Headscarf and the Angry Bitch leads queer crop at Toronto Fringe
For those of us who are closer to retirement than puberty, HIV and AIDS still hold some pretty traumatic memories and associations. What used to be a sentence of prolonged suffering and certain death has now become a disease that can be managed through advanced treatment and drug therapies. Actor/singer Christopher Wilson sets forth to sort out these new realities in Living with Henry, a musical drama premiering at this year’s Toronto Pride festival.
Michael (played by Ryan Kelly) is puzzling through his changing life as HIV/AIDS wreaks havoc on his relationship with his best friend (Lizzie Kurtz), his mom (Mary Kelly) and his husband (Christian Bellsmith). A near-death experience brings each conflict to a head. Wilson based the story on his own experiences living with the disease for the past 10 years and wrote it after the breakup of his marriage.
“It was an incredible journey that I took over the last three years,” he says. “In my life, what took precedence was fear. There I was in my mid-30s, realizing that my mortality was contingent on medication. Fortunately, these medications do exist that allow us to live day to day, like we’re living with diabetes or something.” Despite HIV’s metamorphosis from death sentence into manageable disease, Wilson still finds he needs to educate people on the nature of his diagnosis.
“One of my favourite discussions with many people is that I had AIDS, and they say I still have AIDS. But AIDS only exists when the immune system is in jeopardy. The fact is that AIDS is often reversible. Four years ago I was dying of AIDS and had about seven blood cells left in my whole body. Now I pop one pill a day and carry on as normal.”
Living with Henry
Opens Thurs, July 7, 8:15pm
George Ignatieff Theatre
15 Devonshire Place