SAN DIEGO — In "Mona Rogers in Person," a play written by Philip-Dimitri Galas, actress Helen Shumaker sings a few bars from "After You've Gone." In one of life's strange twists of fate, the lyrics Shumaker cynically sang to a lost lover in Galas' work now sadly apply to the late San Diego playwright, who died in 1986.
"Mona Rogers in Person" is one of three videotaped Galas plays that will be screened today at the La Jolla Museum of Contemporary Art as part of the World Health Organization's "AIDS Awareness Day."
Museums and galleries around the country are participating in "A Day Without Art," a commemoration of the toll AIDS has taken on the art world. Many institutions are closing for a day of mourning and to dramatize what could happen if the disease continues to ravage artists. The Stuart Collection at UCSD will participate by having a shroud placed over "The Sun God," a sculpture by Niki de Saint Phalle, and by turning off Bruce Naumann's neon piece "Vices and Virtues."
Many institutions, including the La Jolla museum and the Museum of Photographic Arts, will remain open and pay tribute in other ways.
MOPA will donate all proceeds from today's admissions to the San Diego AIDS Assistance Fund. The La Jolla museum will not charge admission and will remain open until 7 p.m. Besides Galas' work, the museum will also screen a number of documentaries about AIDS.
One of those works is "Common Threads," an HBO production that profiles five AIDS victims, including David Mandell Jr., a San Diegan who was a hemophiliac and died at the age of 12 after contracting AIDS through a tainted transfusion.
The documentary weaves the personal stories with a history of the disease told through television news accounts. It's amazing and frightening to hear a physician, just eight years ago, helplessly theorize about what causes AIDS, and to watch escalating statistics of the disease's wrath in these eight short years.
The title "Common Threads" refers to the AIDS quilt, a massive piece of folk art made up of stitched tributes to AIDS victims. Earlier this year, the quilt was unfurled for the last time because it had grown too big.
On that quilt are the names of many artists who have become AIDS victims, and today they are remembered in "A Day Without Art." Any consolation may come from remembering this aphorism: Life is short, art is long.