‘In My Day’ Brings True Stories of Vancouver’s HIV Pandemic to the Stage

The plague years of AIDS in Vancouver’s West End are spotlighted on stage this winter.

How do you translate 20,000 pages of transcribed interviews into an engaging, dynamic and radical live show? Leave it to Victoria-based playwright Rick Waines.

A spark was ignited when Waines was interviewed for SFU student Ben Klassen’s oral history research project called HIV in Our Day—a project that focused on the stories of gay men and their caregivers living in Vancouver’s West End from 1981 to ’96, commonly recognized as the “plague years” of the AIDS pandemic. “I’m HIV positive—I found out in ’87,” says Waines, “and I just fell in love with the opportunity to revisit those years, and to unpack some of the feelings and the celebrations and the disappointments and the terror that those years were.”

director of the play
Playwright Rick Waines. (Photo by Derek Ford.)

Waines became heavily involved in the project himself, transcribing interviews and working on the community-based research team—and, eventually, he turned those transcripts into a piece of verbatim theatre. “Because it’s verbatim, you use every um, every ah, and every restart of the sentence to tell the story,” explains Waines. Despite being born from interviews, this play isn’t just talking heads—audiences can expect high-energy scenes in dance clubs, activists protesting on the street, emotional revelations in doctor’s offices and cruising adventures through Stanley Park. Bygone locales (like Doll and Penny’s) meet modern references (a fairy-like Dr. Bonnie, perhaps) as the show aims to “reactivate the space of HIV advocacy and mutual support through collective action,” according to Waines.


cast of In My Day
In My Day features (from left to right) Allan Morgan, Jackson Wai Chung Tse, Scott Button, Patti Allan, Sabrina Symington, Alen Dominguez, Issiah Bull Bear, Ivy Charles and Kelsey Kanatan Wavey. Photo by Tina Krueger Kulic.

The show, called In My Day, is produced by Zee Zee Theatre and premieres at the Cultch’s Historic Theatre on December 2. And on December 4, organizers are hosting a community event—“an intergenerational, diverse gathering of folks that are connected to the world of HIV, whether they are HIV positive, from disproportionately affected communities or work in HIV,” says Waines—to watch the show, tell stories, build shrines and share food. In My Day doesn’t shy away from the violent realities of HIV in Vancouver at that time, but it also embraces more uplifting moments. “While there is a lot of death, there is also a lot of celebration and survival and working together,” says Waines. “I think that there will be a lot of feels, but it will be all of the feels, not only the grief.”

In My Day
DATE December 2 to 11
VENUE The Cultch’s Historic Theatre
COST Tickets from $29