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Director of Hell in a Handbag bags Special Non-Equity Jeff Award

David Cerda, co-founder and artistic director of Hell in a Handbag Productions. (Photo: Lisa Predko)

The name David Cerda might not be instantly recognizable to Chicago’s theater-going public, but the names of the shows he has produced since 2002, as co-founder and artistic director of Hell in a Handbag Productions, might strike a bell among all those who relish the more ridiculous aspects of theater.

Consider just a few of the titles of the productions that bear his name as writer or co-writer: “POSEIDON! An Upside Down Musical,” “Scarrie, The Musical,” and “Skooby Don’t.”

Now, at the recommendation of more than 200 members of the Chicago theater community, Cerda will be given the 2017 Non-Equity Special Jeff Award, honored for both his theatrical and charitable contributions. The award will be presented at the 44th annual Non-Equity Awards ceremony on June 5, to be held at the Athenaeum Theatre, 2936 N. Southport.

Cerda, an admirer of the fabled Ridiculous Theatrical Company, founded in New York in 1967 by Charles Ludlam, began his Hell in a Handbag company in Chicago in 2002. The name puts a bit of a drag-and-camp spin on the popular expression “going to hell in a handbasket,” and from the start the company has played with gender issues.

In a prepared statement Cerda explained: “The roles I wanted to play were women’s roles. I wanted to be a glamorous movie star on the stage.”

In addition to his work in the theater, Cerda is devoted to philanthropic efforts. He was elected to the Chicago LGBT Hall of Fame in 2016, and Hell in a Handbag has raised more than $58,000 for local and national causes, ranging from the American Cancer Society to the Wounded Warrior Project to Hams 4 Hams, an organization he co-founded with Lori Cannon that provides holiday staples for clients of Groceryland, which feeds those who are HIV-positive and living with AIDS.

For more information about the Non-Equity Jeff Awards visit