The About Face Youth Theatre Ensemble Presents CHECKING BOXES part of Chicago Park District’s Night Out In The Parks July 10 – August 1, 2014

aboutfaceAbout Face Theatre, in association with the Chicago Park District’s Night Out in the Parks initiative, is pleased to present the world premiere of Checking Boxes by Shannon Matesky in collaboration with the About Face Youth Theatre Ensemble, directed by AFT Education and Outreach Director Ali Hoefnagel and featuring Youth Ensemble members.  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. The press opening is Friday, July 11 at 7 pm at Washington Park. 

In this original play devised by the About Face Youth Theatre, characters explore the often overlooked intersection between immigration and the LGBTQIA experience. Through storytelling, spoken word and movement, these talented young artists share experiences of coming out, growing up and pursuing the American Dream. Inspired by the burgeoning “Undocuqueer” movement in the U.S., Checking Boxes is based on the true experiences of the ensemble members and other members of the LGBTQIA community.

“The topic of Checking Boxes is one that our young ensemble felt very strongly about exploring,” comments AFT Education and Outreach Director Ali Hoefnagel. “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.  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.


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

For additional information, visit and


Shannon Matesky (Playwright) is an artist, activist and educator. Her poetry has been featured on HBO’s Def Poetry, stages across the nation and imbedded in her first solo play She Think She Grown. Invested in peer based pedagogy, 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). Shannon has also assistant directed with the likes of Charles Newell and Chuck Smith. She was the 2012 recipient of the Edes Foundation Prize and is a Theatrical Associate with The Inconvenience Theatrical Syndicate.

Ali Hoefnagel (Director) 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.

The About Face Youth Theatre (AFYT) was created in 1998 as a safe space for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer or questioning, and allied young people to become activists and theatre-makers. Youth participants engage in an annual process of sharing stories, conducting interviews, writing a script, and developing performances to create a full-length production that is produced in About Face Theatre’s mainstage season. 

About Face Theatre creates exceptional, innovative, and adventurous plays to advance the national dialogue on gender and sexual identity, and to challenge and entertain audiences in Chicago, across the country, and around the world.

This program is presented as part of the Chicago Park District’s Night Out in the Parks with the support of Mayor Rahm Emanuel.  Arts programming in neighborhoods across the city advances 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, making community parks safe havens and hubs    of activity.  Projects will vary from traditional performances and concerts, to peace rallies, movies, magic shows, community workshops, nature based programs, dance pieces, festivals, and more. The Chicago Park District has partnered with more than 50 arts and community organizations to expand and produce this successful initiative.