I nearly drove Giles insane with tasks. Not only was he running sound for the show (at least twenty randomly placed cues), at one point I had him running from the backstage tech area to a specific electrical outlet, located inches from the audience, in order to blink the “red neon light” from the Mobil Oil Station that Christopher references. Then the poor darling had to tear backstage to Jimmy’s entrance/exit to assimilate the sound of Christopher taking a piss by pouring water into a container.

During the final dress rehearsal that took place minutes before the audience would be let in, the onstage television caught on fire. There was a light inside that created an eerie glow but at some point, it began smoking.

“The television is on fire,” I shouted, forgetting that no one within earshot spoke English. “Television, fire,” I repeated. Jimmy, ever the trouper, continued acting his heart out. “Fire!” I shouted, louder this time.

The only word I knew in Spanish that could vaguely be associated with fire was the word for red.

“Roja! Roja,” I began yelling, like a madman. “Roja!” Giles appeared and began translating to the crew, many of whom appeared to be waking up from their afternoon siesta. Certainly Jimmy must have stopped at some point. The fire was doused and the show went on.

Those Madrid performances during the first week of July were a mess, a divine mess, but anyone in that sweaty audience would attest to the fact that we made magic. Jimmy fumbled and stumbled and halted and hesitated, but by the end of the night, he held the audience enraptured by his mystical connection to the material; his connection to Pickett; our connection to each other, the three of us; our red brotherhood on fire.

July 4 was the eleventh anniversary of Pickett’s death. On July 5, the streets of Madrid were packed with tens of thousands of people, rejoicing in Spain’s new law legalizing same-sex marriage. The palpable spiritual energy on the street attested to what an astounding step this was for a country steeped in Catholicism. Everything was connected.

Reprinted by permission from The Drama of AIDS: My Lasting Connections with Two Plays That Survived the Plague by Michael Kearns. Copyright © 2009 by Michael Kearns. Published by Heinemann, Portsmouth, NH. All rights reserved.

To purchase copies, visit 

Tags: Books