BY HIV Plus Editors
October 16 2009 12:00 AM ET
Artist-activist Michael Kearns will honor World AIDS Day, December 1, with an American tour that will introduce a new book and revive a groundbreaking theater piece that he wrote and performed 20 years ago.
On Saturday, October 25, Kearns will read from The Drama of AIDS: My Lasting Connections With Two Plays That Survived the Plague, his sixth book. The Drama of AIDS, with a foreword by Tim Miller, is a memoir that chronicles Kearns's connections to Robert Chesley's Jerker and James Carroll Pickett's Dream Man. The kickoff reading will be held at Skylight Books in Los Feliz, Calif.
Kearns will then embark on a 20th anniversary tour of Intimacies, a play that premiered in 1989, beginning with a one-night performance at Wings Theatre in New York City on Thursday, October 29. Kearns will return to Los Angeles for a series of special Monday night performances in November at the drkrm.gallery in advance of the tour's centerpiece event at the University of Southern California on World AIDS Day.
In 1989, Kearns's solo performance piece -- in which he plays six wildly divergent characters who are urgently affected by HIV -- was hailed as a landmark theatrical event. "By Aristotle's standards, AIDS is to classical tragedy what nuclear warheads are to skeet-shooting -- an unwieldy subject that has beggared the best-intended of imaginations and generated a whole genre of trivializing, tear-jerking stage melodramas," said a review in the LA Weekly. "Not so with this accomplished evening of AIDS portraits by actor/writer Michael Kearns. Kearns's carefully observed monologues achieve a balance of sympathy (without manipulating sentiment), humor, and quiet heroism that communicates its personal struggles without losing sense of the larger social and political qualifiers."
Produced in part with a grant from Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS, Kearns's 2009 East Coast performance marks a reprise of Intimacies at Wings in NYC's West Village; the show first played there in the early 1990s.
The southern part of America is the next stop on the tour: the ArtsCenter in Carrboro, N.C., with performances on Friday and Saturday, November 13 and 14. On Friday, November 20, Kearns will return to his hometown of St. Louis. There, Intimacies is being produced by the Uppity Theatre Company at a theater to be announced.
Chicago is next up with a special performance on Sunday, November 22, as part of the Victory Gardens Fresh-Squeezed Queer Icons Series 2009/2010.
As World AIDS Day approaches, Kearns will return to Los Angeles, "the place where all of this material was birthed," he says, referring to Dream Man, Jerker, and Intimacies -- the three plays that are the focus of the tour. On December 1, Kearns will perform Intimacies at the Ground Zero Performance Caf' on the campus of the University of Southern California.
The following night, EZTV's film adaptation of Dream Man will be the centerpiece of "The Drama of AIDS," an evening that also will feature readings from Kearns's book and a display from the AIDS Quilt. Jimmy Shaw, who stars in the film, also will appear. The event will be held at the One Institute in Los Angeles.
Kearns will return to the East Coast on Friday and Saturday, December 4 and 5, appearing at the Actors Studio in Newburyport, Mass.
Kearns came out as Hollywood's first openly gay actor in the mid 1970s, followed by a public stance about his positive HIV status, which he revealed on Entertainment Tonight in 1991. In addition to issues surrounding HIV, homophobia, and gay and lesbian rights, Kearns has devoted himself to fund-raising and creating art that addresses addiction, homelessness, and mental illness.
Other theatrical work written and performed by Kearns includes more intimacies, Rock, Make Love Not War, Attachments, Complications, and Going In: Once Upon a Time in South Africa. He has also written numerous full-length plays (Who's Afraid of Edward Albee?, Myron, and off) in addition to five theater books that include T-Cells & Sympathy and Acting = Life.
While maintaining a mainstream television and film career, appearing in a number of programs that address HIV issues (Life Goes On, Beverly Hills 90210, A Mother's Prayer, A River Made to Drown In), Kearns also cowrote the indie film Nine Lives, in which he also appears.
Kearns lives in Los Angeles with his daughter, Tia, a 15-year-old who attends the Los Angeles County High School for the Arts.
Saturday, October 23, 5 p.m.
Book Launch Party, The Drama of AIDS: My Lasting Connections With Two Plays That Survived the Plague. Skylight Books, 1818 N. Vermont Ave., Los Feliz, Calif.; www.skylightbooks.com.
Thursday, October 29, 8 p.m.
The premiere of the 20th anniversary production of intimacies. Wings Theatre, 154 Christopher St., New York City; www.wingstheatre.com.
Mondays, November 2, 9, 16, 30
These four intimate performances of Intimacies will be held at the drkrm.gallery, 2121 San Fernando Rd., Eagle Rock, Calif.; www.drkrm.com/about.html.
November 13 and 14, 8 p.m.
Intimacies, presented by The ArtsCenter, 300-G E. Main St., Carrboro, N.C.; www.artscenterlive.org.
November 20, 8 p.m.
That Uppity Theatre Company presents intimacies at a St. Louis location to be announced; www.uppityco.com.
November 22, 7 p.m.
As part of the Victory Gardens Fresh-Squeezed Queer Icons Series 2009/2010, Intimacies will be staged at the Victory Gardens Biograph Theatre, 2433 N. Lincoln Ave., Chicago; www.victorygardens.org/content.
December 1, 7 p.m.
The World AIDS Day performance of Intimacies at the Ground Zero Performance Caf' on the campus of the University of Southern California, Los Angeles; www.usc.edu/dept/pubrel/visionsandvoices/assets/docs/VV_0910_Brochure.pdf.
December 2, 7:30 p.m.
"The Drama of AIDS," a celebration of World AIDS Day, featuring the premiere of EZTV's Dream Man and readings from Kearns's book in tandem with an exhibit from the AIDS Quilt. One Institute, 909 W. Adams St., Los Angeles; www.onearchives.org.
December 4 and 5, 8 p.m.
The Actors Studio of Newburyport at the Tannery presents Intimacies, 50 Water St. Mill 1, Studio 5, in Newburyport, Mass.; www.newburyportacting.org.