OutFront: November 2007

Resurrection MCC adds panels to the AIDS quilt. Poet Leah Lax wrote the libretto for HGO’s world premier The Refuge.

Charles Clark II

Continuing the local legacy of the NAMES Project AIDS Memorial Quilt, on December 1 and 2, Resurrection Metropolitan Community Church and its community partners ministry will exhibit nine panels from the Quilt that bear artistic witness to thousands lost to AIDS. Founded in San Francisco by Cleve Jones as a way to remember friends dying to a then-new illness, the Quilt commemorates its 20th anniversary this year.

The display at Resurrection is one of several local observances of World AIDS Day on December 1 (for more information, see World AIDS Day 2007).

Most of the panels at the church will memorialize people who lived in Houston, says Charles Clark II of the church’s community partners ministry. In conjunction with the display, Clark will conduct a panel-making workshop on Saturday, December 1, noon–4 p.m., at the church. Panels created during the workshop will be incorporated into the AIDS Memorial Quilt.

“No sewing knowledge is required for the workshop,” Clark says. “In fact, you don’t have to be creative at all. There will be artistic and creative people on hand to help anyone create a panel for the one they want to honor.”

Clark is working on a panel in memory of his best friend, Chris Karnes, who died of AIDS on October 30, 1998.

“There is no wrong way to honor a person’s memory with a Quilt panel,” Clark says. “The important thing to remember is that if they are in your heart. You can create a panel and let the world remember them as well.”

Photographed by Yvonne Feece

Poet Leah Lax

It didn’t begin with the influx of evacuees fleeing a flooded New Orleans. Individuals looking for a new home for any number of social, political, and financial reasons have found that new home right here in Houston for decade.

Giving voice to that quest for home, local poet Leah Lax has joined with composer Christopher Theofanidis to create The Refuge for Houston Grand Opera. The commissioned work retells the stories of the African, Central American, Indian, Mexican, Pakistani, Soviet-era Jewish, and Vietnamese communities in Houston.

“I spend months interviewing people and getting personal stories from all over the world, hearing their struggle to be accepted as an individual, to live in safety and peace, to contribute to society what they can contribute — respected and appreciated,” Lax says.

“I related to this in an enormous way, on all kinds of levels. I’m like an immigrant in a way, myself, in American society,” the librettist continues, recalling her pre-coming-out years as a wife and mother of seven in a heterosexual marriage.

Now living with Susan Baird, her partner of three years, Lax says something she wanted to stress in The Refuge‘s libretto is the “us and them” mentality, “because that mentality crushes individuality. It can lead to inhumanity.”

“The society that treasures the individual is a stronger society because of it. It reinforces, encourages, and upholds the strength of these individuals.”

If you miss the world premiere on November 10, 7:30 p.m., at Wortham Center, panic not. The Refuge will have two performances in May at Miller Outdoor Theatre. Details: www.houstongrandopera.org.

Photographed by Mark Hiebert

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