Friday, February 5, 2016

"The Missing Generation"...Poignant and Profound

I had the honor Thursday evening of seeing the Atlanta premiere of Sean Dorsey Dance's "The Missing Generation", a profound dance and narrative performance on a 20-city national tour now playing at 7 Stages Theatre through Sunday, February 7.

[This post may contain content that is sensitive to some, but it addresses, through the art of dance and narrative, a current, real-life threat—the AIDS pandemic.

During the post-performance Q&A, one of the performers, Brian, was wearing a t-shirt peppered with superhero logos. To Sean, each of the performers, and to 7 Stages, I say you're all heroes for bringing to light a topic that many would call overdone, when in fact we're nowhere near done.

The Missing Generation | Sean Dorsey Dance | Photo: Lydia Daniller
The Missing Generation | Sean Dorsey Dance | Photo: Lydia Daniller

Over a two-year period, Dorsey traveled the U.S. to record oral history interviews with longtime survivors of the early AIDS epidemic, hosted community residencies, and conducted extensive archival research...then spent nearly 500 hours reviewing the 75 hours of interviews and transcripts, eventually weaving 17 sections into the now-touring performance. 

Their voices are no longer relegated to history.

"There is an incredible urgency to undertaking this project now: during my lifetime, we will see the passing of the last generation of people who actually experienced the early years of the AIDS epidemic first-hand," Dorsey says. "We are already rapidly losing our community’s stories. I wanted to capture and share part of this important history and reckon with the loss and grief this generation endured, and to collectively face this history and grieve and heal together."

I invite you to read the excellently crafted review by ArtsATL, which shares many of the details I learned about tonight's performance. If you're not already following ArtsATL on Social Media, I encourage you to...they FULLY cover the Atlanta arts scene! 

The one thing that I would like to add to that review is that this project is not only about the loss of part of an entire generation of gay, transgender and straight people to AIDS in the 1980s and 1990s, I heard it as a call to activism for today's younger generation to continue the fight against the AIDS pandemic. 

Why is that call to activism so important? The CDC (headquartered here in Atlanta) reports that at the end of 2012, an estimated 1.2 million persons aged 13 and older were living with HIV infection in the United States, including 156,300 (12.8%) persons whose infections had not been diagnosed. In 2013, Georgia had the fifth highest number of HIV infection in the nation...That's why that call to activism is so important. 

The final comment from the audience during the post-performance Q&A was from a lady, around my age, who commented she had an epiphany during the performance. She shared that the performance brought a new meaning for her of the once-commonly-seen bumper sticker SILENCE=DEATH. I believe what she was saying is that the performance brought to light, rekindled memories of the early epidemic, that otherwise would have died had Sean not kept them alive.

A particularly emotional moment of the evening for me was meeting Gert McMullin face-to-face, who I wanted to personally offer her a word of gratitude. She was one of the founders of The AIDS Memorial Quilt, and continues to be active with the organization and its contributors. There are several panels from the Quilt on display in the lobby, with podcasts, and the auditorium.

I first saw the Quilt in Piedmont Park decades ago and then in Washington, D.C. on the National Mall in 1996, six years before I moved there. Gert moved from San Francisco to Atlanta when our fine city offered storage space for the all-too-quickly growing Quilt project.

In the lobby before the performance was Dr. L Nyrobi N. Moss of Making A Way Housing, a project that addresses homelessness in Southwest Atlanta. She was there with Empowerment Resource Center and they're offering anonymous, quick-result HIV testing, as well as lots of information about available resources.

There's a LOT of programming accompanied with this four-day run! In addition to what I've already mentioned, there's a Dance Workshop with Sean Dorsey Dance available for the public on Saturday, February 6, from 1:00 p.m. - 3:00 p.m. To register for the workshop, email with your full name and contact information. Sean and fellow dancers highly encourage novice dancers to participate! 

ALSO, 7 Stages is hosting a free brunch and "Art of Activism" discussion on Sunday from 1:00 p.m. - 2:00 p.m., sponsored by Babs Midtown and Ansley Wine Merchants. The owner of Babs, Randy Adler, is a personal friend and colleague. I've dined at Babs and it truly is funtastic! Randy has a rather unique vocabulary and "funtastic" is definitely a word he would use and one that I totally agree with. I'm sure you'll enjoy brunch and find the discussion engaging and enlightening!

Sean Dorsey Dance's "The Missing Generation" is playing at 7 Stages Theatre in Little Five Points through Sunday, February 7, 2016.   

About 7 Stages Theatre (which I particularly like about it)
7 Stages Theatre has been bringing local and international emerging artwork of social, political, and spiritual importance to Atlanta audiences since 1979. Artists in performance, music, visual and the spoken arts have found the organization a haven in the support and development of new works and methods of collaboration.

No comments: