“Hi, my name is Joseph Varisco and I am Queer, Ill and Okay.”
On a cold Friday night in Chicago, there was a community at the Oracle theatre. An inclusive space of advocates, allies and queer folx came together and to witness song, theatre, poetry and dance around gender queer and poz.
That is what the multidisciplinary series “Queer, ill + OKAY is about. QUEER, ILL + OKAY is an annual multidisciplinary performance series exploring, challenging and reinventing narratives about the lives of queer individuals and their relationships to HIV and other forms of mental and chronic illness. After being diagnosed as HIV+ in 2013, Joseph Varisco, Creative Director of JRV MAJESTY Productions invited an expansive artistic community to create new work around the relationship between queerness, the body, and chronic illness.
The show was birthed after Varisco’s diagnosis. Since its inception in 2013, the show has grown a huge following. In fact, this year performances spanned two weekends and were produced in partnership with Oracle Productions and Art AIDS America Chicago. The show had an amazing lineup of artists and performers. Featured performers include Bea Cordelia, JuJu Minxxx, Avery Young and Michelle Zacarias.
Zacarias performed a self composed comedic soliloquy titled “No one wants to fuck a one legged hooker,” which highlighted her journey with her sexuality as an amputee. Bea Cordelia performed a piece from her new chapbook and gave the audience a lesson about the limits of “undiagnosing” gender dysphoria. As a trans womyn and advocate, she discussed her exploration of wanting gender reassignment surgery. JuJu Minxxx was proud, loud and “50 shades of Gay” with her empowerment rap mantra. It was a live eclectic mix.
There was never a dull moment. The show was inspiring with movement, laughter, and monologues. The show celebrates what society ostracizes. Moreover, the cast brings light into dark topics such as sexually transmitted diseases and a lighter topics like social equity.
Each weekend was a different line up. QUEER, ill + OKAY ran from December 7th- December 19th at Oracle theatre.
images by Katrina Certeza