Weekly productions on AIDS in the LGBTQ community taking place


Actors in the production perform as they are filmed. Printed with permission from Ed Krieger.

Jenny Li

Sophie Kim ’19 and Visual Arts Department Head Cheri Gaulke will be performing in a production commenting on the legacy of AIDS in a group of LGBTQ writers called QueerWise every Saturday and Sunday, Jan. 28 to Feb. 25.

The show, “Shades of Disclosure: Who are You?” is held at the Skylight Theatre Company and speaks on ideas of grief, guilt and cowardice and depicts Kim in her exploration of understanding society after coming out by documenting others’ stories revolving HIV/AIDS and more.

“It’s important to hear the voices of everyone in a society,” Gaulke said.  “We live in a youth based, heteronormative society. When you are queer and older, your voice is not often heard. We’ve got wild stories to tell, and audiences of all ages love to hear them.”

The performance strives to give light to these voices who are being ignored in today’s society, writer and director Michael Kearns said.

“Especially now, as we enter this precarious place in American politics, I think that the persons who are discarded, marginalized, unheard, need a voice,” Kearns said. “This production is more pertinent than it was two days ago, four weeks ago, or three months ago.  We are giving voice to people. It is about HIV and AIDS, but it’s also about immigration, it’s about women’s rights.  It’s about all of those issues that come out of it.”

In creating the script, he wove together monologues written by each group member to create the cohesive script, a technique he has used in previous shows with women on skid row and the homeless with intellectual disabilities to create performances with true accounts and emotion, Kearns said.

This technique is very successful at connecting the audience to the performers, theatre critic and actor Paul Myrvold wrote in his review of the performance.

“The individuals tell their stories bit by bit with artless authenticity,” Myrvold wrote. “What makes this performance successful is the passion with which all the players tell their stories. The experience is affecting. It doesn’t take long before the eyes water in emotional sympathy.”

Being able to perform with the other members and listen to their actual stories allowed Kim an authentic view and perspective not only their lives, but hers as well, she said.

“Just by rehearsing and talking with people about our own stories and struggles with accepting others and ourselves, I realized that even though it can sometimes feel isolating to be part of a minority, there are so many people in my community who want to help and support,” Kim said.

“When I was asked to write a final speech to close the performance, I’d become so much closer to my fellow actors and hearing them talk about losing their friends to AIDS made me think about my own friends and what that would have felt like. It’s really humbling to work with those who have been part of such a pivotal historical event. As they share their stories in this production, they remind us that the AIDS epidemic is about people who are here today, both in person and in memory.”

Due to the success of its first performance on Nov. 28, National AIDs Day, Skylight Theatre asked QueerWise to perform Shades of Disclosure as the opening show of its 2017 season.  The group will also be acting in a special performance for 50 students at the Magnets High School on Feb. 8.

Science teachers Nate Cardin and Dietrich Schuhl are organizing a student group to watch an upcoming showing of the performance.

Actors in the production perform as they are filmed. Printed with permission from Ed Krieger.

“I think it’s so vital to support this performance because it carries on a necessary conversation about HIV and AIDS, about the disease itself, about those whose lives are forever changed by it and about the stigmas that pervade around it,” Cardin said.  “The ever-present conversations in the 80s and 90s about HIV and AIDS have, in part, fallen away over time, thanks to some education and medication, both of which help make the illness more manageable and less of a life sentence.  However, HIV and AIDS remain serious epidemics and the conversation must continue on.  This performance gives vital life to that conversation.”