This Friday, June 12, the original Off-Broadway cast of Donja R. Love’s brilliant one in two reunites for a one-night-only, live, streaming performance as part of Playbill.com’s Pride celebration. These “Pride Plays” are free to watch, though donations are being collected to support—via Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS—The Bail Project, Color of Change, and the NAACP Legal Defense Fund.
Those who missed the play’s thrilling New Group premiere last fall will get to see Jamyl Dobson, Leland Fowler, and Edward Mawaere bear their souls while “exploring the joys, the gags and the truths of not being defined by [a] diagnosis.” Love wrote the incredible play for his beloved Black queer community while contemplating the 10-year marker of his testing positive for HIV.
Love spoke with TheBody about the upcoming encore, this time directed by Malika Oyetimein, with stage management by Noelle Diane Johnson.
Juan Michael Porter II: How did you come to be involved in the Pride Plays?
Donja R. Love: My agent called me and told me about it a few weeks ago while I was in bed, delirious, battling a fever. Needless to say, the conversation was brief, but I had one parameter: Any funds that this theatrical event might receive had to go specifically to organizations and programs that hold space for Black folks with HIV. That was literally my one demand.
JMPII: Why that stipulation? Aren’t the proceeds going towards Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS?
DRL: Yes, but as I told my agent and the producers, historically the Black HIV-positive community is often forgotten, invisible, or not even thought of. I didn’t want the money to go to organizations that cater to all, because I know we get lost in the shuffle.
JMPII: I feel like so many Black people got to see the original production because of all the outreach you did to make it available, even when they couldn’t pay.
DRL: Thank you. Whenever I find out a play of mine is being produced, the first thing I do is call the marketing department to let them know what the play is about, and then I give them a list of resources and folks they need to reach out to in order to make sure that the play holds space for the community that it was written for.
JMPII: And that’s not even in your job description. Like, someone else gets paid to do that.
DRL: You ain’t never lied. It’s not my job, but doing this is important, because any time I talk to these marketing people, I hear, “Oh wow. I never thought about doing that.” Because they don’t have to think about it. But I know what a privilege it is to have a play produced Off-Broadway and what a privilege it is to even be able to go to the theater.
JMPII: Do you have a lot of people asking about the show?
DRL: All the time. Before COVID-19, folks were reaching out from all over asking if the play was coming to their city, and I was like, “I don’t know. It depends on if your theater will be able to produce it.” Now, with it being online, I can say, “You don't have to go anywhere, because the play is coming to you.”
JMPII: Why is it so important to you that our community sees your work?
DRL: One of our beloved Black elders recently reminded me of how important it is for us to be able to have each other. After being diagnosed with AIDS in 1984, he went to the white gay community for help, because he was aware of all of the work and protests they were doing. They told him, “You're Black. Go to your Black community.” So he went to the Black community, and they said, “You're gay. Go to the gay community.” So he found himself in limbo, like, “Where do I go? Yes, I'm gay. Yes, I'm Black. But I went to those communities and neither were willing to help me. What do I do?” That's when he realized that we have to be here to support ourselves. We are in this thing together, and we will not be able to survive if we do not have each other.
"Donja’s beautiful play, so wonderfully executed by the New Group earlier this year, sheds light on the disproportionate rate at which Black men who have sex with men contract HIV (one in two)," said Pride Plays producers Doug Nevin and Michael Urie, and festival director Nick Mayo, in a statement. "When we were faced with programming work during a pandemic - one which disproportionately affects communities of color - it was an easy choice to ask Donja to share his play with us."
Watch the original cast of one in two in its encore live streaming presentation this Friday, June 12, at 7 p.m. on playbill.com/prideplays.