a solo play adapted and performed by Jonah Scott Mendelsohn
based on Love Alone: 18 Elegies for Rog by Paul Monette
From the Artist
I first read these poems in college, as a 19-year-old at Vassar College. It was exciting and scary to come out of the closet in 1989. Before I had even kissed a man, though, the first thing out of anyone’s mouth was “don’t get AIDS.” The possibility of love was inextricably tied with illness, discrimination, and death.
Sophomore year, I took a class called AIDS in Literature, taught by a great professor named Pat Wallace, in which we read both Love Alone and Borrowed Time: An AIDS Memoir, by Paul Monette. Monette's writing taught me how to face my fear, but more importantly, taught me how to fight for my dignity in the face of discrimination and death.
In January of 2020, I picked them up again, now the same age that Monette was when he wrote them. They continue to move me, and when COVID-19 hit, they suddenly transformed from history into prophecy, “like a signal from a dying star, bursting here in my dead heart.” Monette and his poems teach me ways to face the darkness, and I look forward to bringing this story to new audiences.
Why this play? Why now?
In recent years, a new generation of artists has been revisiting the early years of the AIDS epidemic. Revivals of Tony Kushner's Angels in America and Larry Kramer's The Normal Heart help remember the experience of a generation that was lost. Meanwhile, new plays like Matthew Lopez's The Inheritance invite LGBTQ+ elders - many of whom thought they would be long gone - to share their stories with a younger generation, passing on the stewardship of a tribal legacy.
Perhaps most importantly, we need to remember and learn from the political battles fought over AIDS as we enter the third year of COVID, a new health crisis emerges among gay men, and the rights of LGBTQ+ people, women, and BIPOC, and those who combine all those categories come under attack.
Why a live performance?
Why a live performance, rather than creating a film or recorded event? Neither grief nor love come with a pause button. In the poems, Monette is sometimes trapped in time as the world moves on, and desperate to stop time from taking his lover further away from him. An audience watching the performance live can inhabit that experience in way that would be lessened in something recorded. While digital connectivity is changing our relationship to work and to each other, it has also made us aware of the deeper connection that can only happen when we gather in person.
In December 2020, I worked with the Brooklyn Pride Community Center to offer a first workshop performance in conjunction with World AIDS Day. The response to the piece was strong, with audience members describing it as, "moving," "thought-provoking," "poignant," and "inspiring."
The Tank in NYC has invited us to present the full play in December 2022, giving you a chance to see the full piece, as we begin to incorporating lighting and projections for a full production to be presented and toured in 2023 and beyond.