Indian River students tackle HIV ‘Complications’

Students at Indian River Central School District involved in ‘Complication,’ are in row one, from left: Sheldon Bush, Noah LaClair, Emily Lapp, Misty Rodriguez, Megan Payne. Row two: Makenzie Doxtater, Elizabeth Welborn, Amiere Bell, Alyssa Sands and Gabby Gautier. Row three: Heather Brancatella, Jake Hanvy, Amanda Gydesen, Z. J. Prather Aleisha Cooke and Jacob Dickson.

PHILADELPHIA — Advanced theater classes at Indian River Central High School are taking a look at the complications of HIV infection through a series of plays they wrote.

Indian River was one of five school theater programs in the U.S. that Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS selected for the project. Each school received a $1,000 grant.

“It’s been a long process,” said Kristie L. Fuller, drama club adviser and theater teacher in the Indian River Central School District. “We started this when school started up in September.”

The result is “A Night of Complications,” to be staged at 7 p.m. Thursday, June 2, at the Indian River Theatre of the Performing Arts.

“They contacted us,” Mrs. Fuller said. “Our drama club does a lot of work for HIV awareness.”

Mrs. Fuller and students also regularly attend a state theater conference where they host a fundraising booth for BC/EFA.

For the project, students had to come up with a concept, write their own pieces and perform them.

Mrs. Fuller said BC/EFA didn’t want an “infomercial.”

“There’s not like HIV-101 in the scenes, but rather living with and dealing with complications that arise by being HIV-positive as teens or young adults,” Mrs. Fuller said.

There are six mini-plays in the “Night.” They are:

“A Pair of Complications” by Jake Hanvy and Heather Brancatella

“It tackles a young gay couple who are just starting to get to know each other and they talk about their history,” Mrs. Fuller said. “One of them is HIV-positive. It’s about what complications can arise when one partner is positive and the other is not.”

“Pierced” by Maeve Fasce, Sheldon Bush, Gabrielle Gautier and Samantha Morejon

This play deals with tongue-piercing and how such piercings can transfer HIV.

“One or the Other” by Amiere Bell and Amanda Gydesen

This play involves two brothers, one who was born HIV positive.

“It slightly deals with how that can happen, but mostly deals with their relationship and what it’s like at school to have one of them be HIV- positive,” Mrs. Fuller said. “It deals with a little bit of stigma.”

“Ghosts of Girlfriends Past” by Megan Payne and Mackenzie Doxater.

“This kind of takes the ‘Scrooge’ theme, where a girl who has not been practicing safe sex gets visited by ex-boyfriends,” Mrs. Fuller said. “They lead her to get tested and show her that if she keeps up her behavior, and not being honest about her status, what could happen.”

“Abstinence” by Emily Lapp and Aleisha Cooke

“It’s a piece where rumors get started about one of the girls and she has to confront her boyfriend about the rumors he’s spreading about them being together,” Mrs. Fuller said. “We don’t nowadays have kids standing up for abstinence and the importance of that.”

“The Mistake” by Elizabeth Welborn and Jacob Dickson

“It takes a look at young parents in their 20s and them looking back to the choices they made in high school, sexually, and finding out that one of them is HIV positive,” Mrs. Fuller said.

Mrs. Fuller said she was impressed by the students’ writing. A majority of the plays were written by sophomores and juniors. Local playwright Craig Thornton looked at final drafts and offered tips. A friend of Mrs. Fuller’s who is HIV-positive and resides in Florida, spoke to the advanced theater classes during a three-day stay.

Mrs. Fuller also corresponded with Joseph Norton, the former director of education and outreach at BC/EFA.

“I would send Joe drafts and he would send them back with a lot of questions for students to think about,” Mrs. Fuller said.

Now instead of just acting, the project has given Mrs. Fuller’s advanced theater students something more to think about when considering college and a career.

“It’s opened the door for some students to see playwriting as an option,” she said.

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