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Chicago City Wire

Saturday, October 19, 2019

Political group threatens lawsuit over Theater Wit's cancellation of event for LGBT chapter

Business

By Carrie Bradon | Jul 16, 2019


| Facebook.com/theaterwit

A right-wing political group’s event was cancelled the day before it was scheduled to take place, resulting in the group’s founder threatening to sue a Chicago theater and its artistic director.

Accoring to the Chicago Reader, Brandon Straka, a gay man who is also a hairstylist and actor, founded #WalkAway, a right-wing political group that encourages the LGBT population as well as other minority groups to leave the Democratic party. As a non-profit and mainly online organization, #WalkAway has raised $367,000 on GoFundMe.

#WalkAway was recently contacted by the Illinois chapter of the Log Cabin Republicans, an LGBT group, and requested to bring a live town hall program to Chicago in time for Pride Weekend. As #WalkAway was not yet officially nonprofit status, the group signed a contract with Theater Wit and paid a rental fee of $950 to use the facility on June 29. The event was only to be cancelled in the event of a “natural disaster or an act of God.”


#WalkAway Founder Brandon Straka | Facebook.com

On June 28, the #WalkAway team flew to Chicago and Straka informed Josh Nordmark, the assistant manager of Theater Wit, that there might be some pushback following the announcement of the event location, as #WalkAway had been protested before when they were set to perform in New York. Theater Wit allegedly guaranteed that there was not a problem and the event would not be cancelled. 

Hours later, artistic director of Theater Wit, Jeremy Wechsler, called #WalkAway and informed the group that he was cancelling the event. The conversation was recorded by #WalkAway team members, which is illegal in Illinois as both parties have to agree to a call being recorded. 

Straka and Mike Harlow, a gay activist, confronted Wechsler, who claims that he did not want the theater to be involved in a political debate of this kind, to which the #WalkAway members objected. Straka informed Wechsler that he had his attorney on the phone, at which point Wechsler allegedly walked off. 

Afterwards, a Theater Wit employee allegedly grabbed Straka’s phone because Straka was filming. Straka has since filed a police report. 

Theater Wit has not provided a comment.

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