Emerson hosts week of events to fight AIDS

All the proceeds go to Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS (BC/EFA), an industry-based, non-profit AIDS fundraising organization.,The Musical Theatre Society presented the fifth annual “Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS Week” Nov. 6 through 12, and although the exact total of the donations is not yet known, more than $2,000 was raised.

All the proceeds go to Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS (BC/EFA), an industry-based, non-profit AIDS fundraising organization.

“It was quite a bit of work, but the turnout was more than we could have hoped for,” said Kelly Shea, a senior theatre studies major and EFA board member.

The week kicked off with an opening ceremonies gala on Nov. 6 at the Hyatt Regency Boston. There was record attendance for the semi-formal ball, when 165 people showed up for a night of dinner and music.

Senior theatre studies and marketing communications double major Jennifer May was the keynote speaker and talked about her uncle’s battle with the illness while keeping a positive outlook.

“EFA Week is . not about mourning, but about celebrating,” she said in her speech. “Celebrating life and the fact that so many people come together for the common cause of the fight against AIDS.”

Aaron Benham, a senior musical theatre major, organized a concert with a “Re-interpretations” theme for the gala. The show featured a cast of 14 Emerson students belting out their own versions of popular songs from various movies and musicals.

“We had a tiny white girl singing [The Full Monty’s] ‘Big Black Man,'” Benham said. “It was fun. This is one of my favorite weeks of the year. It’s a great way for me to help out my community through my school. The fact that EFA Week exists is so inspiring.”

Other events throughout the week included an AIDS Education Night, which also boasted its largest turnout ever with at least 30 attendees, a movie screening of The Rocky Horror Picture Show, a night presenting many of Emerson’s comedy troupes, an open mic performance and a “Club EFA” dance party in the Cabaret, where students were encouraged to come rock out for a good cause.

On the final day of EFA Week, volunteers gave their time to Community Servings, a local organization that assembles meals for those living with AIDS and other fatal diseases in eastern Massachusetts.

Later that afternoon, a new addition to the week was unveiled, the M.A.C. Cosmetics Workshop. Representatives from M.A.C. came to the Bobbi Brown Studio in the Tufte Performance and Production Center and offered makeup tips for film, television, stage and even a night out on the town. Following the workshop was the grand finale, a date auction which raised more than $1,800.

The Musical Theatre Society is the main sponsor of EFA Week, but many other campus groups, including Emerson Alliance for Gays, Lesbians and Everyone (EAGLE), WECB, Emerson Democrats and Emerson Independent Video (EIV), get involved as well to help cover the funding.

The Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS organization is the recipient of all donations and was founded in the late 1980s by the Council of Actors’ Equity Association and The Producers’ Group.

“Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS provides thousands and thousands of dollars to AIDS clinics, awareness initiatives and projects that educate about protection,” said sophomore theatre design/technology major Natalie Kearns, who also served as the movie night coordinator.

“It also helps to find flexible jobs for actors and other theatre/entertainment persons who have AIDS, and provides a support network for people within the entertainment community who are fighting AIDS,” she added.

Emerson is currently BC/EFA’s largest educational institution donor, and while fundraising may be a large part of EFA Week, Kearns noted that money is far from the only focus.

“The main goal is to raise awareness about AIDS,” she said.

Kearns added, “We want people to remember that it is still out there, that it is still an epidemic, and we still need to be safe.”