian, warrior, mother, poet" Audre Lorde.
Robert Cornelius & Paul Oakley Stovall | Frankie & Labi Saved Us
Description: An artist suffers PTSD due to the current pandemic, and finally seeks help to sort out the feelings that are resurfacing. A play about mental health and survival, swimming in an unfamiliar milieu, black men seeking therapy...from black male therapists.
Inspiration (Robert): My visit to Stony Island Bank helped me find source material from Ebony and Jet, specifically about Ebony Fashion Fair, and some iconic Frankie Knuckles songs that were a large part of the soundtrack of my young adulthood.
Inspiration (Paul): Buffeted by the music of Labi Siffre, a little known but incredibly influential Black gay male singer/songwriter from the '70s, my play celebrates the healing power of music and movement.
Ben Locke | "Do Black Lives Matter?"
Description: A short documentary asking the question, "Do Black Lives Matter?" I plan to ask Black people from the often ignored places of Chicago if they think Black Lives Matter, if their life matters, what do they want to be remembered for, etc. to get a sense of our own perspective on our lives.
Inspiration: I was inspired by Jet and Ebony magazine, as well as pictures and merchandise and more, depicting "Black life" and "Black Culture". So often Black people are not in charge of their own narrative or only those Black elite get to chime in so I wanted to give everyday Black people a chance to voice their thoughts.
Avery Young | αἱμοῤῥοοῦσα [haemorrhoissa] 2020
Description: A praise dance for an unnamed woman with an issue of blood that was healed as Jesus the Christ of Nazareth was on his way to raise Jairus' 12 year-old daughter from the dead blk! Featuring Jenn Freeman & The Snow Sistas, the work is an act of faith during pandemic.
Inspiration: A black Holy Bible found in the Johnson Library
Description: My piece is poetry over music and movement. The piece will discuss the history and legacy of colonization, the ancient struggle for civil rights, and the conundrum of black kings and queens.
Inspiration: I'll use images of ancient Egyptian art from the glass slides collection. I'm using several books from the research library as inspiration. I may include songs from "Pangea" an album in the Frankie Knuckles collection.
Description: Even in moments of our erasure we still find a way to show up and influence culture in so many different ways. What a better way to tell that story than through the conduit of Frankie Knuckles, a queer house music icon. Through movement I wanted to tell the story of the space we are given historically contrasts the full lives we live and the space we deserve to take up.
Inspiration: When I visited Stony Island Arts Bank, I stumbled on photographs where I saw myself in the folks that were captured. There was an apparent queerness present that I can't quite explain but just felt drawn to. It was difficult to find clear documentation of the existence of black queer nonbinary and trans bodies that weren't being pathologized. This made me want to examine the ways in which we (black queer nonbinary and trans bodies) are sort of hidden in plain sight.
Jenn Freeman | LITANY | PT. IV | EBONY
Description: Take a voyage with artist Jenn Freeman | Po'Chop onto the historical pages of Ebony Magazine. Set to a soundscape created by Chicago's Dj Dapper, Ebony is a playful celebration of Black unity and power.
Inspiration: Ebony magazines from the Johnson Library
ShaZah (Shanta Nurullah and Zahra Baker) | OM Mission
Description: an exploration of Black lesbians from the Harlem Renaissance to present day Chicago, culminating in a vision for our future.
Inspiration: Our Arts Bank inspirations were:
- a glass slide of a pair of female circus performers;
- the comment from an Arts Bank curator that, of the University of Chicago's entire Art History glass slide collection, "the only reference to Black people was by omission;"
- the lack of positive Black lesbian representation in the Johnson Library;
- a 1952 Ebony magazine article in which Gladys Bentley, a cross dressing blues performer, denounced her queer lifestyle
Cori Wash, Kirsten Baity and Keyonna Jackson | What We See
Description: A series of short pieces exploring and exposing the trials, tribulations, and triumphs of growing up Black and queer in the USA.
Inspiration: a collection of historical children's books and advertisements featuring depictions of Black children and blackface
For more, visit aboutfacetheatre.com/ .