About Face Theater’s Wonka Ball 2013 Review - Circus Maximus Delivers An Evening of Wonder and Merriment

About Face Theater delivered big time on its promise of colossal entertainment, excessive elegance and inspired grandeur at the 17th annual WONKA BALL 2013:  CIRCUS MAXIMUS, held on Friday, April 26.

And the guests -- awed and inspired by the poignant storytelling and sensory delights unfolding around them -- roared their delight by raising $85,000 for the theater by the evening’s end. 

A performer entertains guests at About Face Theatre’s WONKA BALL 2013: CIRCUS MAXIMUS

Proceeds from the WONKA BALL support About Face Theatre programming including its groundbreaking Youth Theatre, which creates critically acclaimed new work by and about lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) artists and their allies.


The AFT's premier fundraiser of the year transformed the preternaturally still and silent Architectural Artifacts city showroom into a boisterous three-ring circus that took the big top over the top in the carnivorous 80,000 square foot showroom.

Guest enjoyed non-stop entertainment in the Big Top

The showroom’s regular residents, including gargoyles, griffins and marble maidens, shared their resting grounds for the evening with a roving band of live circus acts, including stilt walkers, fire dancers, acrobats, magicians, jugglers, and even a mermaid suspended from a fanciful ceiling swing.

(left to right) Event Co-Chairs and AFT Board members Billy Lullo and Benjamin Sprunger

Ladies and gents mingled, sipped and sampled the night away -  donning everything from chic urban attire to colorful burlesque-style corsets to all-out circuswear that gave a nod to ringmasters, and side show acts alike.  Other entertainment for the evening included opera tenor Scott Ramsay, a marching band, belly dancers, contortionists and the tunes of DJ Swaguerilla.

Stephanie Brzuzy, Illinois State Senator Heather Steans and AFT Board Vice President Rob Abernathy

The About Face Theater was founded in 1995 in response to the lack of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender voices within the American theater. To date, AFT has developed nearly 60 productions for Chicago audiences.


About Face creates innovative theater to advance the national dialogue on general and sexual identify.  It seeks to challenge and entertain audiences  The theater serves as a celebrated center for LGBTQ arts.  The organization is an inclusive place where diverse artists, youth and the broader community come together for artistic exchange and cultural dialogue.

Fire dancers greets guests at About Face Theatre’s WONKA BALL 2013: CIRCUS MAXIMUS

The evening also served as the first public event introducing Andrew Volkoff as AFT’s new Artistic Director.  Volkoff, who has served as Associate Artistic Director of Barrington Stage Company in Massachusetts and Genesius Theatre Group in New York City, will succeed Bonnie Metzgar this spring.

(left to right) About Face Youth Theatre 2013 MVP Award recipient Nemo Serges and Youth Task Force member Anna Rangos

Nemo Serges was the recipient of the About Face Youth Theatre 2013 MVP Award, given annually to an outstanding youth theatre ensemble member for exceptional service to the company and to the greater LGBTQ community.

46th Ward Alderman James Cappleman (center), whose office was the recipient of the 2013 Leppen Leadership Award

Currently the Youth Ensemble is staging the world premier WHAT’S THE T? by Sara Kerastas and the About Face Youth Theater Ensemble, directed by Artistic Associate Eric Hoff, playing May 19-June 2 at the Prince Charitable Trusts Upstairs Loft at the Victory Gardens Theater, 2433 N. Lincoln Ave in Chicago.  Inspired by issues of race, gender, age and class in Chicago’s “Boystown,” WHAT’S THE T? is based on true stories and interviews from LGBTQA youth and adults around Chicago.

All Photos © courtesy of Timmy Samuel

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