Me: How would you describe your show in one sentence?
Christopher Wilson: Framing HIV as a chronic illness rather than a death sentence, Living With Henry is a musical drama that explores the fears, complications and complex realities of living with HIV today.
Me: What inspired Living With Henry, and what was the writing process like creating a musical about such an important issue?
Christopher: The piece began with my personal HIV diagnosis 10 years ago - and grew as a means to cope with something that was initially very frightening - to shift it into something more humanized and emotionally manageable.
It began with personal dialogues and journal entries. Those further evolved into writing scenes and composing songs. And it landed as an hour and a half musical drama - exploring some very important and hard-hitting issues that continue to confront both our gay community and the community at large.
Me: What role has your company, Beyond Boundaries, had in the development of this show?
Christopher: Beyond Boundaries is an ensemble-driven company that has been focused on the development of this specific work. As the show has had two previous incarnations here in Toronto, the vast majority of our company have been with the piece since its inception last summer at the Toronto Fringe Festival.
Our extraordinarily talented and committed ensemble explore intensely to uncover the truth in these characters and their intentions. They have worked tirelessly to help figure out the plot puzzle as the piece has evolved, and strive to tell the most honest and effective story possible.
I say jokingly, if you want to engage in therapy but not pay a therapist, write a show about your life - give it to a group of smart and questioning actors - and have them rip it apart and put it back together. The process is incredibly enlightening, terrifying and equally inspiring.
Me: What has the process been like bringing the show from the Toronto Fringe to NYMF?
Christopher: Exciting, terrifying, epic, daunting and logistically challenging! Living With Henry has grown throughout the past year since its Fringe debut, with a second production at the Next Stage Theatre Festival here in Toronto. Being invited to NYMF as one of 10 Next Link Productions was a dream that surpassed all of my previous expectations!
The NYMF staff has been incredibly supportive and encouraging throughout the entire process. If I am not mistaken, we are the only international company participating in the Festival this summer - and working out the details of getting our company to New York from Canada has been its own unique dance.
Me: What are you most looking forward to about NYMF?
Christopher: It is a privilege to be a part of such an exciting and creatively vibrant theatrical community. The opportunity to share this new Canadian work in the artistic mecca of musical theatre is incredible - and we hope that as many patrons as possible will resonate with the honesty and boldness of the piece.
It is also a cherished honor to share this musical work with a community such as New York, that has been so deeply affected and impacted by HIV/AIDS since it emerged in the 80's.
Although HIV is a much different animal than it was twenty years ago - there is still a great deal of ignorance, stigma, misunderstanding and fear that we need to work through together as a united community.