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It is something that I don’t like to talk about.
If you know me in person you know I prefer fun, happy topics. I love irony. I like to make you laugh. I’m a musical comedian, for goodness sakes. We’re calling Dog Opera a “comedy” by Constance Congdon because it is very, very funny, but there is also a touch of drama and some very heartbreaking, poignant moments. It’s a dramedy, if you will. There is, however, something else you should know.
Aside from telling the story of a gay male and his straight best friend and their separate failed dating lives in NYC, Dog Opera also tackles the AIDS epidemic. ‘Congdon wrote this play to reflect the time when AIDS was considered the plague, a death sentence, an utterly terrifying shock to our world. We have come a long way, but spreading awareness and educating people is still a top priority, right here in our country. I still find Dog Opera’s message to be strong, relevant, and timely.
Personally, it hits close to home for me…and this is what I have to tell you. This is one of the (secret?) reasons I am pouring my blood sweat and tears into Producing and Starring in this production. Why keep secrets, though? You know I am nothing but honest in this blog, so here goes.
I lost my Uncle Kurt to AIDS on July 7th, 1987. Right smack dab in the middle of the crisis, when there was no treatment. He was my Mothers’ youngest brother and he passed at the ripe age of 21. I was just a small, blonde-ish 7 year old girl, happy and full of energy and he was cool and fun and loved me, so, so much. He was also incredibly handsome, see?
He looks a LOT like my Grandmother, and she was (and perhaps never really got over being) devastated. No one really knew what to say to my brother and I to explain what he passed from, we were so young, it was still so new and everything was confusing. My Grandmother could barely speak the words herself. The family told us it was cancer, later on when I hit my “wise” pre-teen years my Mother explained to us that it was AIDS. I had began to learn what cancer was and wanted to know what kind he had, wanted to know specifics, like teens do. It was a difficult topic of conversation in my family, to say the least. I remember her sitting my brother and I on the couch in the living room and having this conversation. I remember the sun coming through the windows. I remember all of this so clearly, a bright picture in my mind. I’ve never told my Mother how much I appreciated her telling me the truth. My Mother has always been a crafty person and loved her brother with all her heart. She has one of the original squares in the AIDS Quilt. Here is a photo of her square for my Uncle Kurt:
Do you see the “We Love You?” The music notes are there because he was a masterful pianist. I wish I had a clip of his music to share with you here. It was so beautiful. I am sure there is not a day that goes by that my Mother or Grandparents don’t think of him. My last memories of him are oddly vivid. I hope it’s OK if I share them with you. This is harder than I thought it would be. Bear with me.
In his remaining days, my Grandparents chose to care for my Uncle at home. He rested in a room they made “his room” in the downstairs of their house, because he could not go up the stairs. I imagine he was home because there is nothing the hospitals could do anyway, and they wanted to be close to him. The last time I saw him, my Mother took me over to the door to his room because he wanted to see me and I wanted to see my Uncle. We opened the door slowly and I poked my little blonde-ish head in. He was laying flat on his back, and he was incredibly thin and fraile. He lifted his head a bit and smiled at me, told me it was OK to come in. I painfully remember the skin lesions all over his body. I don’t know if you’ve ever seen those, but you don’t forget them. The way he looked was so shockingly different from how he looked when he was healthy that it scared my 7 year old self. I went to him but I was too afraid to hug him.
Many years later, I laid awake in bed one night thinking about him and could not sleep. I ran down the stairs and bawled my eyes out to my parents about how I “never got to say good bye” and feeling bad that I didn’t hug him when I had the chance. They told me that it was OK, that he always knew I loved him and I was just a little girl. That night, he came to me in a dream. He was smiling, healthy, happy. We embraced. Message delivered.
Now my 30-something self is doing a play that also deals with the topic of AIDS, and that is obviously no accident. I’ve told everyone how I wanted to produce and star in this play because it is funny, the role is so right for me, the characters are so great, I love the playwright…etc, etc. But the truth that you now know is that it’s much more than that. This play is a journey for me, in a very special way.
We have a very limited run November 1st – 4th at The Little Times Square Theatre in NYC. I hope you’ll support this production and come see it, now that you know everything…the last step is to join in on the experience with me, my co-producer/co-star Jason and our dazzling cast & crew. I hope you will.
Click Here for Tickets or Call (212) 868-4444 and press 1 to purchase by phone.
For AIDS info, awareness days, and more click here.
I’m Co-Producing and Co-Starring in a play in New York City for one weekend starting the 1st of November…and I’m making mistakes.
We are first time play Producers and even with our city savvy and stage bidness know-how, we don’t know everything, and it’s really hard to admit that.
I’ve realized I’m on a journey. Not in that I-just-dig-spiritual-terminology kind of way, but in that “We’re literally on a path and sometimes we take a wrong turn or hit a bump in the road and pray for a yield sign” kind of way. It doesn’t do us any good to say to we’ve made every correct decision in this process. We haven’t.
Truth: We need more funds. We need your help. Don’t stop reading.
It was challenging to predict the full spectrum of expenses we would come across during this process. Believe me when I say, we are not making a single red cent off of this production. There just wasn’t a handbook that could tell us our original budget and fundraising amount was just too low. Beyond that, fundraising was kinda hard for us, in general. We’re hardworking folk who couldn’t quite wrap our heads around asking people for money in support of our dreams, so we lowballed it. Oopsy.
The upside to there being no handbook for making your dreams come true? We’re creating our own.
How exciting is that?
So, the good news? There’s plenty:
First off, we got the rights! Thanks, Samuel French.
The play is amazing. Relevant. Hilarious. Heartbreaking. Timely. Witty. Powerful. All of those things, all at once. I know.
We have a stellar cast. Oh, you just wait until you meet them.
Our Director has both energy and focus.
One of our nearest and dearest talented friends is Stage Managing.
We’ve booked a fantastic marketer to design the graphics/posters/postcards/flyers – also from our pool of talented friends.
…and much much more! (we’ve been busy, did I mention we’re also memorizing our lines and rehearsals have started? Oh yes, that too.)
The biggest thing of all is that we’re learning how to ask for help. We’ve always “done everything ourselves” and while that fosters a lot of pride and helps us grow as humans, we’re realizing that another sign of strength is knowing when to ask for help.
How can you help? We’re short on cash because, well, theatre space in NYC is expensive…to say the least. Donations can be made via that cute lil’ paypal button below. $5 adds up fast. $20 is at least an hour of rehearsing. $50 rents rehearsal space for the night. $100 goes to our light and sound technician. $500 keeps allows for publicity helps get industry in the seats…I could go on and on and on.
Every little bit helps. Every dollar, any amount. Please leave a comment and please share.
I’m no Guru, but I am growing up. This is still the path I’m proud to be paving.
I am giving myself permission to live the life I want to live. Take a look at my list of things that are just fine in my not-a-guru humble opinion, and feel free to add to it in the comments below.
1 – It’s just fine if you don’t leave the house or even get dressed on your day off. Order chicken tikka masala for dinner and watch The Amanda’s on the Style Network. (Ya know, or something like that…*clears throat*) It’s just fine that you won’t see or talk to anyone… except maybe baby-speak to your cat.
2 – It’s just fine if you send everyone to voicemail on your cell phone. You’re awkward on the phone. You never know how to hang up. You get butterflies in your stomach and pace back and forth in your apartment the whole time you’re on a call. It’s just fine. Don’t do this for obvious emergencies, your boss, or when your Grandfather calls though, those are rare and important occasions where it might not be fine.
3 – It’s just fine to be selfish if you admit it and learn from it. “I’m not hanging out with you because I’m all about myself right now. I will be a better person when this phase is over.” Deal. Fine with me! Text me when you’re coming back to brunch.
4 – It’s just fine not to commit to things that make you feel nervous or unhappy. You hate horror movies but everyone is going Friday night? You hate doing shots but the bartender gave you two free ones? Everyone is taking their kid to the new Mommy & Me Bikram class and you’d rather shave your head? Just say no, it’s fine. There is only so much time in life and you don’t have to spend it doing things you don’t like.
5 – It’s just fine to try new things and fail after telling everyone all about them. I’M GOING TO PAINT MURALS! I’M TAKING UP FLAMENCO DANCING! I’M MAKING MY OWN TOOTHPASTE NOW! Whatever it is, try it and share it with your groupies. It’s OK to be excited about something even if it doesn’t work out. If anyone gives you a hard time about it, first, question whether or not they’re truly a good friend, and second, remind them that you try new things and that makes you an adventurous person. “Top that!” – Teen Witch, 1989
6 – It’s just fine to care a lot about your money and be thrifty and careful with it. I’m a little bit cheap too, I admit that. However, I’m currently really proud of myself for getting close to paying off some long-standing large debts, little by little. I think it’s just fine if I check my bank accounts constantly to remind myself of my progress. Go me!
7 – It’s just fine if you are sometimes not the…uh…nicest person. Snarky Facebook comment? Bitchy comment to your unsuspecting partner/soul mate/one-night-stand over morning coffee? It happens. Just apologize and move on. Pretending you weren’t mean or rude is…well, not as fine.
8 – It’s just fine if you grow up and realize you have some forgiving to do. Either for yourself, your family or friends and people in your past. You can do it. It’s never too late to let go of the thoughts and memories that no longer serve you on your path to awesome. “Relax, relate, release!” – A Different World
Now tell me, what is just fine according to YOU? Comment below!
It’s time to share some exciting news. I am occasionally a Guest Blogger around the interwebs and my favorite place to do that is over on the highly inspirational internet “happy place,” The Whirling Blog.
The exciting news is that TWB was just named #1 on Spa Week’s list of “10 People and Blogs You Should Be Following Now.” Top of the list is a great spot to be in and I’m honored to be a part of it all. Click on the links below to see how I whirled…
- My first entry for TWB is right here. (Spoiler alert: It’s about ridiculous thoughts in our own heads and what to do about ’em.)
- Click here for my 2nd contribution…(Spoiler alert: There is a picture of chocolate…and permission to eat it.)
- Last but certainly not least, click here for the interview my musical comedy partner and I did for the blog!
Please enjoy yourself over there but do come back here and leave a comment. I’d absolutely love to hear what you think!