June 2016 - Extras - Falling Guardian Angels
Written and first produced in 1985, Fallen Guardian Angels, by Edward D. Padilla, has been produced worldwide and is now part of World AIDS Day events in several countries. The Albuquerque production will open this year on June 17 for two weekends, and ticket sales will benefit a local HIV/AIDS organization. Each production of the play is required to donate its profits with a program geared toward education, outreach, research, and/or quality of life programs.
The play is a time capsule capturing the spirit of the early epidemic through the backstage bantering of six actors and their stage manager before the opening of an unseen production. Like the 1975 production of Ntozake Shange’s for colored girls who have considered suicide / when the rainbow is enuf, Padilla personalizes his characters by clothing them in individual colors. And, similar to A Chorus Line, the hit Broadway Musical that also opened in 1975, Padilla has each of his actors step out from their anonymity to tell powerful stories of how AIDS has affected their lives. One can almost hear the musicality of their monologues as harmonious songs intertwining various views of this new and heartbreaking disease.
Padilla says, “The characters do not speak of AIDS in flashback. The play was written three years into this new epidemic, but the words have become, as I’m told, timeless.”
He says, “In 1984, my best friend told me he had ARC, which was the predecessor to the term HIV. After he told me about his diagnosis, I avoided him. I didn’t want to catch it. At the time, rumors flew around that AIDS was airborne, that you could catch it from spit, and that only gay men caught it.”
When Padilla ran into his friend again, he realized, “I was a total ass in my ignorance. The only way to avoid being an ass? Learn, educate myself with the truth.” Padilla wrote Robert’s monologue in the play as a eulogy for his friend, and the rest branched off from that initial speech.
Critics have said that the play captures the mindset of an era. “Instead of becoming dated, the play built itself into a history of the ideology at the time,” stated Los Angeles Times critic, Jerome V., in 2002.
The audience brings with them to the play their own subsequent knowledge and history of the disease: The ACT UP demonstrations of the 80s and 90s, the bareback rebellion of the early 2000s, and the current globalization of the disease. Now a chronic, lifelong condition rather than an immediate death sentence, the poignancy of the early epidemic remains vivid in Padilla’s script.
Fallen Guardian Angels has a tagline that “Everyone Has a Story.” Staying true to this unique idea, Padilla introduces us to the straight man (Omar Vigil), the straight woman (Jenelle Baptiste), the gay man without the disease (Tony Reo), a lesbian in deep denial (Maria Teresa Herrera), a religious zealot with a not-so-wholesome past (Madyson Turner), and a man (Kyle King) with secrets that must be revealed for him to embrace the enormity of the world crisis. The Stage Manager (Carma Harvey) leads us through their stories with a command and demand holding everyone accountable.
Padilla says, “The play is loaded with symbolism, metaphors, and poetry, but the real story is how AIDS has changed the normalcy of everyday life into a new way of thinking, a new acceptance, and new hope.” Fallen Guardian Angels is a play that will make you think and examine how we handle the disease.
Performances will run July 22 - July 31, Fri/Sat 8pm, Sun 2:30pm, at the AirDance AirSpace, 3030 Isleta Blvd SW Albuquerque, 87105. Tickets are $20 each and available at click4tix.com/angels or reservations can be made at 505-926-4546.