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Location: Lincoln, Nebraska

Friday, March 25, 2011

Acts of Witness

Flatwater artists lived through AIDS crisis

Jeff Korbelik, Lincoln Journal Star, March 25, 2011


Lincoln attorney Elizabeth Govaerts was a student at the Martha Graham School of Contemporary Dance in New York City during the late 1980s when AIDS began to take hold with a deadly grip.

She remembered a fellow student dying during a two-week holiday break. "Nobody knew he was sick," she said. Then an instructor became visibly thin before leaving for a while, only to return and say he wasn't sick. "But there were lots of rumors," Govaerts said. "He said, 'I'm fine.' Six months later he was dead.

"You almost felt it was like the end of the world in some ways," Govaerts said. "This disastrous thing was coming. It affected you on all levels -- people you knew, people you heard about or people you worked with. It was everywhere at the time." And nowhere, too, because people didn't talk about it.

"You knew something was wrong, that some kind of sickness was happening," said theater director Bob Hall, who lived and worked in New York City in the 1980s. "You may have seen an article about it in the Village Voice, but it was a long time before the mainstream news was mentioning it. It definitely was going on, but nobody was talking about it."

The AIDS crisis serves as a backdrop for Tony Kushner's Pulitzer Prize-winning play, Angels in America. The Flatwater Shakespeare Company, in collaboration with the Haymarket Theatre, will stage Kushner's contemporary masterpiece, beginning Thursday.

"(The play) documents the crisis," said Govaerts, who is one of the cast members in the Lincoln production directed by Hall. "But there is much, much more there. I'm blown away by (Kushner's) insight into life, love and humanity."

Also in the play is Daniel Kubert, the former Bill T. Jones dancer who was diagnosed HIV positive in 1997. He has organized a series of audience discussions dealing with issues in the play based on his experiences.

"We were making art about it," Kubert said of his time in Jones' dance company. "I was working with people who were living with it. I was very, very aware of the devastation firsthand."

Kubert will lead discussions to be held immediately after the April 1-2, 8-9, and 15-16 performances. A special symposium will take place at The Haymarket Theatre on Sunday April 10 at 2:00 p.m. Panelists for these discussions will include representatives from the University of Nebraska Medical Center HIV Specialty Care Clinic, the Nebraska AIDS Project, First Plymouth Congregational Church, the Unitarian Church of Lincoln, and the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.

Flatwater Shakespeare Company and The Haymarket Theatre Present

Tony Kushner’s
Angels in America, Part One: Millenium Approaches
Directed by Bob Hall

Dates: March 31, April 1-3, 7-10, 14-17
Time: 7:30 p.m.
Place: The Haymarket Theatre, 803 "Q" St., Lincoln
Tickets: 402-477-2600
$18 Adults; $15 Seniors; $10 Students

Monday, March 14, 2011

Warm humor, savage wit, soaring imagination, heartbreak, and hope


Angels in America, Part One -- Millennium Approaches opens this spring as Flatwater Shakespeare joins forces with The Haymarket Theatre in its newly restored space at 803 Q Street. Part One of playwright Tony Kushner’s modern classic will be staged this year, with Part Two following in 2012. Described by the author as “A Gay Fantasia on American Themes,” this Pulitzer Prize winning play examines 1980s America with warm humor, savage wit, soaring imagination, heartbreak, and hope. The show opens Thursday, March 31. Performances continue Friday-Sunday, April 1-3; and Thursday-Sunday, April 7-10 and 14-17. All show times are 7:30 p.m. Ticket prices are $18 for adults, $15 for seniors, and $10 for students. Call 402-477-2600 for reservations.

The play focuses on three relationships: Louis and Prior, who have just learned that Prior has AIDS; Harper and her husband Joe, a Mormon couple living in New York City who take separate refuge in pills and the closet; Joe and his would-be mentor, Roy Cohn – the powerful lawyer whose historic career was aligned with Joe McCarthy, Richard Nixon, and Ronald Reagan. Their lives are uprooted by illness, drug dependency, religious doctrine, and political ambition – all explored with great flair, honesty, and humanity.

Director Bob Hall is proud that Flatwater Shakespeare and the Haymarket Theatre are co-presenting what he calls an “astonishing play” that “reveals how the AIDS epidemic, devastating as it was, focused this country’s attention on a part of society it often preferred to ignore.”

“It was one of the first dramas dominated by gay characters to receive overwhelming response from mainstream Broadway audiences – gay, straight or whatever,” Hall says. “The play’s characters crackle with life, even in the midst of death. Clichés are stripped away or reworked to create a memorable cast of dramatic, neurotic, tragic, villainous, prejudiced, fearful and generous people: a cross section, not only of gay culture, but of America itself.”

Hall has gathered together an ensemble equal to the task of bringing this memorable cast to life. Nathan Weiss and Andy Dillehay are featured as Louis and Prior. Summer Widhalm and Matt Lukasiewicz play Harper and Joe. Richard Nielsen appears as Kushner’s fictionalized, but true-to-life version of Roy Cohn. Other performers include Flatwater Shakespeare associates Tom Bolin, Mary Douglass, Elizabeth Govaerts, Daniel Kubert, and Dustin Witte.

Cast member Kubert has organized a series of discussions based on first-hand experiences dealing with the issues raised in this ground-breaking play. Discussions will be held immediately after the April 1-2, 8-9, and 15-16 performances. A special symposium will take place at The Haymarket Theatre on Sunday April 10 at 2:00 p.m. Panelists for these discussions will include representatives from the University of Nebraska Medical Center HIV Specialty Care Clinic, the Nebraska AIDS Project, First Plymouth Congregational Church, the Unitarian Church of Lincoln, and the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.

Support for this production of “Angels in America” has been provided by the Cooper Foundation and the Lincoln Arts Council. For more information, go to flatwatershakespeare.org and haymarkettheatre.org.

Angels in America, Part One: Millenium Approaches
Dates: March 31, April 1-3, 7-10, 14-17
Time: 7:30 p.m.
Place: The Haymarket Theatre, 803 "Q" St., Lincoln
Tickets: 402-477-2600
$18 Adults; $15 Seniors; $10 Students