When Joe Varisco was diagnosed with HIV in 2012, he had trouble finding narratives he could relate to. That’s when Queer, Ill + Okay was born.

“I was trying to find art, literature, film and music that reflected my experience, something that I related to. I couldn’t find that,” Joe told the Chicago Tribune. “There’s a lot of narratives I had encountered before that I just kind of saw repeated again and again.”

To help fill this void, Joe created Queer, Ill + Okay, a stage performance series featuring artists and storytellers living with HIV and other chronic illnesses. For its fourth year, Queer, Ill + Okay is back to shine a spotlight on these untold stories. The one-of-a-kind showcase returns this weekend at the Oracle Theater in Chicago, in collaboration with Art AIDS America Chicago.Queer, Ill + OkayAt first, Queer, Ill + Okay served as a therapeutic way for Joe to cope with his own diagnosis, but the series has since expanded beyond HIV. The 2016 production also addresses the intersection of queerness and chronic illness, including mental health and the issues affecting differently-abled bodies.

“This work has given me a sense of purpose in some of my worst times,” Joe wrote in an email announcing this year’s showcase. “The people who perform, the people who watch, the people who support give us the ability to move closer toward one another, right now we need more of that.”

Thanks go generous support from organizations like  AIDS Healthcare Foundation, AIDS Foundation of Chicago, Alphawood Foundation, Chicago Community Trust and Fred Says, tickets to Queer, Ill + Okay are free. You can click here to reserve your free ticket now.

The showcase takes place on December 9-10 and December 16-17. The featured performers this year are Avery R. Young, Angel Katz, Bea Cordelia, Dev_n and SK Kerastas, Dirty Grits and Vasilios Papapitsios, Emma Alamo, JuJu Minxx, Kay Ulanday Barrett, Lindsey Lee, Lucas Baisch, Michelle Zacarias, Morgan McNaught, Phillip Lambert X Blacknbrilliant and Tim’m West.

To hear Joe Varisco talk more about the inspiration behind Queer, Ill + Okay, watch the video interview below.

Here’s also a mini-documentary featuring past performers.

Featured Photo: Queer, Ill + Okay on Facebook

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