A-List: Drama for Life festival puts HIV/AIDS on stage

Calling all thespians! Drama for Life, an HIV/AIDS awareness theater program out of Johannesburg’s Wits University, is now accepting applications from African artists to participate in their summer 2012 Sex Actually Festival. The boldly named festival, scheduled for Aug. 23 to Sept. 1, brings together activists and artists (and activist-artists) from across the continent who have a common purpose: using the stage to put a human face on HIV/AIDS.

Even for those of us who can’t apply, the festival stands as a reminder that amid all the statistics, HIV/AIDS remains first and foremost a human issue, sitting at the busy crossroads of sex, sexuality, gender, human rights, and health. While antiretroviral therapies (ARTs) save millions of lives by actively suppressing development of the virus, programs like those featured at the Sex Actually Festival work to evaluate, decipher, and appreciate the disease’s cultural complexities.

Artists convene in South Africa’s largest city for ten days of artistic expression and dialogue related to HIV/AIDS. Dance pieces, dramatic stagings, visual installations, poetry slams, and street performances combine to form a vibrant program that “holistically engages with the subject.” The goals include not only raising awareness and diffusing stigma, but also sharing stories and forging supportive relationships.

“The Drama for Life Festival ultimately creates an opportunity to confront that which is feared, to understand it, and thus to respect those who are affected and infected by AIDS” says the organization’s website. “This is the change that is needed to shift the relationship we have to this disease, to shift perception, stigma, and complacency.”

Any interested applicants can find the form here (applications open until May 15). The rest of us will just have to wait until August to witness and partake in the fruits of their labor!

Do you know of any community-based arts groups that work on these issues? Share them below.

Caption: A scene from “Deep Night” at the Drama for Life Festival 2010. Photo credit: Drama for Life