On April 6 and 7, Living Room and Out Front Theatre Company hosted the first Red Ribbon Readings to showcase three powerful plays that came out of the experiences of the early AIDS Epidemic. From laughter to agony, from fear to abandon, few emotions remained untapped in the playhouse that weekend.
Each play presented the paradox and complexity of viewing early HIV/AIDS-focused art decades decades later: in many ways, conversations about HIV/AIDS have drastically changed, but in others they have dishearteningly stayed the same. In Safe Sex by Harvey Fierstein, for example, two characters debate if even kissing is a prohibitive (read: transmittable) form of intimacy–a certain and real fear at the time. And it’s within this same conversation that the fear of stigma surfaces, of being branded as “positive,” when current audiences can see just how similar the stigma of fear based on ignorance was then as it is now for people living with HIV.
Perhaps most valuable about the readings, though, was the perspective that was offered for those who might have only known about the early AIDS epidemic in a historical sense. For those not old enough to remember or who were more removed from its impact, seeing performances of characters living out experiences adds a vividness to the epidemic that simple awareness can’t provide on its own.
If you’ve never attended a play reading (while typically called a “reading,” the parts are performed by actors), we hope you’ll join us for the next one!