Smile Politely

Hit the Wall takes on the Stonewall Inn uprising and champions LGBTQ+ history

With homophobia still running rampant throughout our country, and especially on our college campuses, we need something that will teach us what our education system won’t. This is what Hit The Wall intends to do.

To learn more, I spoke with Madeline Whitesell, the dramaturg of the production.


Smile Politely: Can you give an overview of what the play is about?

Madeline Whitesell: This show is a dramatic interpretation of the 1969 Stonewall Inn uprising-one of the catalysts for the contemporary gay rights movement.

SP: Why does this story need to be told now?

Whitesell: There are MANY reasons this story needs to be told, here are a few:

  • LGBTQ+ history is not taught in primary or secondary schools. We have many queer people working on the show, and a lot of us were incredibly unaware of our own history. This history directly affects how we’re treated, and how we view ourselves.
  • The Playwright Ike Holter is a genius with social and cultural commentary. He illuminates how much discrimination exists even within social movements. The Stonewall Uprising has been whitewashed by a lot of media portrayals, and this play really subverts those.
  • As our director Robert G. Anderson has stated in interviews: “The university campus is one of the most homophobic places in the United States.” And I tend to agree. I’m on board for anything that can help make UIUC gayer.

SP: How does this production differ from past productions at Krannert?

Whitesell: One major difference is that we are using supertitles in every performance. This is to make our show more accessible to the deaf community and non-native English speakers.

SP: Did you face any challenges with the production?

Whitesell: In this show there is a lot of on-stage violence and sexual intimacy, so we enlisted the help of a fight and intimacy choreographer, Zev Steinrock. It is important for actors to practice consent and safe boundaries when rehearsing any sort of physical touch onstage. A lot of what makes these moments look so spontaneous in performance is actually that every part is choreographed and rehearsed many many times. Before each rehearsal and performance we have a “fight and intimacy call” where we only run these sections, and check to make sure no one’s boundaries or physical abilities have changed since the last show. This is important for both the physical and mental safety of our actors.

SP: What have you, personally, gained from this experience?

Whitesell: This was my first time working as a dramaturg, and I really love it! I’m a huge nerd when it comes to history, so it was fascinating digging into this moment in the United States.

SP: What was your favorite day of rehearsal?

Whitesell: My favorite day of rehearsal was when we all watched the PBS documentary “Stonewall Uprising” and had a discussion after. It illuminated a lot for the actors about their characters and the circumstances of the show.

SP: Whenever I’m involved in a show, I have specific moment that I always look forward to. What is that moment for you in this production?

Whitesell: Any scene with the snap queens Mika and Tano are priceless.

SP: Finally, why do you think people should come see this show?

Whitesell: I think most of us learn best through storytelling. I love plays so much because you’re learning and being asked questions, but it’s being presented through entertainment, and makes you feel empathy for other human beings.

I want to be clear that this show isn’t just a history lesson, and it’s not told in a straightforward, realistic way. It gives you a look into Stonewall through the relationships and emotional lives of the characters. It has moments that are incredibly heart-wrenching, but also moments that are insanely funny.

Don’t miss the chance to experience this powerful, live telling of the history of the LGBTQ+ movement.  Kudos to Whitesell, Anderson, and Krannert Center for the Performing Arts for bringing such an important production to our community, and for championing untold truths. 

Hit the Wall
Krannert Center for the Performing Arts
Studio Theatre
500 S. Goodwin Ave, Urbana
January 31st to February 2nd, February 5th to 19th at 7 p.m., February 10th at 3 p.m.

For mature audiences only

For ticket information, or to order on line visit the KCPA website.

Photo from KCPA website

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