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A Night Out in the Parks

Spend A Night Out in the Parks for About Face Youth Theatre Ensemble "Checking Boxes"
Spend A Night Out in the Parks for About Face Youth Theatre Ensemble "Checking Boxes"
Ali Hoefnagel

Summer is a time when Chicagoans celebrate in outdoor parties in communities all over the city. There isn’t a weekend from now until Labor Day that doesn’t hold a festival to suit every taste. Night Out in the Parks is a program presented as part of the Chicago Park District with the support of Mayor Rahm Emanuel. Arts programming in neighborhoods across the city advance the goals of the Chicago Park District and the Chicago Cultural Plan. In its second year, the 2014 Night Out in the Parks series will bring 1,000 events and programs to more than 250 neighborhood parks throughout the city. The Chicago Park District has partnered with more than 50 arts and community organizations for this year’s Night Out in the Parks. One of the projects was developed by About Face Theatre and is the world premiere of Checking Boxes by Shannon Matesky in collaboration with About Face Youth Theatre Ensemble.

Checking Boxes is based on the true experiences of the ensemble members and other members of the LGBTQIA community. “As issues within the LGBTQIA community grow more complex, it becomes vital to seek out the voices of young people who are fighting for change and growth in their society. Checking Boxes refers to the simultaneous pride and limitation of the identities we often place ourselves in; we check boxes for our race, gender, age, sexual preference, ethnicity, etc. The topic of Checking Boxes is one that our young ensemble felt very strongly about exploring,” comments AFT Education and Outreach Director Ali Hoefnagel.

Hoefnagel is an actor, arts administrator and teaching artist in Chicago. As an artist and educator she is committed to embracing the complexity of the queer identity to create new and engaging ways to address LGBTQIA issues with the community at large. She completed a James S. Kemper Foundation Internship in Arts and Theater Administration with Victory Gardens Theater and worked in Development with Steppenwolf Theatre Company before joining About Face as Education and Outreach Director in September 2013. She received a BA in Theater and Women’s & Gender Studies from Lake Forest College.

“Our tight-knit ensemble devised a play that explores the intersection of those identities to speak to the broken immigration system in America. Shannon Matesky and I are honored to activate their beautiful stories in our beautiful parks this summer,” adds Hoefnagel.

Playwright Shannon Matesky is an artist, activist and educator. Her poetry has been featured on HBO’s Def Poetry and in stages across the nation. Shannon has taught with organizations including Youth Speaks, Young Chicago Authors, Step-Up Women's Network, Kuumba Lynx, Depaul University and many other classrooms across the nation. A graduate of Depaul's BFA Acting program, her recent theatrical credits include Quark (MPAACT), How Long Will I Cry? (Steppenwolf Theatre), The March (Steppenwolf Theatre), Hit The Wall (The Inconvenience, Steppenwolf Garage), Sophocles Seven Sicknesses (The Hypocrites, and Sonnets For An Old Century (UrbanTheater, Steppenwolf Garage).

In this original play devised by the About Face Youth Theatre, the characters in Checking Boxes explore the often overlooked intersection between immigration and the LGBTQIA experience. Through storytelling, spoken word and movement, inspired by the burgeoning "Undocuqueer" movement in the U.S. these talented young artists share experiences of coming out, growing up and pursuing the American Dream.,

AFT's annual youth production will play Thursday and Friday evenings July 10 – August 1, 2014 at parks across the City. All performances are FREE and open to the public.


Thursday, July 10 & Friday, July 11* at 7 pm - Washington Park, 5531 S. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Dr, Chicago

Thursday, July 17 & Friday, July 18 at 7 pm (outside, weather permitting) - Piotrowski Park, 4247 W. 31st St., Chicago

Thursday, July 24 & Friday, July 25 at 7 pm - Austin Town Hall, 5610 W. Lake St., Chicago

Thursday, July 31 and Friday, August 1 at 7 pm - Willye White Park, 1610 W. Howard St., Chicago

So enjoy A Night Out in the Parks this summer with About Face Youth Theatre Ensemble.

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