Ottawa
2 min

Universal themes

And Act Out Theatre will explore them at the National Arts Centre

Theatre can play a major role in dealing with AIDS, says Christopher Isaacs, the artistic director of Ottawa’s Act Out Theatre.



And the recently reformed gay and lesbian theatre group is putting his words into action by staging two very different one-act plays united by the theme of AIDS.



“I am an AIDS activist and really believe it is crucial to continue to present relevant AIDS stories in theatre,” says Isaacs.



“I also wanted to find plays that dealt with the living and surviving side of AIDS – to remind people that living with HIV isn’t all doom and gloom, as some of the safer sex advertising would like people to believe.”



The double-bill performance of Sex Is My Religion and Crowns and Anchors will take place Apr 1–2 at the National Arts Centre’s Fourth Stage (53 Elgin St).



Sex Is My Religion, written by Thomas Colin, contrasts an HIV-positive gay son and his religious mother. Both reveal their surprisingly similarities through monologue. But this apparently direct and simple story has a twist. The female actor plays the son while the male actor plays the mother.



Crowns and Anchors, by Lisa Lowe, relates the story of a woman who runs a crowns and anchors game on a busy midway and is dying of AIDS.



“She becomes very human as she is reminded of her grandmother at the end and, all of a sudden, we see the little girl emerge from the tough street-smart carnie. It is very poignant, and moving,” Isaacs says. “The irony is how busy and crazy and loud her world is, yet how very alone, sane and isolated she really is.”



Both plays come from an anthology entitled Plague of the Gorgeous and Other Tales, the result of a 1997 gay and lesbian one-act festival in Vancouver. Gay and lesbian writers contributed plays about AIDS, which were staged by gay and lesbian directors and actors.



Because the two plays are so different, Isaacs hopes the audience will take away different messages from the performances.



“I would hope that the audience would gain some compassion and, also, stop focussing on how someone contracts the disease,” he says, in the case of Crowns and Anchors.



“We are all human,” he adds. “And whether we have cancer or AIDS or heart disease or chicken pox, we all need each other and all are human.”



Isaacs says Sex Is My Religion has a basic message: “We are much more like our parents than we would like to admit – a simple, universal theme – but one that we forget from time to time. This piece is set in the context of AIDS but it really has nothing to do with having AIDS.”



Isaacs notes the importance of telling gay stories to a gay and straight audience -bringing less mainstream plays to the main stage – and building on the history of gay people creating theatre.



“Perhaps we are not the Porters, or the Cowards, or the Wildes or the Shaws or the Shakespeares – but you never know,” he proudly says.



SEX IS MY RELIGION and CROWNS AND ANCHORS.

Thu & Fri, Apr 1 & 2.

8pm curtain.

NAC 4th Stage (53 Elgin St).

Tickets: $15. Available at the NAC box office,

Ticketmaster, Mother Tongue Books and After Stonewall.

Info: www.actouttheatre.com or 237-7133 x32.