Wednesday, May 25, 2016

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The Alexandra Billings Story

WTTW's newest documentary in our Out & Proud in Chicago series is SCHOOLBOY TO SHOWGIRL: THE ALEXANDRA BILLINGS STORY. It's a 30-minute program about the extraordinary life and career of an unforgettable transgender actress and singer, Alexandra Billings.

Through rare footage and candid interviews, the film traces her harrowing journey through many transitions - from fear to fearlessness, from sickness to health, from loneliness to love, and her most remarkable transition of all - from male to female. 

With her trademark humor, courage and honesty, Billings discusses her childhood struggles as a boy growing up in suburban Chicago and how she wrestled with her gender identity during her drag club days at Club Victoria, La Cage, Club 219, and The Baton Show Lounge. She recounts how she transitioned from the female impersonation clubs to mainstream Chicago theater, to being cast in Hollywood in hit shows like ER, Grey's Anatomy, Eli Stone and Karen Sisko. She's survived a suicide attempt and conquered AIDS, cocaine and heroin addiction, and ignorance. The documentary also touches on the history of the drag movement and the reality of transitioning today

The film is narrated by poet and performer Cin Salach who has a unique personal connection to Alexandra Billings. It features original music by esteemed Chicago band leader and songwriter Nicholas Tremulis. And it is produced and written by Alexandra Silets, who co-produced last year's award-winning Out & Proud in Chicago documentary, now airing on PBS stations nationwide.

Slide Show: Alexandra Billings

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Alexandra performing in 'Vampire Lesbians of Sodom'

Alexandra in "Vampire Lesbians of Sodom" in 2007

Billings has performed in "Vampire Lesbians of Sodom" going on 20 years. In her interview, she said talked about first landing the role, then how long she’s been doing it: "That show ran for about a year and a half which is at the time, which was massive. Then I did it again when there was a revival about two or three years later that ran for another year. And then I did it again about two years later which ran for about six months to a year. And then about three years later I directed it. And on March 21, 2008 I'll be doing it here in Los Angeles. So here's the thing. I would like an award because how many people do you know have done a show for over 20 years? Not even Betty Buckly can say that. I'm just saying -- well maybe Betty Buckly can say that. She did that Cats thing for long time, didn't she?"

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