KU student to revive ‘The Wizard of AIDS*,’ a health education parody, in honor of queer theatremakers

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Post updated at 7:49 p.m. Sunday, April 30:

Brad Mathewson, a University of Kansas senior, is bringing back to the stage a parody that aims to educate about safe sex, consent, and queer survival, all while “laughing in the face of hatred.”

He said this is the first time “The Wizard of AIDS* (*Aware Individuals Deserving Survival),” written in 1989 by Michael Barto, has been produced in nearly two decades.

“By reviving this script, we reflect upon the sickening prejudice, misinformation, and governmental inaction that took countless lives, we remember the theatre-makers who dedicated their lives to Queer survival, and we honor our community by doing what we do best: laughing in the face of hatred, harder than they can possibly imagine,” Mathewson said via email.

Mathewson will soon graduate with honors in English and theatre. The production is for his undergraduate research project, and it’s in partnership with KU HERO (Health Education Resource Office) and SUA (Student Union Activities).

Molly Adams/Lawrence Times Brad Mathewson, left, a senior at KU, is reviving “The Wizard of AIDS*,” which he describes as an “edu-tainment parody” dealing with safe sex, consent, and queer survival.

“My research relates to the social pathologization of marginalized groups, particularly the LGBTQ community, and how minorities are often associated with danger and disease,” Mathewson said via email. “This work is especially pertinent with the current anti-trans* legislation sweeping the nation, alongside the increase of anti-Asian hate crimes following the pandemic.”

The 30-minute “edu-tainment parody” had been performed more than 700 times when Barto died from complications of AIDS at age 33 in 1995, according to his Chicago Tribune obituary. But Mathewson said it fell into nonuse in the 2000s, along with most grassroots HIV drama.

The production offers “essential education about HIV infection, safer sex, consent, and unerring compassion,” Mathewson said.

The production is free to attend and open to the public. There will be four shows:
3 p.m. Thursday, April 27 on the fourth floor of the Kansas Union (Traditions Area), featuring a talkback with a KU HERO peer health educator;
6 p.m. Thursday, April 27 on the fourth floor of the Kansas Union (Traditions Area);
7 p.m. Monday, May 1 at the Lawrence Public Library, 707 Vermont St.; and
7 p.m. Wednesday, May 3 at Stephenson Hall, 1404 Alumni Place (this location has been updated from previous plans).

Here’s a sneak peek at the production — photos from Tuesday night’s dress rehearsal.

“The Wizard of Aids” is set for performances at 3 and 6 p.m. Thursday, April 27, and at 7 p.m. Monday and Wednesday, May 1 and 3. (Contributed image)
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Mackenzie Clark (she/her), reporter/founder of The Lawrence Times, can be reached at mclark (at) lawrencekstimes (dot) com. Read more of her work for the Times here. Check out her staff bio here.

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