About Face Theatre Announces New Executive Director and Wonka Ball 2010


About Face Theatre Board President Bill Michel today announced the appointment of Jason Held as AFT's new Executive Director. Held brings his experience as a lawyer, political fundraiser and advocate for LGBTQ youth to AFT, most recently working for the Illinois Safe Schools Alliance.

"The Board of About Face is very excited to have hired an Executive Director with the passion and experience of Jason Held," says Michel. "We believe that Jason Held and Artistic Director Bonnie Metzgar will make a fantastic leadership team helping to secure About Face Theatre's future."

Held has served on the Volunteer Board of Governors of the Human Rights Campaign, provided leadership at the Center for Justice & Democracy-Illinois and worked as the Grants and Annual Fund Manager for Writers Theatre in Glencoe.

About Face will introduce new Executive Director Held to the Chicago community at Wonka Ball 2010. The popular annual soiree will take place on Thursday, June 3, 2010 at Chicago Illuminating Company, 19 East 21st Street. The main event begins at 7pm, with a VIP reception from 6:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m.

This year, About Face will also honor the Ellen Stone Belic Institute for the Study of Women and Gender in the Arts and Media at Columbia College Chicago (co-producers with AFT of Sweet Tea currently playing at the Viaduct Theater) with the annual Leppen Leadership Award at the Wonka Ball.

"About Face is honored to present the 2010 Leppen Award to the Ellen Stone Belic Institute for their profound contribution to our shared communities," says Metzgar.

More than 600 people are expected to attend this year's Wonka Ball, the celebrated annual event that was rated in the Top Ten Best Events in Chicago 2009 by Biz Bash, the national event magazine. This year at Wonka, we are celebrating Southern style. Although the debutante ball is traditionally instituted as a rite of passage for young ladies of the South, for Wonka Ball 2010 About Face supporters of the North and beyond unite to experience a ritualistic coming out of our very own. Wonka Ball 2010 will feature a silent auction, open bar, and tasty food from amazing restaurants including Aldino's, Amazing Edibles, David Burke's Primehouse, May Street Café, OrangeZest Culinary Service, Polo Café & Catering Bridgeport USA, Rockit, Socca, and Penny's Pastries.

Wonka Ball 2010 is co-chaired by About Face Board members Dennis Remer and Mike Sullivan. The Host Committee Chair is Rick Stoneham. Event VIP hosts include Peter Calibraro, Jim Andrews, Eric Rosen, Kyle Hall, Cary Weldy, Greg Rose, Dan Otto, TraCy Williams, Barry Benson, John Castronovo, Modesto Tico Valle, Bill Michel & Mark Botelho, Heather Schmucker & Lisa Freeman, Chris Landgraff, Dwight McBride, Mark Robertson, Noah Uldall, Denis Weil, David Wells, Peter Georgiou, Amy Bloom, and Kevin McGirr.

The Wonka Ball 2010 Sponsors are Crew Bar + Grill, Frost Lighting, & Wild Pug.

About Face Theatre
About Face Theatre is one of Chicago's most acclaimed theatre companies, and is a national leader in the development of new work exploring gender and sexual identity. Since its founding by Kyle Hall and Eric Rosen in 1995, the company has premiered more than 30 new plays by writers and directors who have been recognized with several Tony Awards, The Pulitzer Prize for Drama, The MacArthur Fellowship and dozens of Joseph Jefferson Awards.

Recent productions include "Stupid Kids", "The Flowers", "What Once We Felt", and "Sweet Tea: Black Gay Men of the South". In 2009 AFT launched another vehicle to support the development of new works withthe launch of the Chicago XYZ New Works Series, a program designed to introduce Chicago audiences to artists taking risks at all stages of development.

Landmark world premieres include Doug Wright's Pulitzer and Tony-winning "I Am My Own Wife"; Moisés Kaufman's production of Tennessee Williams' "One Arm" (a co-production with Steppenwolf Theatre Company and Tectonic Theatre Project); Mary Zimmerman's "M. Proust", and, with Lookingglass Theatre, the famed "Eleven Rooms of Proust"; Frank Galati and Stephen Flaherty's "Loving Repeating: A Musical of Gertrude Stein" (a co-production with the Museum of Contemporary Art, Original Cast Album recorded by Jay Records); the multi-award winning musical "Winesburg, Ohio" by Eric Rosen, Andre Pluess, Ben Sussman and Jessica Thebus; and the cult hit "Pulp", by Patricia Kane.

In addition to its award-winning mainstage performances, About Face is known nationally for its ground- breaking Youth Theatre, which creates critically acclaimed new work by and about LGBTQ youth and their allies. The Youth Theatre has performed on major stages across the country, and, through its outreach tour, changes the lives of thousands of young people each year. Building on the success of The Youth Theatre model, About Face recently launched its corporate outreach program to provide diversity training and onsite workshops to the corporate community.

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.

Jason Held
Jason Held has a long history advocating for social and economic justice. He has worked for a variety of non-profits and political campaigns in Chicago, Los Angeles, Philadelphia and Atlanta in the areas of organizing, strategic development, lobbying and fundraising. After working on Tammy Duckworth's 2006 bid for Congress in Chicago's western suburbs, he served as the Manager of Grants and Annual Fund for Writers' Theatre in Glencoe, Illinois. He has also served as the Staff Director for the Center for Justice & Democracy-Illinois, a consumer protection advocacy organization, and as the Director of Development for The Illinois Safe Schools Alliance, whose mission is to promote safety, and support healthy development for LGBTQ youth in Illinois schools and communities. He serves on the Human Rights Campaign's (HRC) Board of Governors and is active in other organizations advocating on behalf of LGBTQ equality. Jason received a B.A. in Political Science and International Relations from American University, and a law degree from Temple University in 2005. He is a member of the bar in California and Illinois.

Leppen Leadership Award
Named for About Face Youth Theatre supporter Michael Leppen, the Leppen Award recognizes those whose efforts on behalf of About Face Theatre and the LGBTQA community create meaningful change within the community, empower youth leaders to take action and encourage LGBTQA adults and youth to create intergenerational dialogue and understanding.

Ellen Stone Belic Institute for the Study of Women and Gender in the Arts and Media, Columbia College Chicago (Jane M. Saks, Executive Director) was established in March 2005 as one of twelve research centers at Columbia College Chicago. The first of its kind in the nation, the Institute is dedicated to the creation of new works, scholarship, education and programming about women and gender in the arts and media. As a public think tank, the Institute offers a dynamic and innovative approach that merges applied arts and cultural production with critical theory and academic research. Since 2005, it has created and co-presented more than 75 programs and initiatives, and produced and supported more than 9 original works in film, documentary, theatre, photography, research and publications. With more than 100 national and international partners in cultural, civic and academic sectors, the Institute has established itself as a cross-disciplinary educational nexus that engages wide and diverse audiences.

Its Fellowship Program has supported more than 28 artists and scholars, who have gone on to create original productions and garner critical acclaim and awards, including: Pulitzer-Prize winning playwright of Ruined, Lynn Nottage; Pulitzer-Prize winning photographer, Lynsey Addario; scholar and filmmaker focusing on burlesque culture, Red Tremmel; playwright, producer and conceptual artist, Ifa Bayeza; reporter and journalist, Natalie Y. Moore; and hip-hop artist and activist, Invincible, to name a few.

Among its recent major initiatives is Congo/Women Portraits of War: The Democratic Republic of Congo, an internationally traveling photography exhibition aimed to raise awareness about gender-based violence in Congo. Originally produced by the Institute and Art Works Projects, the exhibition is on tour through 2012 and currently on view at the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland. For more information about the Institute, visit www.colum.edu/institutewomengender.

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