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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


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