Imagine a quilt so large that if it were lifted into the sky, it would create an artificial eclipse.
That’s exactly what South Coast Repertory literary manager John Glore does in his short play “Shadow,” which will be given a staged reading tonight in Newport Beach.
That eclipse, and the resulting darkness it casts across the face of the Earth, is a metaphor, of course--in this case, for the shadow that AIDS has left, and continues to leave, in its wake.
Tonight’s reading is just one part of a program sponsored by the Orange County chapter of the AIDS Names Project for dedication of new Orange County panels for the AIDS quilt, which will join other panels from around the country in Washington in October.
“The themes of both the play and the ceremony come together beautifully,” said Curt Webster, dramaturge of Laguna Beach-based Changing Masks Theatre Company, which is staging the reading. “The quilt is about remembering, it’s about healing, and it’s about trying to find some hope in the midst of this horrible tragedy of the AIDS plague.”
“Shadow” is about the complete AIDS quilt, which Webster said will be immense. The story concerns the lover, friends and family of one young man who has died from AIDS. They gather to experience the moment when the quilt is lifted into the sky to orbit the Earth.
As for the panels themselves that commemorate those who have lost their lives to AIDS, Webster said, “We’re not talking about a quilt your grandmother put together. We’re talking about a small billboard size. Looking at them is gut-wrenching.” Presiding over the dedication will be speakers including actress and Orange County resident Mamie Van Doren. The program, which beings at 6 p.m., also will include a candlelight vigil and consecration of the panels.
Glore wrote the play originally for SCR’s participation in the first Day Without Art AIDS awareness program at the Irvine Barclay Theatre in 1994, where Webster first saw it. It was then a part of a play-reading series in February, which Changing Masks held in conjunction with the Orange County Playwrights Alliance.
“The whole play,” Glore said, “is framed as a dream of the central character. He tells of when he and his lover went to see the AIDS quilt spread out on the mall in Washington, and how they spent several hours walking among its panels looking for [the names of] lost friends and relations. Then he tells us about a dream he had, lying in his hospital bed.”
Glore said that ever since SCR has been involved with Day Without Art, it has been difficult to attract audiences.
“Most people out there who aren’t already aware of the crisis,” he said, “whose own lives haven’t been directly impacted by it, would just as soon not think about it.
“It’s not a pleasant thing to think about,” he said. “It isn’t that they’re actively denying the existence of the crisis, it’s more of a passive resistance to getting drawn into thinking about it. To that extent it has always been an audience of the already converted.”
Glore’s goal in writing the play was to create an artistic framework for the subject, so it could be contemplated not just as a social issue. He said that if the message reaches one or two people who hadn’t thought about it before, “then that is gravy as far as I’m concerned.”
Webster said Glore’s play doesn’t shy from the hard issues--the grief, the discrimination, what he calls “those really awful things.”
Yet Glore said his intent was also to make the play a positive, healing work.
“That,” Glore said, “is the whole point of the Names Project. I was really happy to learn about this rededication of the Orange County portion of the quilt, and thrilled to know that my play, which was inspired by the idea of the quilt, could become a part of this commemoration, this celebration.”
* Changing Masks Theatre presents a staged reading of “Shadow,” a one-act play written by South Coast Repertory literary manager John Glore, tonight at St. Mark Presbyterian Church, 2100 Mar Vista Drive, Newport Beach. 6 p.m. Free. Part of the NAMES Project Orange County’s panel dedication ceremony. (714) 490-3880.