Two years ago, hundreds of performers came together to produce the biggest one-night-only collaboration among North Texas artists. They created an AIDS benefit at the Winspear Opera House called "A Gathering." Now they’re working on a second one that takes place on Monday.
KERA's Jerome Weeks offers a behind-the-scenes look. The story airs this afternoon on KERA's "All Things Considered."
Two years ago, the evening was an artistic knockout -- but it filled only half of the Winspear.
“As soon as it was over, people were saying, ‘We missed an opportunity here.'” said co-producer Chris Heinbaugh, vice president of external affairs for the AT&T Performing Arts Center.
So now they’re creating another opportunity. Charles Santos, executive director of TITAS, has been collecting songs on his laptop for months, possible songs for the show. Over dinner with Heinbaugh and music director Gary Floyd, he trades ideas about who could sing something like a cover of John Lennon’s ‘Imagine’ by Herbie Hancock and India.Arie. Santos wants this second "Gathering" to open on a quiet note of hope. A single spotlight, a piano and a singer.
“That feel could be really special,” Santos tells Floyd. “Just something simple. And then someone doing an introduction, talking about imagine if, imagine how, imagine what.”
Santos devised "A Gathering" as a "concept musical" — it doesn’t follow a strict narrative with characters. Instead, it has an emotional throughline.
For the first "Gathering," that was easy enough: It was the 30-year history of AIDS from onslaught and protest through research and recovery. Jac Alder, executive director of Theatre Three, recalls the ‘80s and ‘90s as a time that left the North Texas arts community reeling.
“It created so much fear and so much chaos and so much grief," Adler said. "It was overwhelming. We just kept going to funerals — one after the other.”
But Santos and Heinbaugh believe "A Gathering 2013" can’t repeat the first one — it can’t simply mark the 32nd year of AIDS.
So in June, Santos held a dinner with some 30 artists and AIDS activists. He asked if Heinbaugh could use their stories as raw material to craft the secondshow. After dinner and wine – and a promise of anonymity – the visitors talked. Horror stories from the early days came out – about preachers denouncing gays in the middle of a funeral. About families refusing to acknowledge how their son or father died.
But the visitors also reflected on how the gay community, the arts community — how American society — has changed.
IF YOU GO:
"A Gathering 2013" takes place at 7 p.m. Monday at Winspear Opera House in Dallas. Tickets start at $12.