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“Stages of AIDS” Engages LMU Community in Dialogue about HIV/AIDS

Loyola Marymount University’s Department of Theatre Arts and Dance presented its fourth  annual production of “Stages of AIDS” in conjunction with World AIDS Day. Director Kevin Wetmore said this year’s production on Dec. 4-5 was inspired by a quote from writer James Baldwin: “Ignorance, allied with power, is the most ferocious enemy justice can have.”

“ ‘Stages of AIDS’ seeks to remove ignorance as an excuse,” said Wetmore, associate professor of theatre arts. “It seeks to remind everyone that we have an obligation – if we are indeed going to live LMU’s mission statement – to live as whole persons, to promote social justice, and to help those who are less fortunate.”

The production featured scenes from various plays written from 1985 to 1995 performed in chronological order. The scenes examined the personal, emotional and social struggles faced by a person living with AIDS or anyone affected by someone with the disease.  It opened with a presentation of short vignettes and visuals created by the students that were based on their varying perceptions and opinions about the disease.

“During this ten-year span, you can see how the changes in perception that American society had about people with HIV and AIDS,” Wetmore said. “The show trumpets how theater has been at the vanguard about letting people know about HIV and AIDS.”

Freshman Melanie Abrams was one of the student actors in the show and said it was an excellent opportunity for the LMU community to engage in an honest conversation about a serious issue.

“Theatre forces people to listen. It raises the curtain on issues that people tend to shy away from,” said Abrams, a theatre arts major. “AIDS is like a taboo, and it shouldn't be. It's a disease, like cancer, but [American] society has been programmed to believe that it is something to be ashamed of or embarrassed about.”

Beyond educating and informing their audience about the disease, the director and cast sought to inspire individuals by providing information about volunteer opportunities with three Los Angeles-based charities that they worked with this past year. All proceeds were donated to Project Angel Food, AIDS Project Los Angeles and AIDS Healthcare Foundation of Los Angeles.

Posted Dec. 6, 2010