“Angels in America”

Despite the fact we live in the South and despite the fact we live in a rural area, we are very blessed with the amount of art venues here in WNC. From Flat Rock Playhouse to the Diana Wortham Theatre to the Southern Highland Craft Guild, we are far from being unsophisticated hicks.

I’ve just had the pleasure of seeing both parts of the fabulous play, Angels in America: A Gay Fantasia on National Themes written by Tony Kushner. We saw the first part (Millennium Approaches) 2 weeks ago and the second half (Perestroika) tonight. Amazing. Absolutely amazing. We went to NC Stage where our friend Michael MacCauley played the role of Roy Cohn. He did an excellent job of pretending to be a bastard!

We were warned by notices on the doors that there would be vulgar language, sexual themes, and nudity as well as fog machine and strobe lights. We were prepared for most of it. Let me just say it was the first time I’ve seen a penis in many, many years. The first night, it was in full view but luckily across the stage. Tonight, however, it was much closer but turned away (hairy male butt instead!).

The first night was much more serious, very defining in who the characters were and set up the time frame. The 80s were rough and ugly. We homosexuals sometimes think we have not gained much. I say see this play and you’ll remember your roots and the people who went before us. AIDS/HIV took far too many beautiful people and still does. We may not yet be able to marry the person we love but at least we are not still dying like rats with spit on our faces, surrounded by latex and fear.

Tonight’s show was rather funny. Even I laughed out loud, something I rarely do during a live stage performance. It was still deadly serious but the irony and satire flowed. There was a hint of hope, much more than in the first. AZT was just starting trials. The world as a whole was maturing ever so slightly.

If you have not seen this play (it is very long, both parts were roughly 3.5 hrs each), I urge you to do so. Angels in America was made into a a TV mini-series on HBO. If you can get your hands on a copy, watch it. Get a group together. Watch it. Pause often and talk about it. At the end, talk some more. Then go find your local HIV/AIDS group and offer them support. Time, money, both.

Here in WNC we have Western North Carolina AIDS Project (WNCAP). They are the creators of an awareness campaign called “I Need U 2 Know” which is to educate and fight the stereotypes and stigma that still follows this disease. In 1989 I took part in a ‘train the trainer’ session through the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation in NJ. We learned about a relatively new concept called universal precautions. We covered privacy laws, myths and facts about HIV/AIDS, just what the heck HIV/AIDS is and what the difference is between them. Then we learned how to educate others. My job was to educate my co-workers. Rumors were running rampant and I had the wonderful task of attempting to straighten out the mess. It wasn’t easy and I am sure there were many who let the information just go right by. Telling them they were at greater risk of hepatitis than HIV was futile. Telling them that the AIDS virus was easily killed with a 10% bleach solution while hepatitis remained confused them. Telling them that they were not going to be told which, if any, of our clients had HIV/AIDS nearly got me punched. It wasn’t their fault. The media wasn’t helping any. This thing had been around for less than a decade and it was still very unknown.

I digress like I always do.

It was a wonderful, thought provoking play that took Lorna and I down several memory lanes.