Back in the day, in the late 80s and early 90s, before HIV medications reprieved the presumed automatic AIDS death sentence, gay artists were dangerous. They reflected back to us a truth so daring, we could only gasp in awe at the audacity of such dark secrets so simply revealed.
Of course, facing death and even worse - ignoble disintegration - gives truth-telling some urgency, which is why HIV-positive artists such as Michael Kearns were so prolific. He was - and continues to be - an artist confronting AIDS. (Please see the video excerpt from intimacies below and read this excellent 1994 story by Jan Breslauer in the Los Angeles Times on Kearns’ significance.)
This year - marking the 30th anniversary of the first official acknowledgement of HIV/AIDS - Kearns is performing at three events for World AIDS Day. The first is on November 30 at 8:00 pm where he will premiere his ninth on-person show Torch, exploring the inevitabilities of aging on sexuality and sensuality, the body and the brain, the past and the future, the sacred and the profane. The performance is presented by the Katselas Theatre Company's INKubator with Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS and is directed by Tony Abatemarco, The Skylab (at the Skylight) is located at 1816 Vermont in Los Feliz. Ticket price is $15 and reservations may be made by calling 702 582 85878 or ordering online at ktctickets.com.
On World AIDS Day, December 1 @ 7:30, Kearns will appear at the event They Were Among Us: Remembering 30 Years of AIDS at the One National Gay & Lesbian Archives. One is located at 909 West Adams. Kearns will pay tribute to two of his fallen friends, Paul Monette and Steve Kolzak, by performing Monette's seminal piece, "Stephen at the FDA." The event is free but reservations are required. They Were Among Us begins at 6:30 with a buffet, beverages, and community reception with speakers and performances at 7:30. Call (213) 741-0094 or go to http://www.oneworldaidsday2011.org/.
On December 4 @ 7 PM, Kearns will perform an excerpt from his landmark theatre work, intimacies. The evening will include a screening of the documentary Celebrating the Unsung Heroes, Voices from the Fray, as well as performances by David Trudell and Brian Frank. The event, in support of Hollywood Remembers, will be held at the Hollywood Lutheran Church, 1733 North New Hampshire. There is no charge. Every year Hollywood Remembers presents a special show for World AIDS Day to remember those who are afflicted with AIDS and to bring this plight to the attention of the general public.
To give you a sense of what I mean by "dangerous," here's an excerpt from Kearn's brilliant and emotional play intimacies with a Catholic priest talking about the AIDS death of his twin brother:
I've been a priest for almost 10 years and being with my brother when he died is the only spiritual experience I've ever known. ....After he died, I told him a secret. We are identical, I said. I have AIDS, too....
I got infected from having sex with young boys in my parish, hustlers off the street, husbands of wives who come to me for marriage counseling. Being a good Catholic, I didn't use a condom. Neither did they. Not only have I, in the name of Holy Mother The Church murdered my own twin brother, I have killed all my brothers. How many Hail Marys should I say for penance? Perhaps I should splatter not red paint but my own blood on the steps of the Vatican. Perhaps I should pin a pink triangle onto my long black skirt. Perhaps I should learn how to love my fellow man. If it weren't for my parents - they're in their 70s, it would kill them. I'm al lthat they have. Father Anthony is all that they have. If there is a God - which I doubt - surely He will have mercy and take them before me.