A larp about friendship, desire and the fear of death
- We're all going to go crazy, living this epidemic every minute, while the rest of the world goes on out there, all around us, as if nothing is happening, going on with their own lives and not knowing what it's like, what we're going through. We're living through war, but where they're living it's peacetime, and we're all in the same country.
- Larry Kramer, playwright and AIDS activist
1982: It was the summer AIDS came to New York City
Two group of friends from New York City celebrate the 4th of July in upstate New York. The 1970s have been a decade of women's liberation, youth rebellion, anti-war protests and sexual promiscuity. This changed America forever, but the early 1980s is also a time of a resurging conservative movement which President Ronald Reagan is the sunny face of. Gay men are migrating to New York to become part of the vibrant and hedonistic scene in Greenwitch Village. Unbeknownst to everyone however the HIV virus has started spreading in the city. An article in the New York Times last summer described a mysterious "gay cancer", but it's cause remains still unknown.
During the larp we play three 4th of July partys of 1982, 1983 and 1984. Every morning after breakfast there is an act break where we find out what has happened with the characters and their relationships the following year before the next act starts one year later. When the game starts neither the players nor the characters know who will become infected by the virus, but the lives of all the characters will be deeply effected by the epidemic. Our goal for the game is that all the characters will have friendships that are important to them, experience a little bit of lovin' at the summer parties and feel the fear of death as people around them start to become infected.
The Death of Skye, a photo taken during the first run of the larp. Photo: Tore Olbert
Two group of friends
The story will follow two group of friends. One of the groups revolves around Terrence Thurlow ("Mr. T." among friends and enemies alike), a successful and openly gay owner of a public relations firm. Every 4th of July he hosts a party for friends, past- and future lovers as well as new acquaintances from the scene which he finds interesting enough to receive an invitation. This is a party people want to be at, so unless you have front row seats at the latest Liza Minnelli show on the very same night, you will be there.
In upstate New York not far from the small town of Saratoga there is what used to be the Saratoga Centre for Hope and Healing, a rehabilitation centre for young people with cancer. After the centre closed it's doors 5 years ago some of the former patients started to gather here for the 4th of July. In 1977 they all slept in tents down by the lake, but from 1978 they have been allowed to rent part of the old institution. The core of this group of close knit friends met each other as teenagers at the rehabilitation centre and have stayed connected ever since. Every year they renew their pact of friendship. The rest of this groups are spouses, boyfriends and girlfriends of the cancer survivors. As in many close group of friends there are many overlapping and past (and future?) relationships in this group making friendships and lovelifes sometimes quite complicated. These young cancer survivors have learned to celebrate life fully. Some of them are frequent visitors to free-spirited places like swinger's clubs and some are practitioners of alternative forms of spirituality.
The members of the Saratoga friendship pact from the first run of the larp, photo Li Xin
Last year Mr. T decided he wanted to get out of the city for the 4th of July party and asked Pen, his secretary, to find a place that was remote, but not too far from the city and next to a lake. The result was that Mr. T also rented a house for his guests at the former Saratoga Centre for Hope and Healing. This year, in 1982 both groups will return to Saratoga. Last year the two parties were largely separate, but late into the night they started merging. It is likely that this will happen to a greater extent this year.
The title Just a Little Lovin' has been borrowed from Dusty Springfield's classic soul song. Dusty's songs are a favourite of many of the characters.
- HIV is certainly character-building. It's made me see all the shallow things we cling to, like ego and vanity. Of course, I'd rather have a few more T-cells and a little less character.
- Randy Shilts, the writer of And the Band Played On: Politics, People and the AIDS Epidemic