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  • Writer's pictureZak Stowe

StageQ brings the Stonewall Riots to life

Written by a local author, StageQ’s April production will take audiences back to the legendary speakeasy.

(MADISON, WI) StageQ--fresh off the wild success of its recent production of Cabaret--is preparing to take to the stage yet again. The original work, “RAID! Attack on Stonewall” is set to immerse audiences inside the ill-fated Stonewall Inn on the night of the famous police raid and subsequent queer uprising.The play, commissioned by StageQ to commemorate the 50th anniversary of this famous riot, will run from April 19th though April 27th at the Bartell Theatre in downtown Madison, Wisconsin.

The Stonewall Inn was a mob-owned, gay-friendly speakeasy located in New York’s Greenwich Village during a time when such establishments ran the risk of being shut down by the city. During what was suppose to be a routine police raid in June 1969, the queer patrons fought back and sparked a milti-night riot in the streets outside the dive bar and in nearby Christopher Park. These events are widely considered to be the catalyst that launched what became known as the Gay Liberation Movement and transformed into the modern-day queer rights movement. On the 50th Anniversary, this production will introduce this pivotal event to new generations.

Designed as an immersive experience, audiences will be placed inside the ill-fated bar to meet the owners, patrons, and employees as they begin what was supposed to be a regular night of drinking, dancing, and escape from an outside world that often rejected queer people. The action on stage will be up close and personal. “You will feel as though you’re inside of Stonewall during the night of June 28, 1969.” says the show’s director and associate producer, John Siewert. “There will be the slimmest of fourth walls as actors will come right up to the front row of seats, a soundscape will play almost throughout the entire show, yelling and noises will come at the audience from all sides, and things may get thrown over the audience’s heads.” A special sound system will surround theatre-goers with a specially crafted soundscape that will run the length of the show. Audiences will then be placed in the middle of a police raid, become trapped inside the bar with “Lily Law”, and experience the panic, chaos, and --ultimately-- defiance as the Stonewall inhabitants take their lives into their own hands. The piece is intense, powerful, moving, and more relevant than ever as we find ourselves in a world that is increasingly hostile to queer people domestically and around the world.

Given this importance, StageQ approached Madison-based playwright, Malissa Petterson, to bring the famous, yet generally misunderstood, events to life for modern theatre audiences. “My goal with this piece was to provide as accurate an account as possible of the events before, during, and immediately after the raid on The Stonewall Inn the evening of June 28th, 1969,” says Petterson. “I wanted to provide an unflinching view of the horrors, the magic, and the love and liberation that took place that night, which for many marks the beginning of a long journey toward LGBTQ+ rights.” “RAID” also marks the first time StageQ has had a play commissioned in its 18 year history.

“With the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall riots I wanted StageQ to celebrate that historic event by putting on a show that retold what happened in a vivid, immersive, and--most importantly--accurate way.” says the show’s executive producer, and StageQ President, Zak Stowe. “Malissa's script is just that and more. I'm so excited to bring audiences back in time and bring the amazing patrons of the Stonewall Inn to life on stage.” Tickets may purchased online at or , in person at the Bartell Theatre or by calling the Bartell Box Office at 608-661-9696.

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