For me, the “wow” moment was more than just a moment. It was a seemingly unending series of moments while I was in college studying theatre. Particularly as it relates to a specific play. A grad student had embarked on a production of “The Normal Heart” to be produced in the Hilberry Studio on Wayne State campus in Detroit. I auditioned with the intention of hopefully landing a small part and beefing up my resume, spending a month or two in rehearsals and getting on stage again (I was addicted). Little did I know that the director was going to cast me in the most challenging role of my young life.
I became a straight male playing the role of one of the most enlightening and serious of gay activists of the 1980’s, Larry Kramer. The show went well. It was celebrated around the department for a short spell and there wasn’t a dry eye in the house. Then the twist: We were going to the Edinburgh Theatre Festival in Scotland. What started as an 8 week commitment became the most interesting and life changing experience a student could ask for. We ran the show all over Michigan to raise the cash to go, meeting all sorts of folks from many gay communities, (Acronyms weren’t vogue yet). What makes this experiential for me is for a short time, I walked in another’s shoes. I experienced a life and shared a common goal with a group of people I never would’ve known if not for that production.
Many are close friends to this day. I had my eyes opened to the heartbreak and tragedy that was the AIDS epidemic and, more simply, gained an understanding of what it means to experience life through someone else’s eyes. Traveling abroad and living in a foreign country for a month performing the most intense role of my life help to show me that there is much in this world to experience. Now, my job is sharing our experiences with others.