WeFest (formerly SheFest, formerly LezFest) is becoming one of the most anticipated evenings of the theatre season, and in Chicago’s queer community.
WeFest (hosted by Molly Brennan and Malic White) is Pride Arts Center’s’ semi-annual celebration of Chicago’s queer female, non-binary, and trans+ artists. This winter, the Pride Arts Center is excited to partner with the Center on Halsted for the event.
Seven fests ago, WeFest began as LezFest, and was created to give lesbian women visibility, especially given a cultural climate where most queer popular culture was aimed at gay men, not women. Four fests later, “LezFest” became “SheFest” after a need was identified to open the festival up to all queer women- bisexual, transgender, pasexual women, and others who identified with the queer female community. Two SheFests later, company members at Pride noticed that LezFests and SheFests had featured non-binary performers, and made the move to officially remove the pronoun from the name, thus changing it to WeFest. WeFest, as it exists at the moment, serves as a place of celebration, representation, and empowerment for anyone who identifies as a gender minority (including all queer women (both cis and trans), non-binary individuals, and all trans + individuals) within the LGBTQ+ community.
The format of WeFest is also changing slightly to incorporate a full evening of programming. The evening will begin with a 6:30pm “music salon,” where four queer vocalists will perform onstage and in the lobby. The main variety show will begin at 7:30pm, followed by a dance party on stage, with music by queer musician SuperKnova, who specializes in Queer Pop, a guitar-based sound that incorporates electronic drums, driving synths, and virtuosic solos. This is the type of event where patrons can come early, stay late, just see the 90-minute show, and/or party afterwards with the performers.
Additionally, this WeFest will include American Sign Language Interpretation (for the main show at 7:30) for patrons who are Deaf. Starting with last summer’s SheFest, producer Iris Sowlat has worked to actively integrate accessibility services into the festival.
WeFest artist Niki Gee, Chicago’s “Peace and Love Poet,”’ has performed at the fest for four years, and says she enjoys, “…performing in Wefest because I get to bring my Southside Style to the north side venues and introduce myself to an audience I may not have met if it wasn’t for performing in Wefest.”
WeFest artist Terri Lynne Hudson says, “I’m excited to get to perform with other diverse and underrepresented artists in an environment that is giving me the flexibility and freedom to challenge myself artistically and do work outside the boxes I normally find myself in. I think WeFest gives us a unique opportunity to meet artists we can feel good about supporting and that it’s great for networking and community building, which are crucial to our survival as an arts community. I also love that accommodation is key here, and that an event like this centers accommodating diverse abilities as well.”
This winter, WeFest will be hosted by Award-Winning Chicago actors and physical theatre artists Molly Brennan (last seen in ATC’s Picnic and frequent performer at Lookingglass) and Malic White (most known for their work with Neo-Futurists). Performers will include Tamale Sepp & Mack Dihle (performing a fire act), Delia Kropp (performing, “Tales from the Liminal Time”, a candid look at two critical December evenings, and how they re-shaped not only her gender transition but her entire outlook on the holidays and what it means to be a middle-aged queer person), Nikki Gee, Terri Lynne Hudson, Ada Cheng (a professor turned storyteller, who will debut her second solo show at Fillet of Solo in January), Lihy Epstein, Khloe Janel, SuperKnova, The Chanels (a queer dance troupe), Cruel Valentine, Emma Grace Fondell, North Rory Homeward, Rebecca Buechel (performing a piece of opera using the text of Anne Sexton’s lesbian poetry), and Cassidy Hill. WeFest will be produced by Iris Sowlat, James Anthony, Julia Rufo, and Nemo Serges, and stage-managed by Daiva Paulis.
The performance will be: Monday, December 11 at 7:30pm at the Pride Arts Center’s Broadway Theatre, located at 4139 N. Broadway Ave., Chicago.
Pricing: General Admission tickets cost $10 and can be purchased either online or at the door. VIP tickets cost $15. Pride Films & Plays is also offering an “Adopt A Performer” sponsorship option, as well as other levels of sponsorship.