PrEP Play, or Blue Parachute
A digital lobby
“After I started taking PrEP, I had many bizarre dreams and nightmares. Sometimes I would be back in my childhood, sometimes in the future, and sometimes in the fictional world
of the story I had just read before bed. I had this vision of someone descending on a parachute into a dark unknown place. So in a paint party several months later, I
painted that vision. I think that’s related to how I feel about PrEP. It keeps us
safe while allowing us to be in touch with a dark history, as if we, the
younger generations, are descending into the past with the
assistance of the blue pills, like blue parachutes.”
— Yilong Liu, playwright
A NOTE FROM THE DIRECTOR
Yilong and I first met up in the East Village last summer at a coffee shop to talk about his new play exploring the history and politics of PrEP, the little blue pill that prohibits a body from contracting HIV. Yilong ordered an Acai Bowl and told me that he always gets them because they remind him of Hawaii, where he went for graduate school. I asked if it was as good as the ones he used to have there, and he was honest and said, “they never are.”
Since last summer, we’ve been on a collaborative journey diving into the world of his new play. The kernel of inspiration is a unique side effect of PrEP: the pill induces vivid dreams and nightmares. In this way, PrEP unlocks something from within our subconscious. As Bryant and Jared remind Erik that “sucking dicks is political,” the little blue pill carries an entire history of loss and political struggle grounded in acts of queer intimacy. Yilong shows us that PrEP’s unique side effect of enabling confrontation with the collective, generational trauma sedimented into our subconsciousness is as if our queer ancestors are speaking to future generations through our dreams, urging us to not only honor a shared past but to actively work to build the foundations for a queer future defined by intersectionality.
Yilong is a necessary voice for envisioning and building that collective future. As I’ve spent time with Yilong and am living in the theatrical worlds he engenders on the page, I’ve learned that a thread throughout his work centers on how queer people build their homes. For Yilong’s work this can sometimes literally take the form of characters installing ALEXA or figuring out the logistics around social security and insurance – there’s a line in PrEP Play about how the sexiest thing about someone sometimes is a 401k. But he also explores how home emerges from radical acts of creative imagination and memory, like ordering Acai bowls and always expecting them – even hoping – that they’ll never be as good as the ones in Hawaii. During this new era of loss defined by another terrible pandemic, we are immensely grateful to have a creative home with National Queer Theater who has been nurturing us during this leg of the development process. And we are thrilled and honored you are joining us for this presentation as we hope to find more artistic homes for the continued development and future of PrEP Play, or Blue Parachute.
Huge thanks to our hardworking creative team, our brilliant cast, and our many champions including Adam Odsess-Rubin and Linda Chapman.
Big love and gratitude,
OUR VISUAL LANDSCAPE
Curated by Associate Director Abigail Jean-Baptiste
INFLUENCES OF QUEER FUTURITY AND AFROFUTURISM
OUR SONIC WORLD
Please explore this curated playlist from our sound designer and composer, Khiyon Hursey
OUR PHYSICAL WORLD
PrEP Play requires an environment that keeps the audience grounded in the all too real reality of
a (hopefully) post-COVID world, while capturing the textures and palette of 1980's New York.
By stitching moments of subdued realism together with expressive imagined landscapes, we
hope to create a world that unifies story, performers, and audience in time and space.
— Emmie Finckel, Set Designer
OUR LIGHTING WORLD
Images selected by Victoria Bain, Lighting Designer
WORDS THAT INSPIRE US
From Gaven Trinidad
It’s challenging to talk about temporality, meaning one’s relationship to time, space, and history, in regard to HIV/AIDS. The time periods of the 80s and 90s has defined and created a schism of understanding among different generations of LGBTQIA communities around sex, intimacy, and futurity. As a queer millennial of color and a child of Filipino immigrants, I struggle to understand my queer identity in relationship to the early history of the HIV/AIDS crisis in the U.S.
I was born and raised in the East Village in the height of the pandemic, yet I didn’t live or experience what elders called “the war.” I was a child more interested in Power Rangers and buying phone cards so that I can call relatives 8,000 miles away. I was not aware of the deaths and the battles at St. Vincent’s, on the streets, and in my neighborhood, yet I was there. Only snapshots from my childhood come to mind: the Radical Faeries congregating in Tompkins Square Park praying for the safety of future queers, protests in Union Square for recognition of the humanity of HIV positive patients, and a moment I locked eyes with a man with Kaposi Sarcoma. The gentrification of my neighborhood and the Disney-fication of Times Square further perpetuated that HIV/AIDS was in “the past'' until when I moved to Memphis, TN, in my early 20s, close friends, mostly Black and Brown folx, began being diagnosed. Though they weren’t facing certain death, they had to navigate how to affirm their humanity and sexuality without the guidance from an older generation still suffering from PTSD. Then came PrEP, which I started taking, and the medication in some ways has silenced mainstream recognition of the war still happening. I find myself in the middle of this generational gap, a void filled with silence created by those of the missing generation. I and many others exist in a place where time has been suspended.
Discussions around the concepts of a queer time, futurity, and our personal relationships to HIV/AIDS dominated our conversations and shaped the approach of how we supported playwright Yilong Liu to further develop PrEP Play, or Blue Parachute. The creative team, cast, and crew, comprising of queer, white, Black and Brown, Asian, non-binary, millennials living in this in-between queer time, leaned into the idea that as queer artists we live in the past, present, and future of HIV/AIDS. In many Black, POC, queer and feminist thinking, history is not a linear progression, but rather something more fluid in which we live with the ghosts of the past and the possibilities of the future simultaneously. We believe our existence and active search of our relationship to space and time is radical and queer because our bodies aren’t understood within the confines of a white hetero mainstream understanding of time. We immersed ourselves in writing, scholarship, interviews, and photographs left by our elders. We talked about the joys of the legendary Christopher Street piers, the house cultures that erupted in Harlem, sexual liberation, and queer rituals created during that time of horror and fear. We were actively connecting the past with our present. Earlier in this process, Yilong interviewed members of the older LGBTQIA generation, and Adam Odsess-Rubin, the artistic director of National Queer Theatre, invited HIV positive artists to read the play as it was being written, continuously building the bridges of conversation needed to fully flesh out the play and its politics.
Unlike other contemporary HIV/AIDS plays, Yilong is also explicitly writing as a Chinese playwright, genuinely providing a global perspective on these issues not often seen on the American Stage. The play’s protagonist Erik is a Chinese citizen, whose understanding of sex, race, sexuality, queerness, and HIV and their complex intersections are shaped by a childhood in China and a young adulthood in the U.S. The PrEP Play family took this opportunity to more fully shape the play by lending their whole selves to more fully flesh out each character and their relationships.
In the time of COVID-19, which in some ways has mirrored moments of “the war” in the 80s and 90s, we have pivoted to meeting and creating theatre online – similar to how queer ancestors of the past had to invent new ways of congregating, celebrating, and mourning. Knowing how precious it is to connect as a community during this time, I hope that we enter this virtual space with intentionality, leaning in with joy and excitement. I hope we allow ourselves to be fully present & better cherish this time with one another despite being physically dispersed. We invite you to connect with us and begin to build larger bridges of discourse between generations so we can build beyond the present suspension of time. As José Esteban Muñoz writes about futurity in his book Cruising Utopias: the Then and There of Queer Futurity: “Queerness is not yet here. Queerness is an ideality… The future is queerness’s domain. Queerness is a structuring and educated mode of desiring that allows us to see and feel beyond the quagmire of the present. The here and now is a prison house. We must strive, in the face of the here and now’s totalizing rendering of reality, to think and feel a then and there.”
MEET THE ARTISTS
Yilong Liu | Playwright
Yilong Liu (he/him) is a New York-based bilingual playwright and screenwriter, originally from Chongqing, China. He is a Kennedy Center Paula Vogel Playwriting Award winner and was recently named one of the Ten Contemporary Asian and Pacific Islander American Playwrights You Should Know by ArtsBoston. Currently, he is under commissions from Audible's Emerging Playwrights Fund and EST/Alfred P. Sloan Foundation Science & Technology Project. A proud member of Ensemble Studio Theatre's Obie Award-winning playwrights group Youngblood. Alumni of The Flea Theatre's Writers Room and SPACE on Ryder Farm. His works include The Book of Mountains and Seas (Kennedy Center Paul Stephen Lim Playwriting Award, upcoming: New Conservatory Theatre Center), June is The First Fall (Kennedy Center Paula Vogel Playwriting Award, Kumu Kahua Theatre, Yangtze Rep/New Ohio Theatre), Joker (Po’okela Award for Best New Play, Kumu Kahua Theatre, FringeNYC, National Queer Theatre), Flood in The Valley, a Bilingual Folk Musical (Beijing Tianqiao Theatre Center, Gung Ho Project). BA: Beijing Normal University. MFA: University of Hawaii.
Adin Walker | Director
Adin Walker (he/him) is movement director + associate director for dance, puppetry, and environmentalist company, Phantom Limb, who’s production Falling Out about the 2011 radiation disaster in Fukushima (BAM Next Wave Premiere, 2018) was featured on the cover of American Theatre’s March 2020 issue on theater and climate change. Adin recently choreographed Indecent (Artists Rep + Profile Theater, Portland OR) and directed Roger Q. Mason’s The White Dress (NYC premiere), L M Feldman’s Grace, or the Art of Climbing and Allison Gregory's Not Medea (Art House, NJ), and a re-imagining of Singin’ in the Rain (Princeton + McCarter, NJ). He collaborates regularly with his sister, director Mia Walker, most recently on the world premieres of Storming Heaven (WV Public Theater) and Jaime Jarrett's Normativity (NY Musical Festival). As a dancer, Adin performed principal roles in works by Maleek K. Washington, Christopher K. Morgan, Alex Neoral, and Karole Armitage. Adin graduated from Princeton and is currently in residence at Stanford as a PhD student in Performance Studies. (www.adinwalker.com)
Abigail Jean-Baptiste | Associate Director
Abigail Jean-Baptiste (she/her) is a theater maker based in her hometown of NYC. She aims to make work that disrupts conditioned routines of behavior and etches away the whiteness of history. The focus of her practice is making theater for, with, and about Black and Brown communities, Queer folks, and People with Disabilities to redefine our futures and work towards black femme liberation. Recently directed: Big Date by Cary Glitter (Wet Paint Festival), Olio Live! by Pulitzer Prize winner Tyehimba Jess (Audible Theater). Assistant Directing: Lileana Blain-Cruz, Sam Gold, Diane Paulus, Saheem Ali. Collaborations with: 24 Hour Plays-Nationals, Audible Theater, McCarter Theater, Prospect Theater Company. Currently developing: The Space Between, about interracial friendship; The Womb Abyss, a theatrical poem tracing The Middle Passage; Be White, a musical exploration interlacing White Christmas with the legacy of black train porters. Member of Roundabout Director’s Group. Proud Lilly Award recipient. BA: Princeton.
Eston Fung | Erik
Eston Fung (he/him) will next be seen in Apple TV LISEY’S STORY, adapted from the Stephen King novel and directed by Pablo Larraín. Recent credits include Syfy’s HAPPY! opposite Christopher Meloni, CBS’s INSTINCT opposite Bojana Novakovic, and CBS All Access’ TELL ME A STORY. Eston is a graduate of Yale School of Drama and Circle In The Square Theatre.
Ben Cherry | Bryant
Ben Cherry’s (he/him) recent credits include: Broadway: Indecent, Fiddler on the Roof. National tour: Mary Poppins. Off-Broadway: Goldstein. Select regional: The Repertory Theatre of St Louis: Angels in America, Part 1 and 2; The Guthrie: Indecent; Pioneer Theatre Company: Oslo, Lifespan of a Fact; Arena Stage: Indecent; Baltimore Center Stage: Indecent; Kansas City Rep; Indecent; Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park: Mothers and Sons; The Arden: Passion; Utah Shakespeare Festival (four seasons): Henry V, The Merry Wives of Windsor, The Secret Garden, The Tempest; Milwaukee Repertory Theatre: Route 66, Life Could Be a Dream, The Andrews Brothers; Delaware Theatre Company: The Nerd, 10 Months. Television: “The Following,” “Smash,” “I Love You…But I Lied.” Awards: MAC Award, Best Debut. Training: The University of Michigan, North Carolina School of the Arts. www.BenCherry.com
Esco Jouley | Agent 701
Esco Jouléy is an actor, singer, dancer, clown, movement artist, and creator located in New York City. Credits include: Television: HIGH MAINTENANCE (HBO), INVENTING ANNA (Netflix), MONSTERLAND (Hulu), IN A MAN'S WORLD (Bravo, movement coach) ABC Discovers Showcase. Theatre: Interstate, Runaways, Galatea, The Demise (Magic Theater Player), Beowulf. Esco was a resident actor at the historic Barter Theater for three and a half years. As a movement artist, Esco is the creator and performer of “One”, a mute character that lives in the same world as the great artists Charlie Chaplin, Burt Williams, and Harpo Marx. Esco has used this character to explore the language of movement and how one would communicate with people if one could not speak. Esco is a Penn State University graduate with a BA in Integrative Arts and a minor in Dance. Esco also graduated from the American Musical and Dramatic Academy in NYC. Esco was awarded the Robert J. Prindle and Doris P. Prindle Memorial Award and the Lauren M. Becker Memorial Award in creative art. More information about Esco and their work can be found at escojouley.com, @escojouley, onezlife.com, and @onezlife.
Ashton Muñiz | Jared
Ashton Muñiz (they/he), is a queer actor, artist, & activist based in NY. Recent theatrical credits include The Inheritance (Broadway), Pinching Pennies with Penny Marshall (NYTW), Taylor Mac’s 24-Decade History of Popular Music (The Kimmel Center/St. Ann’s Warehouse/Pomegranate Arts), Esai’s Table (Cherry Lane), And She Would Stand Like This (Movement Theatre Company), False Stars (The Pack Theatre). Ashton recently collaborated with various artists at The Guggenheim (Machine Dazzle), Art Institute Chicago/Swiss Institute/New Museum (Cally Spooner), Biennial Performa/Lehmann Maupin (Nicholas Hlobo) & Pace Gallery (Lilleth Glimcher). Additionally, Ashton has danced for Marc Jacobs FW 2020 (Karole Armitage), A$AP Rocky (Lab Rat-Sotheby’s), Rihanna (MTV VMAs 2016), and more. Muñiz is a co-founder of Legacy: A Black Queer Production Collective & received training at Ithaca College, Moscow Arts Theatre School and Shakespeare & Company. @arshton @legacy.bqpc
Pooya Mohseni | Stage Directions
Pooya Mohseni (she/her) is an Iranian-American actor, writer, filmmaker & Transgender activist. She's co-producer/star/writer of "Transit", a short film about love between a trans woman and a cis man, coming in 2020. Her stage performances include “Our Town” in Pride Plays, dir Jenna Worsham, “Hamlet" in Play On Shakespeare festival, dir Ellen McLaughlin, an award-winning one-woman show "One Woman", in United Solo at The Theatre Row, dir Joan Kane, "Galatea", dir Mo Zhou for the WP Pipeline festival, "The Good Muslim" dir William Carden at EST. She has guest-starred on season 21 of “Law & Order: SVU “dir Mariska Hargitay, “Falling Water" on USA, and “Madam Secretary”. Represented by Headline Talent Agency.
Kevin Jinghong Zhu | Stage Manager
Kevin Jinghong Zhu’s (he/him) recent credits include A Raisin in the Sun, El Huracán (Yale Repertory Theatre); In Our America: A Concert for the Soul of the Nation (Broadway for Biden); CRAM (Radical Rhinoceros Pictures). He is also an M.F.A. candidate at Yale School of Drama, where select credits include Reykjavík, Pivot, Henry VI Part 3, Trouble in Mind, Rock Egg Spoon. Other select credits include Dwight/Edgewood Project (Yale Rep and Yale School of Drama); A Voice in the Dark, Elon Musk and the plan to Blow Up Mars the musical, Burn Book (Yale Cabaret); Clybourne Park, Six Characters in Search of an Author, Glass Menagerie (Purdue University Theatre).
Gaven D. Trinidad | Dramaturg
Gaven Trinidad (he/him/his) is a first-generation queer Filipinx American dramaturg of theatre and dance from the East Village. He believes that theatre is a transformative tool for underrepresented communities to imagine and create radically new inclusive worlds. His work often wrestles with issues at the intersections of race, language, immigration, queerness, feminism, and futurity. He's had the privilege to work with folx in various positions at places such as The Juilliard Drama Division, Musical Theatre Factory, Jacob's Pillow Dance Festival, Leviathan Lab, and National Queer Theater. Selected dramaturgy credits: a photograph, lovers in motion (by Ntozake Shange, dir. Ifa Bayeza), The Willmar Project (The Neighborhood Theatre Project), June is the First Fall (by Yilong Liu, dir. Michael Leibenluft, Yantze Repertory Theater), Snowflakes, or Rare White People (by Dustin Chinn), Collidescope 2.0 (dir. Ping Chong and Talvin Wilks, Ping Chong + Company). Selected directing credits: Joker (National Queer Theatre), Are You There Truman? (Pride Plays, Rattlestick Theatre). B.A. American Studies, Dickinson College; M.F.A. Dramaturgy + Graduate Certificate in Woman, Gender, and Sexuality Studies, University of Massachusetts Amherst. Proud former public school teacher, Teach for America alumnus. Currently resides with his 10-year-old dog Ripley (named after Sigourney Weaver in Alien). He is the Community Engagement Associate at New York Theatre Workshop and is the co-facilitator of NYTW's Core Team. Visit his website for a full resume and upcoming projects at gaventrinidadtheater.com.
Khiyon Hursey | Composer and Sound Designer
Khiyon Hursey (he/him) is a writer and composer based in Los Angeles and New York. He was a staff writer for Netflix’s romantic musical drama, SOUNDTRACK and is currently co-writing LOVE IN AMERICA, a movie musical to be produced by Issa Rae at Universal. He is the recipient of the ASCAP Foundation’s Irving Burgie Scholarship, Bart Howard Songwriting Scholarship, and the Lucille and Jack Yellen award, a 2016 NAMT Writers Grant, a 2016 - 2017 Dramatists Guild Musical Theater Fellow, 2017 Space on Ryder Farm Residency, 2018 Johnny Mercer Songwriters Project residency, 2019 ASCAP Musical Theatre Workshop with Stephen Schwartz, 2019 Rhinebeck Writers Retreat, the 2020 Johnny Mercer Writers Colony at Goodspeed Musicals and the 2020 Stephen Schwartz Award. His musical, EASTBOUND (Book and Lyrics) was selected for the 2020 National Alliance of Musical Theatre Conference and he has works in development at New York Stage and Film and Ars Nova. Khiyon got his start as the music assistant on the off-Broadway and Broadway productions and the Grammy Award Winning Cast Album of HAMILTON. He's been a guest lecturer at Columbia, Yale and Berklee College of Music on Musical Theater. He is a graduate of Berklee College of Music with a degree in Songwriting.
New York Theater Workshop