The Board of Directors of Pride Films and Plays has announced Broadway legend Donna McKechnie and actor/activist Alexandra Billings have become the inaugural members of Pride Films and Plays’ Honorary Board. McKechnie and Billings were the featured artists in PFP’s Simply Sensational benefits in 2014 and 2015, respectively.
Donna McKechnie says, “Pride Films and Plays is a wonderful organization full of extremely talented and creative people. In the short time I spent with them I was able to experience, first-hand, how much they strive for excellence and how much they respect the courage it takes to be original … an inspiring group.”
Alexandra Billings says, “It is rare that we as a tribe have had safe places to rest. We have spent most of our lives running and hiding and holding on to a hope, never really supported by either history or law. So when a group invites us in and opens a door to an artistic truth, it is with great joy that we hold on tightly and fly through it. PFP—operated, owned, designed and navigated by LGBT people and allies—is that portal. It allows us to speak truthfully and with clarity and ease, through the lens of artistic freedom in a way that is founded in development and newness. It is a harbor for those of us who have survived and fought for civil rights since Stonewall and it is a magnificent introduction for the public at large to see who we are, where we’re headed, and how we got here.”
Michael Daigle, president of PFP’s Board of Directors says, “We are thrilled to have Donna and Alexandra serve as the foundation for what we believe will be a unique group of artistic and community leaders who believe in our mission and are willing to lend their names, voices, and counsel, as we continue to solidify PFP’s place as a leader in showcasing LGBTQ+ writers, performers, crew and stories. We look forward to expanding the honorary board and hope to announce more members over the coming months.”
Founded in 2010, Pride Films and Plays has been ambitiously producing new and relevant works with LGBTQ+ themes that are of interest to all audiences. It has earned 18 Jeff Nominations and give Jeff Awards in works ranging from Design for Living and The Boy From Oz, to new musicals such as Songs From An Unmade Bed and Under A Rainbow Flag. It also is a leader in premiering LGBTQ+ short films and this summer will film its first film project, Counting.
In the meantime, PFP’s summer programs at Mary’s Attic (5400 N. Clark) continue, with The Boys Upstairs closing Saturday, July 2. BITE: A Pucking Queer Cabaret, inspired by Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, will run there from July 8 to August 16. And LezFest IV will celebrate an amazing array of performers on Monday, July 18.
Alexandra Billings is an actress, singer, author, teacher and activist. She stars as Davina in Amazon’s multi-award-winning television series “Transparent.” She has been acting since 1968 in Chicago and across the United Stages, in many instances the first transgender actress to tackle rolls like Mama Rose in Gypsy. She has worked at Bailiwick Repertory, Court Theater, and Steppenwolf, and has performed off-Broadway. Billings’ activism stretches across the continent. She was inducted into the Gay and Lesbian Hall of Fame in Chicago in 2007. Living with AIDS since the mid-‘80s, she chronicles her life’s journey in her blog “Stilettos and Sneakers” and is a regular contributor to The Huffington Post. Her life story “From Schoolboy to Showgirl” produced by Alex Silets WTTW was nominated for an Emmy for Best Documentary.
Donna McKechnie, the Tony Award-winning star of A Chorus Line, is internationally regarded as one of Broadway’s foremost dancing and singing leading ladies. Her Broadway shows include How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying, A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum, State Fair and more. She has starred in numerous productions in London’s West End. Bob Fosse invited McKechnie to play the lead in his last production, a national tour of Sweet Charity, for which she was nominated for a Helen Hayes Award. McKechnie also has performed extensively on the concert stage and with symphony orchestras all over the country. She has appeared as a guest star in numerous television specials and dramatic series including Fame, Cheers, Family Ties and more. McKechnie’s memoir, Time Steps: My Musical Comedy Life, was published by Simon and Schuster.