Q&A with About Face Theatre Artistic Director Megan Carney
By Stephanie Harte
Photo Credit: Rashaad Hall as Curtis and Maggie Scrantom as Annie in AFT's "Time is On Our Side," which Carney is directing. Photo Courtesy of About Face Theatre.
When the About Face Youth Theatre ensemble first took the stage in 1999, Megan Carney knew the company was on the brink of something profound. The free theatre development program gives LGBTQI+ and allied youth a safe place to explore their sexual orientation and gender identity, as well as devise an original play.
After years of collaborating with About Face Theatre as a cofounder of the youth program, Carney recently stepped into the position of the company’s artistic director. Footlights chatted with Carney about what About Face means to her and directing the company’s second production of the season, Time Is On Our Side, by R. Eric Thomas.
Why did you want to take on the role as artistic director?
I have a long relationship with About Face and have always admired the organization. I felt very strongly that I wanted my art making to be back in the center of my life.
In all honesty, I also felt really compelled to do (theatre for social change) after the shift in political rhetoric from the last election. There was a rise in a lot of very explicit discrimination towards a variety of groups, including LGBTQ folks. I wanted to be in a place where I could be creating work that centered LGBTQ people and our lives in a way that was affirming for those of us in the community, but also connected to the conversations that people are really hungry to have right now.
Tell us about some of the goals you hope to achieve with About Face moving forward.
It really boils down to three things for me. One is to center education. We have this youth program that is going to be 20 years old next year and has just been a pioneering program in bringing young people, ages 13 – 24, from all walks of life, to tap into their potential as leaders and artists. A second goal is championing new works. Bringing in artists who are emerging writers and emerging voices, telling stories that we aren’t hearing in other places. The third thing is expanding our circle of who is About Face? Starting locally with Chicago we want to ask, ‘What is queer culture in the city of Chicago?’ How do we create a model of ‘Here’s how we are doing it in Chicago,’ that other cities would be interested in learning about.
Megan Carney. Photo Courtesy of David Rosenberg Public Relations.
What are you looking forward to most about Time is On Our Side?
It’s set in the world of podcasts, so our two best friends at the center of the story are working on making this podcast where they are “queering history.” I think it’s been fun to think about, ‘How do we can make the podcast theatrical?’ To me a podcast is such an intimate sound experience; so we are really having a great time thinking about, ‘How do we create that intimate magic as part of the play?’
Why did you want to direct this piece?
The script is so funny and so fresh that it kind of leaps off the page. I was reading it and I just recognized the characters and I recognized the dilemmas in the play as very personal. Eric Thomas, the playwright, has been a really important voice in our culture because he has this very astute read on politics. He’s able to cut through a lot of stuff with an amazing sense of humor.
In rehearsal one night (the cast and I) started talking about how we learned about LGBTQ history because it isn’t taught in schools. We got into this long conversation about how we really had to work for it, and that’s still true today. In order not to lose this history we have to keep these intergenerational conversations going so that we are passing it on.
Time Is On Our Side, presented by About Face Theatre, runs March 1 – April 7 at Theater Wit, 1229 W. Belmont. For tickets visit aboutface.org or call the Theater Wit box office at 773-975-8150.