HIV Theatre in New Mexico for AmeriCorps Week

By zaccaria on June 17, 2011 in AmeriCorps

On May 19 and May 20, Team New Mexico presented Voices behind the Virus: A performance based on the true stories of New Mexicans living with HIV.  The performance took place at Warehouse 21 in Santa Fe, and at the Filling Station in Albuquerque, and was part of a series of events for AmeriCorps week.   The events both featured free, anonymous HIV testing, with rapid testing sponsored by Southwest CARE Center at the Santa Fe performance, and testing sponsored by the HIV/AIDS Advocacy Network at the Albuquerque show.  We hosted receptions during both performances, with food sponsored by the New Mexico Commission for Community Volunteerism.

Tickets to the show were sold for a suggested donation of 10 to 15 dollars.  Proceeds were matched by AIDS United and went to benefit Camp Corazones, a Santa Fe camp for children affected and infected by HIV that recently began experiencing financial difficulties.  Much of the HIV/AIDS community in New Mexico had rallied to support Camp Corazones and we thought this was a great cause for our performance.

Devin Peterson of Santa Fe Habitat for Humanity

From left to Right: Southwest CARE case manager Adam Lord, AmeriCorps Volunteer Emily Knittle, and Southwest Care case manager Chris Weber

Voices began as an idea to portray first person narratives of people living with HIV through monologues style theatre.  Our goal was not only to give voice to those infected by HIV, but also to educate, create awareness, and provide insight and perspective in to their lives.

Robert Sturm of the New Mexico Community AIDS Partnership and Jewel Cabeza de Vaca of Camp Corazones

Maggie Cunha, AIDS United and AmeriCorps volunteers AJ Ben and Amy Rumack

We began by conducting interviews with community members, and compiled portions of those interviews verbatim into a script.  We were also fortunate enough to have the assistance of Skye Fort and Diana Delgado, two UNM Theatre and Dance students who took the script and turned it into a performance.  Skye and Diana began rehearsals about one month before our scheduled performances, and were able to develop and create several original pieces inspired not only by peoples’ stories, but also by prevention materials, condoms and HIV testing.  The performance featured several short skits on condoms including a demonstration, and also rapid testing being acted out on stage.  It also dealt with the issue of medication and HIV treatment, and illustrated the difficulties and overwhelming nature of treatment.  Several stories were told through monologues which were broken up into parts during the performance.  The stories and performance pieces ranged from powerful, emotional and thought provoking, to inspirational and light-hearted.

AmeriCorps volunteers Tim Zaccaria, AJ Ben, and Amy Rumack

From left to right: Craig McAdams, Drew Morrison, Tori Corcoran, Diana Delgado, Laurel LeDoux, Nate Warren, Christie Carter, Skye Fort

It was amazing to listen to some of the feedback we received from those who attended, particularly those whose stories were used in the performance.  Since the performance, we have received interest from other organizations interested in hosting a performance of Voices.  We filmed both the performance and rehearsals, and we plan to distribute the video among prevention programs around the state, as well as to other organizations interested in using the performance to educate about HIV.

We would like to take this opportunity to thank everyone who was willing to sit down with us and share their story.  We would also like to thank our producer Skye Fort and director Diana Delgado; as well as the actors: Nate Warren, Drew Morrison, Christie Carter, Craig McAdams, and Tori Corcoran; and crew: David Torres and Joe Montoya.  We would also like to thank the New Mexico Commission on Community Volunteerism for sponsoring our event.

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