My apologies.

I just want to take a moment to apologize to my readers. I am currently working on my National Novel Writing project (NaNoWriMo). Starting 5 days behind and playing catch up has been daunting, but after six thousand words yesterday, and three thousand more today I’ll be caught up and able to spend more time with you. You’ll see pieces of my story as they are edited through November, December, and January, and you’ll also get information about the planned sequel. For now, however, I’m leaving you in the dark. 🙂

I’ll be back to writing for you soon!

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Stigma and Law

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Living with HIV has posed many challenges over the last 9 months. From making the decision to start drug therapy as treatment and going on a clinical trial, to the emotional stress and anxiety that I, my friends, and my family have had to deal with, it’s been a roller coaster. 

But in doing research for a workshop I plan on presenting (much more of which you will see over the next few weeks), I suddenly became frustrated. I came to the realization that HIV has more laws criminalizing it in the United States than in any other country in the world. 

Really, America? It’s a disease. Just like Typhoid, Malaria, Tuberculosis, Polio, Scarlett Fever, and how many other diseases that have been pandemic in our country’s 236 year history, so why should we criminalize this one and none of the others? 

By creating laws criminalizing HIV, we have effectively attached a stigma to the disease that we will NEVER be able to overcome. A stigma that has contributed to many suicides, one funeral of which I attended only months after being diagnosed myself. 

The rate of suicide among HIV-Positive individuals is more than three times higher than among the general population of the United States. Why is that? I believe it is largely due to the fact that because of the criminalization of HIV, and the stigma attached to it. Don’t misunderstand me, I do think that it should be required to tell your partners about your status. But that should be common courtesy. Not law. HIV is a chronic-managable disease in today’s world. There is medication to help control it just like Asthma and Diabetes. 

And no discussion regarding the criminalizing laws against HIV would be complete without mentioning the fact that for over 15 years, the United States banned anyone having a positive HIV status from obtaining a visa or immigrating into the country. Someone please explain to me why this was a good idea. I get it that we need to protect our people, but when they already have the disease, when the first cases of the disease were found on our own soil, what were we hoping to accomplish?

Walking Through Shadows. Painting With Light.

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            Picture it. A darkened theatre. A pitch-black cavern. The only sound you hear is that of your own heartbeat and breath. Seemingly out of nowhere, a dim beam of amber light appears, its edges crisp, illuminating a circular patch of vacant stage. As the light intensifies, it’s amber glow wanes pink. Through the silence, a disembodied voice cries out, “Down left… A little more…. Hold it there! Lock it and move on.” Suddenly the space is dark again. The shaft of pink light has faded away as quickly as it appeared, and you are, once again, in a darkened theatre.

In my line of work as a lighting designer, there is a saying I happen to find very poignant. “Walking through shadows. Painting with light.” I picture each beam of light. How it affects the costumes and the scenery, both in the radiance and shine of the materials used, and how the colors will play off of one another must be considered. But perhaps even more importantly than that, I must consider the emotional effect that each color, each shadow, will have on the audience. Lighting design is more than just illumination. It is an art form, cuing any array of emotions I deem appropriate for the audience to feel during a performance.

Back in the theatre, you decide to walk down the aisle to the mezzanine between two sections of seating. Lost in the awe and wonder of witnessing a process you didn’t know existed, you are suddenly grounded by a second shaft of light. Just as the first, this one gradually intensifies. This time, however, the light shifts from amber to a soft Robin’s egg blue. This shaft of light also terminates in a blurry oval on stage. A second disembodied voice pierces the air. “What’s the focus point? Bridge 2, unit 23.” The first voice replies, “Take it down center. And take the bottle across the pro’sc. It’s a soft bump for Helena, Act 1, Scene 1.” Suddenly, the shaft of light begins to move toward the edge of the stage. It’s soft blue glow revealing a rather convincing looking tree just off stage. Still baffled at the process you’ve found yourself in the middle of, you trace the beam of light back to its source. It’s hovering somewhere apparently in mid-air just behind you.

To design light is more than just point lights where people stand. To dictate the placement on stage, color, brightness, shape, sharpness, angle, and other qualities of each individual light fixture takes patience, time, and practice. I have spent countless hours reading about color theory – that is to say, how colors of light interact and why, as well as the emotions they evoke from the audience. I’ve also spent a lot of time considering the intensity of certain types of light bulb, which to me is a lamp, and the fixtures they go into, how the fixture works, and how it affects the qualities of the light.

“Lock that off. Let’s take ten,” the second voice calls out from the darkness. The blue beam of light suddenly disappears, and the room becomes instantly bright, as if the sun was suddenly turned on. You are still looking up at the point from which the blue light originated. It appears to be a black coffee can with a square sheet of blue plastic in front of it. How could anyone control that, you wonder to yourself. As your eyes drift around the space, there are countless other objects with the same shape. You notice others with a smaller diameter, but essentially the same piece of equipment, all with similar sheets of plastic covering their open end. Suddenly you hear the metallic sound of someone trotting down a spiral metal staircase. You turn to find three men in all black making their way from the staircase to the nearby rear exit of the space.

The majority of people that attend a performance do not realize the time that it takes to pull all of the components together. From the day that the actors are auditioned, there is a staff of scenic designers making the stage looks right, sound designers queuing up sound effects and setting up microphones, costume designers making decisions on what each performer should wear and when they should change. Each of these jobs is important. Each one helps effect the audiences’ emotions to deepen the reality of each scene. My job as the lighting designer is no different. I take into consideration the setting and time of day of each scene, who is on stage, what action is happening, and how realistic I want the scene to look. I consider the space I have to work with, where my power sources are, and consider where I want my lights to be to achieve the proper shadows and effects on stage.

The three men enter the theatre through the same door in the back of the theatre and proceed to climb the same spiral staircase to walkways suspended from the ceiling. You find a seat near the center of the theatre and make yourself comfortable. “Going dark!” booms the second voice over the space. You are suddenly plunged back into darkness. “Checking warm front 1. Sub 2 up. How’s it feel Charlie?” A new voice is responds, “Lookin’ good!” The activities of these three men continue for another hour or so as they fade in and out different colors of light and in different areas of the stage. The language they share is one that is foreign to you, but one they obviously have spent years speaking. You hear the second man call out that they are starting to build scenes. Beam by beam an intricate array of lights fade up to varying intensities, and as you watch the stage turn shades of pink and red, blue and purple. By the time the second man calls out to save each scene, the stage is ablaze with pools of vibrant colors of light. You feel as if you are inside a painting by Claude Monet.

Each time I sit down to design a show, it’s true. I do take into consideration all of the technical aspects of light. Power, position, and inventory, just to name a few. But the artwork comes much more naturally. To paint literally paint the stage in color takes the eye of a painter, the hand of an artist, and the possession of a skill that cannot be taught. Each time I sit down to design a show I take a moment to consider that quote. “Walking through shadows. Painting with light.” And each time I read it, it means a little more to me. As a lighting designer, I spend hour upon hour in the dark underworld above the audience, moving skillfully and carefully around the maze of doorways, cables, and carefully positioned lighting instruments. But it’s the time I spend positioning those lighting instruments that makes my job so rewarding. I paint with the colors of the light. I can turn the stage into whatever I want it to be. It’s my job to convince the audience that what they are seeing is real – to suspend their disbelief. And it’s all done by walking through shadows, and painting with light.
A week has passed. You find yourself back in the same theatre. This time, it’s brightly lit all around, the hustle and bustle of people trying to locate their assigned seat off their ticket, ushers running back and forth trying to assist as many patrons as they can. The lights dim, and again, you are thrust into darkness. The lights fade up on the stage to reveal several characters. Finally, you realize how all that work you observed has paid off. You feel every emotion and hang on each word they say. And as the theatre slowly rises back into light at the end of the play, you remember the three men. The three who walk in shadows and paint with light. 

The Necessity of Control

My mother, bless her heart, is the most controlling person I know. I understand that being a parent is stressful, especially when you’re a conservative southern Baptist, and you have a gay son who is HIV positive. But really, I have a Dr appointment tomorrow, and she feels the need to COUNT my medication and see how much I have left… 

Last time I checked I was 20. I make my own appointments. I make my own schedule. I go where I want, do what I want, and say what I want. And she feels the need to take time out of her day to stop and count MY medication? 

Personally, I think it’s foolish. I can clearly handle myself. I don’t need her breathing down my neck every five FUCKING seconds about taking my meds, getting to class, writing that paper, scheduling or re-scheduling that appointment, etc, etc, etc. It’s getting old, fast. 

And when I tell her that I want to do something to be pro-active about my education, she says no. 

overit.com

Rant over.

If I Died Tomorrow…

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If I died tomorrow, I’d be perfectly content. No, it’s true, I haven’t done everything I’d like to in my life. I’ve never seen a show ON Broadway (Though I have seen two shows Off-Broadway – Rent and Avenue Q). I’ve never seen London, Paris, Rome, or any of the other great cities in Europe. I’d like to someday get married (not a civil partnership) and adopt a child. I want to be crew on a concert tour, or broadway tour. I’ve never been in a helicopter. 

But if I were to die tomorrow, I would say that for a 20 year old, I’ve had a good life. I’ve been to New York, been to the tippy top of the Empire State Building, seen the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island, pounded the pavement of 42nd Street. I’ve seen Lincoln Center, the apartment of Will and Grace and the “Friends”, and ate at some of the most AMAZING restaurants. I’ve been all along the Eastern Seaboard, from Maine, to Florida. I’ve been cave tubing in Belize, and kayaked across a bay in Mexico. I’ve been nominated for numerous awards for my work in theatre over the last 14 years, been offered jobs because of some of the credits on my resume even. I have been the lighting designer on a world premier production (The Global Lovers – Cincinnati Fringe Festival ’10). I’ve met some of the most amazing people, famous and not, including Neil Armstrong, Mark Wood, and India Ferrah. But most importantly, I’ve been me. These last 20 years on earth have had their ups, many of which are listed above, and their downs (we’ll not go there). But all in all, it’s been a good ride. If I died tomorrow, I’d have nothing to complain about. 

20 years down, and here’s to 20 more.

The Dark Side

Nobody has said it better than Kelly Clarkson in her new song “Dark Side”. 

“Everybody has a dark side. Can you love me? Can you love mine?”

Apparently nobody can. 

HIV has been the hardest thing in my life. It makes you realize who your friends really are. And it also makes a world of difference in the seeing the true colors of the guys you date. 

Lately, though, it seems that I’m not good enough a person for someone to be able to take the chance on me. Guys don’t even want to continue a conversation with me after I tell them. 

And how is that supposed to make me feel? I don’t know about “supposed” to, but it takes away all motivation to even bother taking the medications which keep me alive. Essentially, a slow suicide. It would just be nice if guys didn’t completely recoil as if talking to me would infect them. I wish someone would get to know me for me and let that be it. 

My life wouldn’t be that simple though…

Aside

For Him

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I will never stop loving you.

No matter how hard I try. No matter how much I want to forget you ever existed. You took a part of me that I can’t change and used it as an excuse to let me go when all you wanted was to go back to banging him. For that, I’ll never forgive you. But it doesn’t change the fact that nothing I do, nothing I say pulls my mind away from you for any more than a moment.

I hope you’re happy tearing me apart.

I don’t think you even realize what you’re doing.

It’s difficult to find to motivation to take the pills that keep me alive when you’re not there. Like you said you’d be.

And besides all that – you said that you cared about me, always had and always would. But who are we kidding here? You don’t care. If you cared, you would have made an effort to tell me what was going on. And you would have made an effort by now to try and see me. But you’re so enraptured in him. TOO enraptured in him, to even notice that I’m sitting here hurting.

And through it ALL – no matter how much pain I’m in – as long as you’re happy, I suppose I can be too.