By Michael Kearns
My daughter and I arrive in Madrid on June 28, 2005.
Twenty years have elapsed since I first played the role of Christopher in James Carroll Pickett's Dream Man; seventeen years since my first trip to Europe, performing Dream Man at the Edinburgh Festival in Scotland; sixteen years since I tested positive for HIV; eleven years since Pickett's death from the plague; ten years since I became the father of Tia Katherine Kearns.
It is two days before Spain will rule on whether to allow same-sex couples to marry and adopt; three days before Dream Man opens at DT Espacio Escenico as part of the Festival Version Original starring American actor Jimmy Shaw with me in the director's chair; six days before the anniversary of Pickett's death, occurring simultaneously with the last performance of his play in Madrid.
In spite of a peripatetic pace in terms of getting the one-man play, in all its dark density, on the boards, our precious week in Spain afforded me time to reflect, remember and rejoice.
Perhaps I was responding to Madrid's organic sensuality and spirituality. It's not only the insides of the gloriously adorned churches that are heavenly; there's a palpable sensation of unearthly energy on the street where signs of faith abound. Maybe Madrid spoke to me because of the country's progressive politics, unlike the divisive antics on America's amoral agenda. My reveries were ineluctably reignited by reconnecting with the text of Dream Man, an aria of unbridled passion that has lost none of its poetic prowess.
Relationships with my daughter and my actor, two stars in my universe, whether at home or abroad surely fed this period of resplendent revitalization.
As one day melted into the other, Tia seemed to mature dramatically: tossing off words in Spanish, adopting the customary European greeting (two kisses planted on each cheek), and engaging in banter with adults who were—chronologically, at least—decades her senior.
Jimmy underwent his own accelerated maturation process as he discovered the character's fantastic journey, diligently digging for each forbidden nuance.
Whether it was the growth of my kid or my actor friend, to be instrumental in their blossoming resounds in ways that help to heal my battered heart and bruised soul.
My physical self requires daily attention, massive doses of drugs to keep the HIV at bay. Even though I feel an absence of disease, miraculously vanished under Spain's brutally sunny skies and beatific neon stars, I attempt to ingest each pill (twenty-two to be exact) religiously.
Pickett's death, like all deaths, is illusory. As we traipsed through the cobblestone streets of Madrid, I could sense his feeling of accomplishment, having his immortal words delivered in a country across the Atlantic at such a critical moment in history.
As Jimmy tackled one scene after another, it was often Pickett's voice that I heard; or some marriage of his voice and mine, now melded with a third force of nature. An artistic menage a tois, emotionally entwined, a marriage made in heaven and on earth.
Spain's landmark decision to honor gay and lesbian unions and allow adoption fed into the weekend of Gay Pride festivities, including the opening night performance of Dream Man. There were not only rainbow flags; nearly everywhere one looked—including the window of a bakery with rainbow-striped loaves of bread—the symbol of solidarity was reflected back at you. Many of the flags were emblazoned with the word, "Pace" (the Latin word for "peace").
The countenances of mi hermanos seemed to have lightened discernibly into an expression that was less characteristically brooding, maintaining their swarthy insouciance but letting go of some of the macho swagger. Walking hand in hand, or arms draped around each other's shoulders, mano a mano, was nothing new but the number of couples seemed to multiply after Thursday's decision.
On the day of the Sabbath, after only a few hours of rest (Madrid, not New York, is the city that never sleeps), I left Jimmy and Tia in the apartment and went on my own solo excursion. First, Starbuck's (yes, practically on every street corner). Then to the Museo Municipal De Madrid, a stunning but simple artspace. And, finally, to a church, shimmering in its over-the-top religious iconography.
I fervently prayed, not to any particular god or goddess, but rather to the sculptors who created the magnificent renderings of multiple versions of Jesus on the many crosses. "Thank you for my blessings," I whispered. "Guide me in the choices I make as a father and an artist." Realigning with these two roles was decidedly the result of my Spanish Resurrection.
The week concluded with Jimmy's triumphant turn as the dream man whose tumultuous hour onstage encapsulated the complex consciousness of all dreamers; gay and straight, young and old, American and European, believers and non-believers, fulfilled and unfulfilled.
For it is our dreams, realized and unrealized, that ultimately define us. Dreams of endless love; dreams of connecting and reconnecting, whether over long distance phone lines or across footlights that we improvisationally created with a row of red candles.
Dreams of being loved for what you are as well as what you are
not; dreams of life everlasting; not restricted by earthly constraints but rather characterized by a universal force greater than any one individual.
Dreams that defy death and exult in a world without end. Amen. Slow fade. Curtain.