Thursday, December 1, 2016

World AIDS Day

In August 1994, when I was living and working in Petoskey, Michigan, I received a phone call from Northern Michigan Planned Parenthood, asking me if I would write a short play for their Troupe Teen Theatre group for World AIDS Day 1994. The troupe, made up of local high school students, would perform the play on World AIDS Day and then take it on the road to high schools around northern Michigan. The theme was AIDS education and awareness. I replied, “Sure,” and promptly forgot about it.

At the end of October, I received another phone call from the troupe’s director, telling me that the first rehearsal would be the next afternoon and that the troupe was really looking forward to reading the play. I gulped, got the time of the rehearsal, and booted up my reliable old Apple IIc. Within an hour I batted out a twenty-page manuscript, proofed it, and ran to the copy center next door.

I have a reputation in my writing – deserved or otherwise – for being able to get it right the first time. I got through college and both grad schools turning in first drafts, and the only research paper I remember doing in more than one draft was my doctoral thesis. This play, which I titled Here’s Hoping, was the same. The kids read it the next day and loved it, and other than some minor changes for scientific accuracy, the play went on pretty much as I wrote it that October afternoon.

It’s the story of an AIDS support group meeting in a church basement, not unlike an Al-Anon meeting (with which I had recent experience at the time). All of the participants are supporting AIDS victims, including a college student with an HIV-positive boyfriend, a young couple with a child infected by a blood transfusion, and a widow of AIDS. Into this mix comes a straight-laced couple pushed into the group by the illness of a son they cast out several years ago. The group meets their challenge and their needs.

All of the people in the group are based on people I knew – and still know. Some are gone, but most are still with us. The play is dedicated to them and their memories.

Today I remember the friends who I’ve lost to this scourge: childhood friends like Mark, colleagues like Stephen, Matt, David, and Scott, and those who keep fighting, growing ever stronger in their resolve to win.

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If you would like a free copy of Here’s Hoping in PDF format, drop me a note via e-mail. If you would like to use it for a production, I will waive royalties as long as the performance is conducted under standard contract terms of The Dramatists Guild and as long as the proceeds go to your local AIDS charity.

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