Windy City Media Group Frontpage News
Celebrating 30 Years of Gay Lesbian Bisexual and Trans News
home search facebook twitter join
Gay News Sponsor Windy City Times 2019-12-11
DOWNLOAD ISSUE
About WCMG Publications News Index  Entertainment Features Bars & Clubs Calendar Videos Advertisers OUT! Guide    Marriage

Sponsor
Sponsor

  WINDY CITY TIMES

Ms. Blakk for President
by Jean Albright, Windy City Times
2019-06-05

facebook twitter pin it google +1 reddit email


Co-author and director Tina Landau, Co-author Tarell Alvin McCraney

Steppenwolf Theatre through July 14. www.steppenwolf.org .

Whether the effort was performative or real, Chicago witnessed history in the early 1990s when Joan Jett Blakk, an African American drag queen who was the creation of activist Terence Smith, ran not just for Chicago Mayor, but in 1992 ran for president of the United States. If a failed businessman with a bad TV show can win, why not Blakk?

The campaign was an in-your-face denunciation of the status quo, a Queer Nation visibility effort that made it all the way to the floor of the Democratic National Convention in New York City.

Now, in all its glory, some of it a little modified from the actual history, is a stage production that is joyous, emotional ( remembering those peak years of the AIDS crisis ), musical and wonderfully executed. Steppenwolf presents Ms. Blakk for President, and this show is highly recommended.

Written by Tarell Alvin McCraney and Tina Landau, the show was created by Landau after she read the book Out and Proud in Chicago, edited and cowritten by Windy City Times Publisher Tracy Baim. Landau, also the show's director, was immediately inspired by the Blakk campaign.

"I didn't want to start the piece at all until I had contacted Terence ( Joan Jett Blakk ) and had his blessing and support," she said in an advance press statement. "We connected, and he told me his story, in his words, over hours and hours, and that formed the basis for our starting the work. It's a Chicago story, it's a true story, it's an untold story. It's a queer story. It's a political story. As someone who was alive at the height of the AIDS epidemic, I wanted to do this piece both to honor Terence and the 'army of lovers' at ACT UP and Queer Nation, as well as in memory of dear friends lost at the time. It's for them."

On the opening night it was so great to see both the original Blakk in the audience ( Smith came in from California ), and the city's new mayor, Lori Lightfoot. What an incredible arc of history sitting in that room—someone who ran for mayor and president when people laughed at the concept, and someone who won in 2019, less than three decades later, as an openly lesbian, African American woman.

This is a Chicago story, and it's great to see LGBTQ history told that isn't just about the coasts. Especially as the country celebrates the 50th anniversary of Stonewall, it's important to remember that cities all over experienced their own versions of Stonewall, both before and after 1969.

McCraney also plays Blakk, and what a role it is. He simply shines as Blakk, channelling her courage, dignity and personal challenges.

All of the actors have very physically demanding parts to play, most of them in high heels. In addition to McCraney in the lead role, the terrific additional cast are Patrick Andrews, Molly Brennan, Daniel Kyri, Jon Hudson Odom and Sawyer Smith. It is sad that more of the lesbian power of Queer Nation, and in support of Blakk's campaign, was left out.

The staging is perfect, it's as if we're in a bar, and many of the seats are right around a runway in the middle of Steppenwolf's Upstairs Theatre. Scenic design is by David Zinn, costume design ( including Tamara Fraser's original Joan Jett Blakk campaign t-shirt ) is by Toni-Leslie James, lighting by Heather Gilbert, sound and original music by Lindsay Jones, and projection design by Rasean Davonte Johnson.

Both the lobby and the theater are decorated with posters and fliers from the early 1990s Chicago scene, especially Queer Nation and protest stickers, but also, powerfully, the names of people lost to HIV/AIDS. The lobby also has a timeline of LGBTQ rights and the fight against AIDS. The entire experience, from lobby to pre- and post-show dancing, recreates some of the power, passion and life-and-death reality of 1992 Chicago. Click your heels together and get on down to Steppenwolf's Upstairs Theatre.


facebook twitter pin it google +1 reddit email





Windy City Media Group does not approve or necessarily agree with the views posted below.
Please do not post letters to the editor here. Please also be civil in your dialogue.
If you need to be mean, just know that the longer you stay on this page, the more you help us.


  ARTICLES YOU MIGHT LIKE

Gay News

Joffrey Presents 'The Times Are Racing,' a mixed rep program 2019-12-13 - Dec. 13, 2019 ( Chicago ) — For its winter engagement, The Joffrey Ballet presents The Times Are Racing, a mixed repertory program ...


Gay News

Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater includes Midwest premieres, Ailey classics 2019-12-12 - ( CHICAGO, IL ) — The Auditorium Theatre announces programming for Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater's March 4-8, 2020 performances in Chicago, featuring ...


Gay News

Renee Fleming in rehearsal with Lyric Opera for The Light in the Piazza 2019-12-11 - CHICAGO ( December 11, 2019 )—Rehearsals are underway for Scenario Two's presentation of the beloved Tony Award-winning musical The Light in the Piazza ...


Gay News

THEATER REVIEW A Xmas Cuento Remix­­ 2019-12-11 - By: Maya Malan-Gonzalez At: 16th Street Theater, 6420 16th St., Berwyn Tickets: 708-795-6704 or 16thStreetTheater.org; $22-$32. Runs through: Dec. 29 You've ...


Gay News

Critics' Picks 2019-12-11 - The Tall Boy, Stage 773, through Dec. 15—The celebrated talent behind this touring show ( Tandy Cronyn, Kay Boyle, Simon Bent ) create ...


Gay News

PERFORMER OF THE WEEK Ryan Royale 2019-12-11 - BEHIND THE NAME "The name Royale comes from my fascination with royalty and the rise and fall of fame. I was a young ...


Gay News

Five Worth Finding: Gay spy movie, Santa Suite and more 2019-12-11 - —London Spy: In this British-American series that originally aired in 2015, devil-may-care Danny ( played by a fantastic Ben Whishaw ) meets the ...


Gay News

'Nat King Cole' holiday show Dec. 16-17 2019-12-10 - Writers Theatre, in partnership with Artists Lounge Live, will present a limited engagement of An Unforgettable Nat King Cole Christmas, starring Evan Tyrone ...


Gay News

10th anniversary of 'The Nutcracker' features gay dads 2019-12-10 - The House Theatre of Chicago will celebrate the 10th anniversary of the annual hit production The Nutcracker—an all-original, ballet-free and family-friendly production playing ...


Gay News

THEATER REVIEW The Land of Forgotten Toys 2019-12-10 - Authors: Music by Dylan MarcAurele; book and lyrics by Jaclyn Enchin and Jennifer Enchin, based on a story by Larry Little At: The ...


 



Copyright © 2019 Windy City Media Group. All rights reserved.
Reprint by permission only. PDFs for back issues are downloadable from
our online archives. Single copies of back issues in print form are
available for $4 per issue, older than one month for $6 if available,
by check to the mailing address listed below.

Return postage must accompany all manuscripts, drawings, and
photographs submitted if they are to be returned, and no
responsibility may be assumed for unsolicited materials.
All rights to letters, art and photos sent to Nightspots
(Chicago GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times (a Chicago
Gay and Lesbian News and Feature Publication) will be treated
as unconditionally assigned for publication purposes and as such,
subject to editing and comment. The opinions expressed by the
columnists, cartoonists, letter writers, and commentators are
their own and do not necessarily reflect the position of Nightspots
(Chicago GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times (a Chicago Gay,
Lesbian, Bisexual and Transegender News and Feature Publication).

The appearance of a name, image or photo of a person or group in
Nightspots (Chicago GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times
(a Chicago Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender News and Feature
Publication) does not indicate the sexual orientation of such
individuals or groups. While we encourage readers to support the
advertisers who make this newspaper possible, Nightspots (Chicago
GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times (a Chicago Gay, Lesbian
News and Feature Publication) cannot accept responsibility for
any advertising claims or promotions.

 

 

 

TRENDINGBREAKINGPHOTOS

Sponsor
Sponsor
Sponsor
Sponsor


 



About WCMG Publications News Index  Entertainment Features Bars & Clubs Calendar Videos Advertisers OUT! Guide    Marriage


About WCMG      Contact Us      Online Front  Page      Windy City  Times      Nightspots      OUT! Guide     
Identity      BLACKlines      En La Vida      Archives      Subscriptions      Distribution      Windy City Queercast     
Queercast Archives      Advertising  Rates      Deadlines      Advanced Search     
Press  Releases      Event Photos      Join WCMG  Email List      Email Blast     
Upcoming Events      Todays Events      Ongoing Events      Post an Event      Bar Guide      Community Groups      In Memoriam      Outguide Categories      Outguide Advertisers      Search Outguide      Travel      Dining Out      Blogs      Spotlight  Video     
Classifieds      Real Estate      Place a  Classified     

Windy City Media Group publishes Windy City Times,
The Bi-Weekly Voice of the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Trans Community.
5315 N. Clark St. #192, Chicago, IL 60640-2113 • PH (773) 871-7610 • FAX (773) 871-7609.