Solo shows abound around Chicago this January.
Former Saturday Night Live alumna Julia Sweeney is work-shopping standup comedy shows called Older and Wider in Judy's Beat Lounge at The Second City starting Jan. 12. Also kicking off that same date is Lifeline Theatre's presentation of the 21st annual Fillet of Solo Festival, which runs through Jan. 28. And solo shows are a part of Curious Theatre Branch's 29th annual Rhinoceros Theater Festival, which begins a six-week run starting Jan. 13 at Prop Thtr.
But three separate solo shows this January are likely to be of interest to members of the LGBTQ communityparticularly the last three letters of the inclusive acronym in terms of characters and/or artists who self-identify as bisexual, transgender and queer.
Playwright Daniel Noonan is open about his HIV-positive status. Born with severe hemophilia, Noonan became infected through a blood transfusion in the early 1980s before there was a test to identify the HIV virus.
Noonan dramatized a character living with similar circumstances in his 2005 comic drama Out Among the Dragons. He has also often incorporated characters living with chronic conditions in his other work.
But now Noonan has moved on to write the solo showwith a self-descriptive titlecalled Blue Over You ( A Mysterious One-Man Love Story With Musical Bits ). It stars Equity actor Michael Joseph Mitchell as Francis, a married bisexual whose wife has mysteriously disappeared.
"[Francis] has dated both men and women," Noonan said. "That was just more interesting to me for this particular piece to have a character that does have a more fluid sexuality. I just thought that was who Francis was."
With Blue Over You, Noonan is teaming up with director Sarah Whitney to launch a new Evanston-based theater organization called Spot On Company. The solo aspect of the play was an artistic exercise, but it also made financial sense.
"I read the play I Am My Own Wife, and I really enjoyed it and thought about the challenge of writing a one-man show," Noonan said. "And also I did want something that would be easy to be produced."
Spot On Company's world premiere of Blue Over You ( A Mysterious One-Man Love Story with Musical Bits ) plays from Friday, Jan. 5, through Sunday, Jan. 28, at Northminster Presbyterian Church, 2515 Central Park Ave., Evanston. Tickets are $20-$25. Visit BlueOverYou.com .
Questioning gender roles
Back in 2004, transgender writer and actor Jamie Black performed Living Inside Myself at the former Bailiwick Repertory Theatre. It was an autobiographical solo show focusing on Black's male transition process.
But now Black is ready to perform the latest iteration of his solo show called It's my Penis ( And I'll Cry if I Want To ) at the Pride Arts Center. Rather than solely focusing on being trans, the play is a humorous and thoughtful look at the need to shift societal gender roles.
"I hate coming up with titles and I was on a time crunch with MPAACT's solo jams [where the play was first developed]. They needed a title and they needed to get it in for brochures," Black said. "It's my Penis ( And I'll Cry if I Want To ) was just one of those things that popped into my head and it actually summarizes what I'm talking aboutthe fact that as a man, I am not expected to show emotion, be vulnerable, or cry because that's not masculine. But that's who I am."
Black loves performing his own material, though he is open to doing other theater work. For example, Black recently appeared in Carla Stillwell's satire Burf of Nation, or From Covfefe with Love for MPAACT.
"As long as I'm not touring my own show, I'm absolutely open to doing other theater," said Black, noting that he has been included in a minority casting database. "A lot of theater administrators are opening their minds as to who can play what role, and that has resulted in a lot more audition requests for me, which is awesome."
It's my Penis ( And I'll Cry if I Want To ) plays from Friday, Jan. 5, through Sunday, Feb. 11, in The Buena space of the Pride Arts Center, 4147 N. Broadway. Tickets are $25. Call 800-737-0984 or visit PrideFilmsAndPlays.com .
Queering Frank Lloyd Wright?
In the world-premiere show The New Prairie School, performance artist Corey Smith aims to "queer up" the late, great American architect Frank Lloyd Wright.
"I'm very interested in the process of taking down great men. Wright as an architect is seen as one of the first 'starchitects' whose personality was outsized as his buildings," said Smith, noting his collaborators Ethan T. Parcell and Claire Saxe are also closely involved in the piece. "I'm not interested in perpetuating that myth. I'm interested in 'othering him.' I'm interested in queering his work and looking at it from a queer perspective."
Never mind that the father of Prairie Style architecture was notorious in the media for abandoning his Oak Park family and work studio in 1909 to run off to Germany with a mistress. Instead, Smith wants to explore the more progressive aspects of Wright's approach to building to suit surrounding landscapes.
"I'm also interested in this tension between my identity as a Midwesterner and my identity as a queer personwhat the relationship is between those places is and can we make the Midwest a place for radical ideas for queerness, for progressive thought and action sort of a more equitable society," Smith said. "I think that there's connections here. The houses that Wright builds and the ideas behind them can be brought into the 21st century in a progressive lens."
The world premiere of The New Prairie School plays 7 p.m. Friday-Sunday, Jan. 12-14, at Links Hall, 3111 N. Western Ave. Tickets are $10-$25, depending upon income; visit LinksHall.org or Ticketfly.com for more information .