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Musical Theatre Workshop class to stage performance commemorating World AIDS Day


George Pinney, co-head of IU's Musical Theatre B.F.A. program and director of the performance "Rising from the Ashes." The music and dance piece will be performed today as part of World AIDS Day. Courtesy Photo Buy Photos

Thursday is World AIDS Day, a day for unity in the fight against HIV and AIDS. The day supports those living with HIV or AIDS and commemorates those who have died to the illness.

Professor George Pinney’s T300: Musical Theatre Workshop class will perform a specially devised dance performance in connection with World AIDS Day at noon Tuesday in the atrium of the Eskenazi Museum of Art.

Pinney, who is the director, said the 20-minute performance titled “Rising from the Ashes” will invite students in the class to present a story of triumph against health obstacles and about four or five decades of the history surrounding HIV to audiences.

“‘Rising from the Ashes’ is a devised musical theater piece that centers on basically how man overcomes incredible odds to live and how viruses invade us,” Pinney said. “This is obviously regarding the AIDS viruses but also connects with many different viruses in our world.”

Abe Morris, manager of public relations and marketing for the museum, said the museum is happy to be the venue for the workshop class, which will highlight the struggles and the hope surrounding AIDS.

“We are looking forward to hosting IU’s Musical Theatre Workshop as they commemorate an important event in Worlds AIDS Week,” Morris said in an email.

This is not the first event that connects the Department of Theatre, Drama and Contemporary Dance to the museum, Morris said.

“We have been lucky enough to collaborate with both IU Theatre and IU’s Contemporary Dance program on a number of events in the past,” Morris said. “We are excited that we can continue those partnerships with this event, and serve as a venue for some of our arts partners at the university.”

The performance will be largely improvised, with each component being built up in front of the audience part by part, Pinney said.

“It is very constructed improvisation,” Pinney said. “All of the music, all of the movement and dancing, will be improvised.”

This sort of devised movement exercise is one Pinney said he has done with the workshop over the years, though this year is the first with this particular structured theme.

“Over the past couple of years, we started elevating it to have more shape and form. Now we have a whole new take on it,” Pinney said.

Pinney said as part of his workshop he has always asked his students about their experience with HIV and whether or not they had known someone who had been affected by HIV or AIDS in their lives.

Last year, Pinney said he had his first ever class in which none of the students had had a loved one die to AIDS.

“I thought, ‘We are finally winning,’” Pinney said. “It becomes uniquely individual, and it’s the passion of the actors in the piece that make it so incredibly unique. It’s in commemoration of World AIDS Day, and people should attend to be a part of this devised theater piece and hopefully be inspired by it.”

There are two big ideas Pinney said he hopes come through during Tuesday’s performance.

“One is communication — that people are aware of what is going on in the world and people can think globally about the world,” Pinney said. “The second is inspiration — that it inspires people to understand what other people have gone through and what we need to move forward.”

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