Have you ever wanted to see a version of the classic Humphrey Bogart film Casablanca, but starring some of Hollywood’s most radical queer and trans women, but also performed live, but also with every ticket raising money for the world’s only philanthropic foundation dedicated solely to advancing LGBTQ human rights, but also with a last-minute L Word star joining the cast?
Of course you have, obviously. And you are in luck, because this elaborate fantasy that seems like it’s pulled straight from online lesbian fanfic site Archive Of Our Own is absolutely happening in real life this week.
This Thursday, a cast of notable celesbians and friends will perform an all-women live reading of Casablanca at the Theatre at Ace Hotel in Los Angeles. Ellen Page, Kiersey Clemons, Hannah Gadsby, Emily Hampshire, Indya Moore, and Olivia Wilde take to the stage with the help of writer/director Jason Reitman (Juno, Tully, The Front Runner). On Tuesday, Page announced on social media that L Word star Kate Moennig would also be joining the cast.
The one-time production will donate proceeds to the Astraea Lesbian Foundation for Justice, which distributes grants and funding to local and global LGBTQ human rights projects.
“We’re so honored Ellen has rallied the power of her community to shift resources and attention to grassroots LGBTQI activism with Astraea,” said Astraea executive director J. Bob Alotta. “Donating to Astraea supports the most badass groundbreaking LGBTQI activists on the globe.”
An Astraea spokesperson requested that the full acronym ‘LGBTQI’ be used to reflect the foundation’s commitment to funding projects for the global intersex community.
Over the past 40 years, the Astraea Foundation has given away over $40 million to grassroots LGBTQ groups all over the world, according to a spokesperson.
“Combining all of our resources, reach and talent is precisely how we create the change the world so badly needs today. This is how we build and secure movements. This is how we free ourselves from violence and discrimination. Queer Casablanca is an act of resistance,” Alotta told INTO.
Queering a classic film is a radical move, but Pose star Indya Moore — who plays the waiter Carl in the live reading — said the story itself is also an allegory for queer experience, because it is “a love story about two people who cannot be.”
“There are many intersectional conversations that Casablanca brings up for me, and that is a reason why I think it is so cool,” Moore told INTO.
While Casablanca is typically thought of first as a love story, the film’s romance occurs on a backdrop of anti-fascist resistance activists trying to escape the Nazis by sneaking through France and Morocco to migrate to the United States.
Moore said the film’s subject matter is reflective of the current migrant crisis at the U.S. border as well as the one in Europe.
“During a time where anti-refugee rhetoric has become normalized and popularized in the wake of black and brown people seeking asylum, human rights and bodies are more so now than ever sanctioned as political territory,” Moore told INTO.
In an interview with the LGBTQ newswire service Q Syndicate, Ellen Page said she plays the iconic role of Rick Blaine that was performed by Humphrey Bogart in the film.
“It’s one of the most iconic love stories with some of the most memorable lines of any film ever,” Page told Q Syndicate. “It just seems perfect to sort of recreate it in the way that we are.”
Page’s Rick will share intense love scenes with Clemons’ Ilsa, as the characters tussle over whether Rick should help Ilsa and her Czech resistance fighter lover escape the German military and corrupt Vichy police. Rick’s position as a nightclub owner in neutral territory forces him to make a choice based on love — whether to stay out of politics or to help save lives by joining the resistance himself.
The film explores “How anti-refugee rhetoric is carried out in vehicles of fear to people who are citizens of the cities refugees are in pursuit of for safety,” Moore told INTO.
During a time when LGBTQ migrants from Honduras and other violence-ridden nations are pleading for help at the U.S. border and facing increasingly anti-immigrant hostility in America, nothing could be more apt that a queer retelling of one of Hollywood’s most politically radical films.
‘Casablanca Live Read’ takes place on Thursday, Dec 13 at 8pm at the Theatre at the Ace Hotel in Los Angeles. Tickets are available through the Astraea Lesbian Foundation for Justice.