About Face Youth Theatre's company-created work explores the lives of LGBTQ young people past, present, and future. Under the direction of About Face artistic director Megan Carney and teaching artist Donny Acosta, the 12-member ensemble of writer-performer-activists ages 13 to 23 draw on their own experiences—as well as the stories of former AFYT members going back to the youth program's creation 20 years ago—to offer what they rightly describe as "a contemporary look at recent queer history."
Designers Pauline Olesky (set), Claire Sangster (lights), and Ariel Zetina (sound) have transformed the Center on Halsted's cozy Hoover-Leppen Theatre into a dance club where pumping music and flashing lights provide a rousing and immersive party atmosphere. "In this ballroom, we give you the chance to be the things the world tells you not to be," declares the show's charismatic emcee, self-described "Filipino trans goddess" Angelíca Grace. For 75 intermissionless minutes, the performers offer spoken and sung testimony about their own lives and the lives of those who came before them. As one cast member puts it, "Bearing witness to someone else's truth is an opportunity to assess our own truth."
The mood is sometimes elegiac (as when the talk turns to AIDS or suicide) but mostly celebratory. The memories are joyous and painful, humorous and angry, sexy and shy—and always honest and authentic. The dozen cast members are talented and poised. More important, they are brave, curious, intelligent, and eloquent. 20/20 is powerful stuff. v