By: Robert Ablenas, Interviewee, Planning Committee Member & Gallery Curator

Bette, heating up the Continental Baths. Barry on backup. Playing a roomful of sweaty ankles, bums on boards, and what’s under the towels. Clunky mic in hand, the cable drapes, Bette okay-here-goes:

I’d like to thank all who made this possible.

The playwright, the play director, the dramaturge, the producers, the costume designer, the choreographer, the intimacy directors, the lighting designer, the sound designer, the set designer, the actors, the understudies, the auxiliary eventers, the exponents of Indigegogy, the equity and anti-racism assurers, the ushers, the box office, the pen and pixel of the programme booklet, diverse other theatre staff, the insurers, the promoters, the funders, the funders, maybe a merkin maker, and the Indigenous ancestors and their descendants on whose unceded turf this convergence of doings, jitters, and expertise now embarks.

But the playwright didn’t pull the play out of thin air. The play stands verbatim on the shoulder to shoulder of interviewees who are survivors, were caregivers, Vancouver, British Columbia, the early years of the AIDS pandemic. Thank you, the interviewees, the recruiters of the interviewees, the interviewers, peeps who trained the interviewers, in-kind providers of the interview space, peeps who developed the interview questions, peeps who transcribed the interviews, oh the tech of it all, keepers of the vault in which the interviews are kept — a vault that anyone can access, go figure!?!?, the research team that set all this in motion, the funders of the research, the peeps who applied for the research funding, the librarians and booksellers who stacked the shelves, and the educators as wonder bread to the researchers’ heart-and-brain sandwich.

And the many supporting actors [pause] in my day [pause] who provided support to the survivors and the not survivors. Thank you, this cascade of care. The doctors, nurses, lesbians, meals deliverers, restaurants, drag queens, AIDS Service Organizations, buddy programs, chosen family, themes and variations on extended family, sometimes parents and siblings and children, sometimes politicians, activists, artists, entertainers, the clothes closets and the medicine cabinets of the deceased, partners in caper, partners in crime, coalition builders, reliable information sources, seeing eye, unbarriered touch, a well-placed whisper, citizen scientists, community-based researchers, the grrRRR from GIPA & MEPA, fundraisers, churches, funeral homes, establishments where you are welcome to dine/dance/mingle/commiserate/celebrate/whatever, have we got all night?

Even the villains for showing us who we aren’t, what we don’t wanna be.

This is not an acceptance speech, not the Oscars, the Junos, the Silver Medals of Service, the AccolAIDS, the Hurled Invectives, the Dora Mavor Moores. This is an extended thank you. This is in lieu of a logic model, a torrent of begats and begots, to show humans as inputs into a bad situation and their ‘making good,’ ‘making a difference’ as the outputs, the chutzpah they hath wrought. Salty water, and probably other stuff (you’d need a microscope) down my cheeks.

The lives, the commemorations, the memories, the syntheses, the intricacies, the intimacies — these tongues of fire anoint the foreheads of those in the audience and on stage such that all emerge from the theatre, from the benches, from the close proceedings, therefrom, thereby, varying degrees, various ways, transformed. Barry as best he can a piano ba-dum cha [pause] reverberates the steam. Bette, eyes full open, smiles brighter. Chin up high instead of taking a bow.