[dropcap]T[/dropcap]his summer About Face Theatre debuted “Checking Boxes,” a play that focuses on the intersection of LGBTQIA (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, questioning, intersex and asexual) and immigration rights.
“Checking Boxes is a story that deals with the intersection of the queer and undocumented, as well as this current generation’s feelings toward the American dream, and examining that aspect of immigration,” said performer and first-generation immigrant Rolo Rodriguez, 23.
Another performer, Lucia Frisancho, 16, described it as social justice theatre, a sort of an activist art. “These are stories that aren’t being heard. There are these people who are suffering, not just because of the lack of papers and documents but because even within that community they’re being hidden because of their queer identity. They’re literally invisible,” said Frisancho.
“It’s important for us as artists, for us as people, to come out and share these voices,” she added. The play is heavily based on real-life experiences from cast members. Cast members also went through months of workshops and research to further inform themselves on the issue, according to Ali Hoefnagel, education and outreach director at About Face Theatre.
One major theme the play explores is oppression. “If one of us is oppressed, we are all oppressed. If not all of us have our rights, then none of us really have our rights. We are all in it together,” Rodriguez said.
Rodriguez added that LGBTQIA and immigration rights intersect in numerous ways but specifically noted that LGBTQIA individuals that emigrate from Mexico, in part, are trying to find a little bit more freedom from the culture.
“The tradition in Mexico has been heavily masculine driven, very anti-gay in the establishment. Just because the laws are in a more progressive place doesn’t mean the people themselves are,” he added.
While the topic of immigration is important to Chicago, the intersection of being queer and undocumented is not something that people really think or talk much about, Hoefnagel said.
“The two of them speak very well to each other. If the LGBTQIA community and the undocumented community could band together I think we could affect real change. This play begins to scratch the surface of that topic in a way that hopefully incites everyone who sees it to want to learn more,” she added.
Checking Boxes will run through the summer at various locations every Thursday and Friday at 7 p.m. in association with the Chicago Park District’s Night Out at the Parks. Performances are free and open to the public. You can find the full performance schedule at aboutfacetheatre.com/productions/checking-boxes.
This post is also available in: Spanish