Six West Hollywood residents are among the cast and crew of the play The Infection Monologues, which explores the human dimension of living with HIV.
Co-sponsored by the city of West Hollywood, the play, which coincides with the 30th anniversary of the first AIDS diagnosis, will be performed Friday and Saturday night at the Los Angeles Gay & Lesbian Center’s Renberg Theatre at Ed Gould Plaza in Hollywood. The shows will benefit the Lambda Literary Foundation and The Wall–Las Memorias Project, which provides support to Latinos affected by HIV/AIDS.
West Hollywood resident Alex Garner, the director, co-writer and a cast member, describes The Infection Monologues as “an exploration of the modern HIV narrative that pushes boundaries and delves into the complicated nature of gay men’s actions around risk and sex and HIV." It also explores "the very real issue of shame and stigma that is still as destructive a force as it was 30 years ago," he said.
Another West Hollywood resident, writer-scholar-activist Eric Rofes, conceived the show after conducting research on men who seroconverted (developed antibodies) after the year 2000. In writing the play, Rofes collaborated with Garner, a stage veteran and founding member of The Gay Mafia Theater Company improv troupe.
“It was very important to us to demonstrate the legitimacy of the stories of HIV positive men,” Garner said. “Too often the experiences of poz men had simply been used as prevention or as some kind of cautionary tale, but we understood their value as a rich part of our collective culture and history.”
Despite the subject matter, Garner added, the play is anything but grim.
“The audience should absolutely not expect a downbeat evening,” he said. “This show is very funny and is in no way maudlin or about death and dying."
"The world of HIV has changed dramatically," he said. "These are diverse characters of various ages, ethnic backgrounds and experiences. They can be sassy, witty, thoughtful, confident and even sexy. They use humor to explore the day-to-day experiences of life with HIV.”
Other West Hollywood residents involved in the production include cast members Marcus Reynaga and Michael Vaccaro, contributing writer Brody Brown and co-producer Eddie Martinez, who works with The Wall–Las Memorias Project. Colbert Alembert, Korken Alexander and Matthew Herrick are also in the cast, and Joel Martinez is a contributing writer.
Garner promises an entertaining evening for those who attend The Infection Monologues, but he hopes for much more.
“Even today one can’t drive down Santa Monica Boulevard in West Hollywood without seeing HIV billboards,” he said. “At times, those billboards have served to reinforce HIV stigma. Shame still prevents people from getting tested, seeking treatment or being out about their status."
“It’s our hope that this project can contribute to breaking the stigma around HIV," he said, "so that all people, gay and straight, negative and positive, will have a healthier understanding of this disease.”
Tickets for the benefit performances are $30. On both Friday and Saturday nights, a pre-show reception will take place at 6 p.m. The play begins at 7 p.m. and will be followed by a panel discussion with cast members and producers. The Renberg Theatre is located at 1125 North McCadden, with free parking across the street. For tickets call 323-860-7300 or click here.