The Nerdery - Overnight Website Challenge

Chicago 2012, November 17-18

About Face Theatre

About Face Theatre (AFT) is one of the nation’s largest and oldest theatres to explore gender and sexual identity. We are recognized nationally for developing innovative and challenging new theatre, working with some of Chicago's and the nation’s most exciting artists, and empowering future generations of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and ally (LGBTQA) artists and activists through our education program.

About Face was founded in 1995 due to the lack of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender voices within America’s Theatrical Cannon. Within AFT’s first two seasons we adapted three new plays and worked with Tony Award winning playwright Mary Zimmerman to develop a fourth world premiere, receiving public praise and garnering ten Jeff and After Dark awards. In 2002, Moises Kaufman and Doug Wright approached AFT for assistance in developing I AM MY OWN WIFE prior to its future as a Tony Award and Pulitzer Prize-winning production. This partnership was the beginning of the ongoing, extremely fruitful relationship with Kaufman’s Tectonic Theater Project, and was instrumental in moving AFT forward as a recognized resource for the development of new LGBT work.

In 1999, we created About Face Youth Theatre as a free year-round program where Chicago LGBTQA youth use theatre to tackle injustice in our community. The youth theatre has increased the safety, empowerment, and leadership capacity of thousands of young people, addressed issues ranging from youth homelessness to racism in queer communities, and won local and national community awards. Cultural beliefs and homophobia continue to create hostile environments for queer youth, the stress of which puts them at greater risk of using drugs, running away from home, suicide, dropping out of school, and engaging in other high-risk behaviors. About Face Youth Theatre provides mentorship and creates a positive environment where many youth report they feel connected to a community for the first time.

Over the years, AFT has evolved to meet the needs of the more inclusive and expanded queer community. Recent work have explored transgender issues, PONY by Sylvan Osward in 2011 and WHAT’S THE T in 2012, and represented queer communities of color through SWEET TEA: BLACK GAY MEN OF THE SOUTH in 2010 (Black Theatre Alliance Award) and our ongoing work with diverse artists like Tanya Saracho and Paul Oakley Stovall. Through current Artistic Director Bonnie Metzgar’s leadership, AFT began the XYZ Festival of New Work in 2009, an initiative dedicated to developing new work exploring gender and sexual identity by emerging artists. In 2010 AFT was one of the ten theatres honored with a National Theatre Company Grant from the American Theatre Wing, founders of the Tony Awards, for our continued vitality, innovation, and artistic commitment. In 2012 AFT received six Jeff and two Black Theatre Alliance nominations and the Jeff award for Best New Play (Sarah Gubbin’s THE KID THING).

About Face Theatre aims to be Chicago’s celebrated center for LGBTQA arts that amplifies the nation’s leading voices to spark social change. Enabled by broad community support, the organization thrives as an inclusive home where diverse artists, youth, audiences and community partners come together for artistic exchange and cultural dialogue.

What new functionality we are looking for

We need an updated website that 1) is easy to navigate, 2) showcases our upcoming artistic, educational, and community projects. 3) has an interactive component, 4) can be simply updated by non-IT staff and 5) isn’t vulnerable to cyber-hacking.

In 2007, About Face Theatre won an organizational grant for a new website. We worked with a firm to develop a new website design, but did not have the resources to complete the design. A web designer ended up building us a makeshift website by putting custom coding on top of an old Wordpress layout. That has remained our website to this day, and it’s proved to be incredible difficult to use for both our audiences on the front-end and by staff on the back-end.

Users have difficulty finding basic information about our upcoming shows or our education programs. Staff has a lot of difficulty even making simple updates to the site because of the outdated technology. About Face Theatre is working towards increasing community engagement through our programming, and we’d love for our website to include an interactive elements to allow audiences to react to our work or begin cultural and social dialogues. The site has become susceptible to cyber-hacking. When people Google our work they get an advertisement for “Cialis” instead of learning about our acclaimed artistic work in the community.

How the new functionality will help

Through our mission, About Face Theatre serves two roles in our community: theatre and community organizer. An online home for the theatre that is easy, welcoming, and inclusive will not only help us sell tickets or market our shows, but spark community dialogue around gender and sexual identity.

A new website will make it easier for people to learn about our organization and what we do. By incorporating interactive elements - whether it’s a clearer link to our social media sites, a discussion board, or community event calendar and resource page, we’ll have additional opportunities to engage community members as a community organizer.

How our organization will use the technology

Who will use the technology

13 Messages from Supporters

2012-10-19 18:53:38 UTC

Please get some help for this very worthy organization! In the new world we live in today people don't read newspapers or magazines. We don't mail in checks for tickets or donations we go to the website and pay by credit card, paypal or other web based system. It's all about ease of use and simple navagation. AFT SITE NEEDS HELP. It is critical to their financial development that a new webpage happen and happen soon! It doesn't help that, while the dedicated and overworked staff tries their hardest, the site is just not engaging or interactive or inviting. About Face needs an awesome webpage genius to step up and create his masterpiece with all the cool bells and whistles that the public expects. They have a great mission and do amazing work on social issues while producing some of the best art in the Chicago Theatrical arena. But AFT could be even more effective in helping LGBT Youth and reaching audiences with a wonderful new web presence!

2012-10-19 19:02:47 UTC
Bill Michel

About Face Theatre does incredible work for the LGBTQA community and youth. In addition, AFT continues to be a crucial catalyst for social change through theater by producing exceptional new work that addresses issues of gender and identity. While much of AFT's work impacts youth and a growing national audience - a new website would greatly enhance the organizations ability to reach out to youth in Chicago, nationally, and around the world and further strengthen the organizations ability to impact the national diologue on LGBTQ issues. I strong support AFT's need for a new website and hope you will help them further their important work.

2012-10-19 19:30:09 UTC
Ben Sprunger

Dear Nerdery-
First off, I love your name.
Second, and perhaps more important, About Face needs your help!
I'm a board member and an artistic associate, having been affiliated with the company since 1998. We've got a great mission, an enviable track record of producing cutting edge work, awards and accolades both locally and nationally, passionate staff and supporters, and an OUTSTANDING youth outreach program. Problem is, our website is hopelessly out of date and frequently hacked.

As an arts organization, we're dependent upon connecting with our audiences (both current and potential). In the past few months, we've had to take the website completely offline TWICE due to hackers and security concerns. The timing couldn't have been worse either, as we were in the process of promoting and selling tickets to one of our shows. If someone can't find our site on the internet, how can we hope to sell any tickets? It was devastating.

A pro-bono update or overhaul of our existing site, would be an amazing windfall for us. It would bring us into the 21st century, make us current with other peer arts organizations, and help us continue our work and further our mission.

If selected, I'd be willing to bring coffee, doughnuts and bagels to any developer or designer who needs them. Just let me know!

Ben Sprunger

2012-10-19 20:05:06 UTC

I am the Education Director at About Face Theatre. I come into contact with thousands of youth every year, whether it's through our outreach program touring plays to schools to start discussions about racism and homophobia or through our queer youth theatre working with LGBTQA youth to empower their voices through fierce theatre-making.Our outreach programs create space for youth to have discussions that they're not allowed to have in school. Whether it's about a personal identity, discrimination, bullying, or school itself, the students engage in powerful discussions about how to make peace on their campus. With our youth theatre programs, we teach young LGBTQA folks the leadership skills to succeed as activists, community-builders, and future leaders.

The first thing youth do when checking us out is go to our website-- a confusing maze where the latest youth workshop, youth production or resource information is hidden behind a long series of unnecessary links. The information is out of date because we don't have the resources to properly update it. Last year, the website got hacked, so whenever anyone came to our site, they were bombarded with Cialis impotence pills! Needless to say, a lot of people were scared away

We want to be able to CONNECT with these youth. Our programs are are very NECESSARY space for youth who seek us out. Our website shouldn't pose a barrier between youth and our programs. It should be a rapid conductor. A space full of resources and information. A space that communicates who we are to youth, and how they can get involved and help them find community.

2012-10-19 21:04:57 UTC
Rebecca Rugg

Nerds! Please help the Gays! (Oh, wait, do you have any Gay Nerds over there? Double trouble). About Face rocks, that's the main point! I'm an artistic associate with the company, and we do killer work onstage and also amazing work with queer and trans youth (check Sara K. above, she's the ringleader with the youth). The theater we make is so awesome, and the website just doesn't reflect it. Especially the part where the viagra ads sneak in, that's just embarrassing. It would be SO GREAT if we had a website as good as the art we make, and as welcoming as we are in person. Please help us!

2012-10-19 21:16:09 UTC

Dear Nerdery:
First, thank you for this contest - you are offering a much-needed service to a mid-size nonprofit like About Face. The state of our website itself is the best argument for why you should grant us this support. WE NEED A MAKE-OVER! Everyone at AFT has dynamic ideas for our website and how we can design it to connect us better to each other and to our communities -- many of these ideas have been presented as part of grant proposals and were documented as part of our rigorous strategic plan process we participated in last year. All we need is someone with know-how and technical skill to help us execute these ideas in an effective way by creating user-friendly interface and teaching us how to better use available technology.
About Face has a diverse family base -- board members, artistic associates, youth ensemble, donors, staff, audience members, community partners -- and our website is our front door. We'd like to welcome people into our work in a way that expresses the passion we have for all we do, that is smart and open and warm and adventurous. You could guide us through this process of creating that front door, and in so doing invite a new generation of guests into our home for activism and our art. Come help us make a joyful noise in a little room, and make the world a better place for LGBTQA youth and their allies!

BONNIE METZGAR, Artistic Director of About Face.

2012-10-19 21:36:11 UTC
John Rooney

Not only has About Face Theatre been an artistic home for me as I began my career in Chicago, but I have also seen the company touch hundreds of lives through their timely programming and their amazing youth outreach program (which has even provided food, education and support for homeless queer youth). The work of About Face is different than any other theatre company in Chicago (if not the world) and to get the word out about all that About Face offers, they REALLY need your assistance with their website. As hard as they have tried, the website is still hard to navigate and unless you know what programs you are looking for, I can almost guarantee that you will miss essential aspects of the company if you are just strolling through the site. A few years back, I even had a friend call me saying that they were at the address on the website for About Face's current show...but then we realized that she was at About Face's offices, and no one wants to see a show there. Please help About Face spruce up their website so everyone can know about the AWESOMENESS of AFT.

2012-10-19 23:48:53 UTC
Jim Andrews

First of all, thank you so much for this great opportunity. Truly a great service to offer deserving nonprofits. As a founding board member and passionate supporter of About Face for nearly 16 years, I am happy to add my plea for help. I don't need to tell you the AFT Web site needs a major overhaul; you can see that for yourselves. I can tell you how much of a difference it would make if the theater's online presence matched its incredible work. It is absolutely vital that the Web site supports what the AFT team is doing, rather than undermine it. With resources stretched ridiculously thinly, the theater is simply unable to devote the time and money necessary to bringing the site in line with the great work of AFT's artists and educators. Without that, AFT risks losing the support of ticket buyers and donors who are unable to communicate with, purchase from, or contribute to the theater easily through the current site. So many people have worked tirelessly to build AFT into the important community institution that is has become, it would be a shame for all of their work to be wasted because of bad web site. I hope I have helped make the case for AFT. Again, many thanks for the opportunity.

2012-10-20 01:11:27 UTC
Richard Cordova

Hi Nerdery!

I am honored to offer my testimonial on behalf of About Face Theatre (ABT). I am a member of their newly formed Associate Board. The Associate Board's mission and focus is to support the About Face Theatre Youth Program. In the Youth Theatre Program they are tackling issues of sexuality, gender-identity, and more. What an amazing opportunity for them, and the people they come into contact with. The ABT Youth Theatre Program is helping create the centered, confident, and compassionate leaders of tomorrow.

Furthermore, the Youth Theatre Program is giving at-risk youth the confidence and self-respect that they need to make healthier, more informed choices in their life. I've been living with HIV for over 10 years. I truly believe that if I had been given an opportunity to participate in something like the About Face Youth Theatre Program, I would have developed more self-respect at an earlier age. That self-respect would have allowed me to make healthier choices in my life. Those healthier choices might possibly have saved me from the chronic illness I live with every day.

I hope you see the value in choosing About Face Theatre as a winner in this challenge.

Best regards,

Richard Cordova

2012-10-20 15:04:58 UTC
Scott Duff

I have been an Artistic Associate of About Face Theatre for 16 years, when we began with two desk top computers, a printer, and a phone/fax machine. But most importantly, AFT began with the idea of creating exceptional and challenging theatre and advancing the national dialogue on LGBT issues. A major overhaul to our online presence will enhance our ability to connect with queer youth from around the country, create artistic relationships with other queer artists on a global level, and continue to build our audience both in Chicago and beyond. Plus we're a queer company...shouldn't we have a website that's FABULOUS?! To echo Ben's sentiments above, I too will bring baked goods and coffee to whomever takes on this challenge, so vote for us!

2012-10-20 17:47:44 UTC
Dan Weisberg

Hi Nerdery,
Wow! What a splendid idea! What you all are doing here is really stellar... you are rock stars. Thanks for undertaking it.

As with some of the above posts, I also wanted to join the chorus by proclaiming that About Face Theater is awesome and impactful. It makes a wonderful difference in the lives of the lucky audiences who get to see their envelope-pushing shows. But perhaps as importantly, its Youth Theatre visits schools and helps young adults learn tolerance, and (in some cases) self acceptance. Learning to have self respect when you are a gay or lesbian young adult is certainly easier today than when was the case during my own teenage years - but it is still NOT easy. The ability of ABT to expand its programming will help our Chicago community as a whole come to terms with issues of discrimination and intolerance.

In that regard, ABT's website and social media presence could truly benefit from some creative thinking about how to be more effective and strategic. But given budget constraints, selecting them as a Nerdery beneficiary would be enormously exciting to all of us. We do hope you give our application serious review and ultimately choose us a one of the winners.

Great undertaking once again!

Best, Dan Weisberg, Board Member, About Face Theater

2012-10-22 08:16:08 UTC
Noah Uldall

From one nerd to another - this is a truly worthy organisation that's also truly in need of some technical expertise. I've supported About Face for many years now and continue to do so even though I moved away from Chicago 11-12 years ago. While the artistic work is impportant (and top notch) the really important work to me personally is the education and youth work undertaken by the group. Over the years this work has made a real difference in the lives of many LGBTQA young people. Getting a helping had from The Nerdery (like Ben - I love the name) would mean a great deal to the About Face family.

2012-10-23 18:07:52 UTC

About Face creates safe spaces for people to explore their identities in creative ways, then opens up that process for the audience to explore and connect with.

There's the creative brief right there.

About Face and About Face Youth Theater changed my life - I'm so glad I found them at 18 years old. Never have I seen or experienced the kind of education, theater training, mentorship, creative process, or leadership development programs that they have. They redefine what it means to be "making a difference."

Chicago queer youth need them. The community needs them. The city needs them.

Our Mission

About Face Theatre creates exceptional, innovative, and adventurous plays to advance the national dialogue on gender and sexual identity, and challenges and entertains audiences in Chicago, across the nation, and around the world.