Cleaning Closets is a collection of true coming out stories from both sides of the closet door.
Come check out the next performance!!!
November 7-8, 2017
Produced and Directed by Jonathan Mayo
Cleaning Closets® is an oral history project that collects and shares true coming out stories from BOTH sides of the closet door. This includes the perspective of the LGBTQ+ individuals, as well as that of the friends and family to whom they come out. This performance of the project was devised based on the personal stories of Chicago youth during a 2-day intensive workshop, which included theatre exercises, trainings, guest speakers, and group discussions.
Bea Cordelia ★ Rashaad Hall ★ Charli Williams
Stage Manager Jayden Epps ★ Filmmaker Britney Alsot ★ Filmmaker Ray Goldberg
Rev. Shawna Bowman ★ Nat Duran
Luis Moreno ★ Victor Salvo
PC Gooden-Smiley and the Alderman’s Office
Illinois Safe Schools Alliance
This project is partially supported by an Individual Artists Program Grant from the City of Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs & Special Events, as well as a grant from the Illinois Arts Council Agency, a state agency through federal funds provided by the National Endowment for the Arts.
Calling this a Director’s Note might be sort of a stretch considering this was such a collaborative effort. The brilliance of the ensemble allowed us to create a performance in less than two days. To say there were some challenges would be an understatement, but I️ never lost the confidence that this show would come to fruition.
In only one weekend, it was my responsibility to create a safe zone where the participants felt comfortable sharing their stories with a room full of strangers. The workshop also included LGBTQ+ trainings, guest speakers, and a group discussion around the topic of the impact that intersectionality has on the coming out process. As you can imagine, this did not leave much time for putting the stories on our feet, especially considering one of the actors had to leave early on the second day to perform in a matinee of another show. As you watch the performance, consider how the actors have had to very quickly create depth with their characters while also sharing the stories with integrity. All names have been changed for this production.
The bravery of the young participants and the actors to share their stories was inspiring. I hope that their stories and bravery can continue to inspire you as well.
BEA CORDELIA | she/her/hers| is an award-winning, Chicago-bred, internationally slandered writer, filmmaker, performance artist, actor, producer, educator, & activist whose work uplifts & reimagines the narratives of transgender people. Her “life-changing” solo-show Chasing Blue has featured in Steppenwolf Theatre's LookOut performance series & The Brick’s inaugural Trans Theatre Festival in Brooklyn. In 2016 she developed her first multimedia installation The Cosmic Body in a University of Chicago Performance Lab residency through Salonathon, was made a Luminarts Cultural Foundation Creative Writing Fellow for her poem “The Future,” and made headlines for her lawsuit against the City of Chicago regarding its sexist & transphobic ordinance forbidding the exposure of breasts in establishments with liquor licenses. In 2015 she self-published her first chapbook of poetry, 28.06 // Dear Sylvia, which recounts the history and impact of the Stonewall riots. She is represented by Paonessa Talent Agency, and is currently working on the forthcoming web series The T with co-creator Daniel Kyri & distributor Open TV.
RASHAAD HALL | he/him/his| is a film, television, and theatre actor. Though not a native to Chicago, Rashaad has been seen in some of the city’s most notable theatres. His credits include the Jeff Award-Winning shows The Hairy Ape with Oracle Productions and All Our Tragic with The Hypocrites. He’s also appeared onstage in A Christmas Carol and the world premier of Teddy Ferrara at The Goodman Theatre, The Marvin Gaye Story (Don't Talk About My Father Because God Is My Friend) at the Black Ensemble Theater, Electra at Court Theatre, and Fa$hion with Halcyon Theatre. He also stars in the Emmy-Nominated web series Brown Girls. Rashaad has experience as a teaching artist and with devised work at For Youth Inquiry. Rashaad can currently be seen in Welcome to Jesus at American Theater Company.
CHARLI WILLIAMS | she/her/hers| is a Chicago-based actress. Some of her credits include the critically acclaimed Jeff Award-Winning Direct from Death Row the Scottsboro Boys, The Legend of Georgia McBride,The Magic Tree House : A Night in New Orleans, The MLK Project, Women at War, Rent the Musical, Hair the Musical, A Piece of My Heart, No Child, El Stories, Hip Hop to Aesop III, and Hoodoo Love. No stranger to the camera, Charli has also had the privilege of working on several national commercials including T-Mobile, PBS, and Payless. She has also appeared in web series and several industrial and independent films. Home-The Daniel Beaty Project, Annie, To Kill A Mockingbird, Fabulation or the Re-Education of Undine, and Dearly Departed. Charli earned a BA in Criminal Justice from the University of Texas San Antonio. While working as a Juvenile Probation Officer, Charli studied the art of acting through workshops, classes and private coaching turning her love of the arts and performing into her true career. Her Regional theatre credits include Charli would like to thank her parents, family and agents for their constant support and love.
BRITTANY ALSOT | she/her/hers| is a documentary and narrative filmmaker focused on creating inclusive, empathetic working environments for the cast and crew. She believes in the healing power of storytelling and art that represents the outsider experience. She started her career in Seattle and now lives and works in her native Chicago.
JAY EPPS | they/them/theirs| is a stage manager, devising artist, and director. Since moving to Chicago a year ago Jay has stage managed Cicada Summer with Rough House Theater, Graham Cracker with Broad Shoulder Productions, OCTAGON with Jackalope Theatre, and good friday with Oracle. They completed their degree in Theatre for Community Engagement at Cornell College where they also first discovered the beauty of puppetry. Jay thanks their family and friends for all their continued support and care.
RAY GOLDBERG | she/her/hers| is a Chicago-born-and-raised freelance producer and writer. She graduated from the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor with a bachelor’s degree in Screen Arts and Cultures, sub-concentrating in Screenwriting. Currently she writes for the award-winning podcast PleasureTown, and teaches documentary filmmaking at local elementary schools through Facets Multi-Media. Ray has also worked with the filmmaking nonprofit Full Spectrum Features, where she served as Production Coordinator on their films The Orange Story and Signature Move, as well as local theatre companies such as Nothing Without a Company and Chicago Dramatists.
JONATHAN MAYO | he/him/his| is a producer, storyteller, writer, teaching artist, and sometimes-actor. Jonathan has been seen onstage in many capacities including as a member of the Chicago Gay Men's Chorus where he sang the National Anthem at Wrigley Field, the side project theatre company where he performed in their annual storytelling festival, and Timber Lake Playhouse where he starred in the role of Jim Hawkins in Treasure Island. Jonathan has independently produced community events in conjunction with the McGaw YMCA, the Uptown Chamber of Commerce, the 48th Ward Alderman's office, and the Buttercup Park Advisory Council to name a few. Jonathan is excited to bring this next iteration of Cleaning Closets to life!
Since Cleaning Closets is an oral history project, it has the ability to take many forms. Initially intended to be a stage play, this project continues to produce a variety of incarnations.
Follow the progress of Cleaning Closets as the creator shares a behind-the-scenes look at the process.
There are many ways that you can get involved with Cleaning Closets: Share your story! Bring a play to your school! Propose a collaboration!