"Did you say to me that you was funny?...Black folks don't have that [LGBT].  That's a white people disease..."

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Cleaning Closets: Chicago Youth

November 7-8, 2017

Produced and Directed by Jonathan Mayo

Link to performance:  https://vimeo.com/265864638

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.  

ENSEMBLE

Bea Cordelia Rashaad Hall Charli Williams

PRODCUTION TEAM

Stage Manager Jayden Epps Filmmaker Britney Alsot Filmmaker Ray Goldberg

LOGO DESIGN

Moises Villada

WORKSHOP GUESTS

Rev. Shawna Bowman Nat Duran

Luis Moreno Victor Salvo

SPECIAL THANKS

PC Gooden-Smiley and the Alderman’s Office

Illinois Safe Schools Alliance

Anonymous Youth

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.

Director’s Note

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.  

Profiles

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 directorSince 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!

National Coming Out Day 2015 Month-Long Celebration

August 31-September 6, 2015

How does your Generation impact the coming out process?

Panel Date:  9/6/15 @ 3:00PM Central Time

Watch the Recording of the Live Panel on Google+ or YouTube!

with Reed Essex, Samuel Perkins, Freddie Ramos
Special thanks to Br. Michael Oboza (ret)

Guest Bloggers:  Eric Yoak

Special Events:  Release of Cleaning Closets: Morehead State University on the YouTube Channel

Freddie Ramos is a Chicago-based playwright, improviser, and educator. Current projects include a behind-the-scenes drama centering on a gay porn studio and an epic about the (re)discovery of a T-Rex egg. Freddie improvises with Chicago Unscripted Theatre Company as well as with Horchata, a Spanish-language improv ensemble. Freddie holds a BA in English from Yale. More about Freddie can be found at his website: www.wilfredoramosjr.com.

One of Chicago's countless Bisexual radicals, Br. Michael C. Oboza (ret) was the first Bisexual liaison at Center on Halsted, Founder of Bisexual Queer Alliance Chicago 2010, recipient of the Michael Page award, an award in honor of the creator of the Bisexual flag from The Marin Foundation 2011,  and one of the acknowledged Legacy Project Chicago volunteers in 2012.  (*unfortunately Br. Oboza's internet connection was not working so he was unable to join us on the panel)

September 7-September 13, 2015
How does Race impact the coming out process?
Panel Date:   9/13/15 @ 3:00PM Central Time
with Freddie Ramos, Russell Love
Watch the recording on Google+ or YouTube!
Guest Bloggers:  Amrit Trewn
#LGBTQandRace

Freddie Ramos
Freddie Ramos is a Chicago-based playwright, improviser, and educator. Current projects include a behind-the-scenes drama centering on a gay porn studio and an epic about the (re)discovery of a T-Rex egg. Freddie improvises with Chicago Unscripted Theatre Company as well as with Horchata, a Spanish-language improv ensemble. Freddie holds a BA in English from Yale. More about Freddie can be found at his website: www.wilfredoramosjr.com.

Russell Love
Russell Love, a native Evanstonian, is currently part of the performance based education cadre, For Youth Inquiry, at Illinois Caucus for Adolescent Health. He is also a Social Recreation Instructor for the Boys and Girls Club of Chicago, running the Summer Youth Job Readiness Program. In 2009, after attending school at Maharishi University of Management, in Fairfield, Iowa, Russell moved back to the Chicago area to pursue a career in theatre, but soon found himself drawn to the youth serving space. In 2011, Russell completed the year-long Public Allies program, working at Center on Halsted as the Youth Leadership Development Specialist, engaging with low income LGBT youth. In 2012, Russell designed and implemented Lakeview Action Coalition’s - now called ONE Northside - Youth Get Out The Vote initiative, where he facilitated voter education groups and did street outreach voter registration. In 2014, Russell spent the year designing and co-hosting parties, called Rice & Beans, that cultivated conversations around racial and reproductive justice. These parties eventually cumulated in a performance piece (in partnership with For Youth Inquiry), called Forecast, which premiered at the Chicago Home Theatre Festival. Russell is passionate about storytelling as a catalyst to starting revolutionary conversations and ushering in a generation of change.

 

September 14-September 20, 2015
The Other Side of the Closet Door:  A Mayo Family Special!
Panel Date:  9/20/15
Check out the Panel @ 3:00PM Central Time
with Derek Mayo and Frances Mayo
Watch the recording on Google+ or YouTube!
Special:  Dear Daddy story release
#ThisSideoftheCloset

Derek Mayo
Derek is creator Jonathan Mayo's father.  He is a truly inspirational man who has grown with Jonathan.  And he also took time out on his birthday to join the panel! 

Frances Mayo
Frances is creator Jonathan Mayo's sister.  She's talented and smart and Jonathan couldn't live without her.  

September 21-September 27, 2015
What role does Health play in the coming out process?
with Christine Head

Panel Date:  9/27/15 @ 3:00PM Central Time
Watch the recording on Google+ and YouTube!

Christine Head
Christine was born and raised in Atlanta, Georgia.  After attending Bryn Mawr College and working in the Office of Intercultural Affairs around issues of race, class, sexual orientation and gender identity, Christine moved to Chicago to start her career in policy advocacy and continue her work as an ally.  After working as an external organizer at SEIU local 73, Christine began her work in juvenile justice advocacy. During her time in policy advocacy, Christine has successfully spearheaded many efforts to improve outcome for LGBTQ youth in the juvenile system that include, but are not limited to: the adoption of a best practice guide for probation officer in Cook County, planning a number of interactive forums on issues related juvenile such as DMC and healthcare access, and speaking at the W. Haywood Burns National 10th anniversary conference on the future of SOGI competence in relation to racial and ethnic disparities. Christine continues to work to push forward policy reform that is conscience of SOGI competence as well as racial and ethnic disparities in contact with the juvenile justice system. For more information, please contact me at christined.head@gmail.com .

 

September 28-October 4, 2015
Coming out as Trans...
Panel Date:  10/4/15
Watch the recording on Google+ and YouTube!
Guest Bloggers:  Gretchen Rachel Hammond
Special:  #myPGP

www.facebook.com/CleaningClosetsChicago
Twitter:  @CleanClosetChgo

Owen DMC
Owen has started his policy and advocacy work in New York and returned to his roots in Chicago where he's continued his work by founding the Transformative Justice Law Project.  Owen has also done work with the Illinois Safe Schools Alliance and many other organizations in the city.  

Gretchen Rachel Hammond
Gretchen is a senior staff writer for the Chicago-based LGBTQ publication the Windy City Times and the 2015 recipient of the prestigious Lisagor Award.  Hammond has also written novels like The Last Circle.  

October 5-October 11, 2015
How does Marriage Equality impact the coming out process?
Panel Date:  10/11/15 (National Coming Out Day)
with guests from the front line of the Kim Davis battle:  Dallas, Danielle, Becca, Keisha, and Eric Yoak!
Watch it LIVE on Google+ and YouTube!
Guest Bloggers:  Pierce Collier

  returning to my alma mater of morehead state university was surreal and invigorating.  The students took Cleaning Closets to a whole new level as we devised a new work out of their own stories.  read about their experiences in their  blog posts .         

returning to my alma mater of morehead state university was surreal and invigorating.  The students took Cleaning Closets to a whole new level as we devised a new work out of their own stories.  read about their experiences in their blog posts.  

 

 

        Cleaning Closets: A Night of Storytelling featured great performers from Chicago's storytelling scene.  Jonathan Mayo shared his story alongside  Jeremy Owens ,  Laura Stempel , and Katie L.        

 

 

Cleaning Closets: A Night of Storytelling featured great performers from Chicago's storytelling scene.  Jonathan Mayo shared his story alongside Jeremy Owens, Laura Stempel, and Katie L. 

 

 

  After making some initial edits to the original script, selected scenes were chosen to perform at  Northwestern University  in Evanston.  The performance and panel discussion was hosted by  Project Shout Out .  Check out the rehearsal video in the  Archives.          

After making some initial edits to the original script, selected scenes were chosen to perform at Northwestern University in Evanston.  The performance and panel discussion was hosted by Project Shout Out.  Check out the rehearsal video in the Archives.  

 

 

  The very first incarnation of  Cleaning Closets  was the staged reading performed at the  African-American Cultural Center  at the University of Illinois Chicago hosted by the  Gender & Sexuality Center .  There was a talk-back where we received great feedback on the script, followed by a reception.  Check out the cast photo in the  Archives        

The very first incarnation of Cleaning Closets was the staged reading performed at the African-American Cultural Center at the University of Illinois Chicago hosted by the Gender & Sexuality Center.  There was a talk-back where we received great feedback on the script, followed by a reception.  Check out the cast photo in the Archives