Why did you name the concert Forget-Me-Nots?
I think—pun intended—there has been a deadly silence about the whole generation of gay men lost to this disease. A lot of lies have been told about how they died by families that were embarrassed—and in the silence, we have also ignored the intensely ever-increasing number of HIV positive African American women. We need to remember what happened. I’m 30, and I wasn’t there, didn’t see people die. I’m hoping my generation can start to understand what our forefathers went through. It’s also about awareness, acknowledging those now living with AIDS/HIV, who are too often overlooked—the proceeds will benefit the Hope Center.
Mozart, Stephen Sondheim, more modern stuff: How’d you choose it all?
Each song is unforgettable in its way, and speaks to part of the human experience one might have if one is dealing with HIV or AIDS.
And the accompanists?
Me. And Brian Salesky, the artistic director of the Knoxville Opera. It’s worth noting this is part of the opera’s endeavor to reach more of the community, including the gay community. The event originated with a conversation between Brian and I. The third accompanist is Candace Armstrong, an assistant professor of music at Lincoln Memorial in Harrogate, Tenn.
How did you get video input from Edye Ellis and Bill Williams?
Edye is member and friend of our church [Tennessee Valley Unitarian Universalist]. Bill did the first local media presentation about AIDS in 1987, a series about fears, and we’ll be showing some of that footage in the concert.
Will people who know you as a Dolly impersonator be surprised?
Music is a passion I’ve not gotten to share this way before; no one’s seen this side of me. I’m not leaving Dolly behind, but I will show I can do more than put on a wig.
Forget-Me-Nots is Saturday, Nov. 20, 7:30 p.m.-9:30 p.m. at TVUUC. To reserve tickets: 523-4176. More information: hopecenterknox.org