Oregon Shakespeare Festival's Daedalus Project comes to life this week for a 26th annual rendition of the company-produced fundraiser for organizations that fight AIDS/HIV.
The multifaceted event has raised about $1.3 million in the past quarter-century for local and international groups fighting the disease, organizers said. It gets under way at 7:30 p.m. Friday in the Varsity Theatre on East Main Street.
This year's director, Eduardo Placer, has spent most of his first year at OSF obsessing over the project. It's added up to hours in the archive room, countless more in meetings with OSF veterans and as many more folding origami feathers that will complete an oversized set of wings to be revealed during the fundraiser's signature variety show, "The Wings of Daedalus."
Each feather, which costs $5, represents a name, reflection or benediction related to AIDS/HIV, Placer said. So far, he added, OSF has sold more than 800. People interested in sponsoring a feather can visit www.indiegogo.com and search "The Wings of Daedalus."
"It's about honoring and remembering those who we've lost, and, in the face of that tragedy, celebrating life," Placer said. "There is a meaning behind the act. You're saving lives."
The Daedalus Project's inaugural three-day film festival runs Friday through Sunday inside the Varsity Theatre, with nine screenings of five films highlighting the AIDS/HIV epidemic around the globe.
The films include: "Blood Brother," directed by Steve Hoover, showing at 7:30 p.m. Friday and Sunday; "The Dreams of Elibidi (Ndoto Za Alibidi)," directed by Nick Reding and Kamau Wa Ndung'u, showing at 1 p.m. Saturday; "Fire in the Blood," directed by Dylan Mohan Gray, showing at 4 p.m. Saturday and 1 p.m. Sunday; "How to survive a plague," directed by David France, showing at 7 p.m. Saturday and Sunday; and "We Were Here," directed by David Weissman, showing at 7:30 p.m. Saturday and 4 p.m. Sunday.
Tickets cost $10 and are available through OSF's box office by phone at 541-482-4331 or online at www.osfashland.org/DaedalusFilmFest.
Hoover's "Blood Brother" won the Grand Jury Prize for Documentary and Audience Award for U.S. Documentary at the 2013 Sundance Film Festival.
Already sold out, this year's Monday afternoon play reading, based on the 1990 musical and book "Falsettoland," by William Finn and James Lapine, begins at 2 p.m. in the Angus Bowmer Theatre.
The Daedalus Project culminates Monday evening during the variety show, also sold out, on the outdoor Elizabethan Stage, where company members and community artists piece together a colorful blend of unique acts including comedy, dance and music.
"It's the biggest party we throw," said three-year company actor Miles Fletcher, a director of this year's expanded benefit.
Fletcher will also play Whizzer in the reading of "Falsettoland."
"I have always been very passionate about this project. ... Every year, Daedalus is different, as it's a new group of artists bringing the event to life," Fletcher said. "The project began as an expression of the love and support that the OSF company and community had for the many actors and artisans who are victims to HIV/AIDS, and we will continue the project as long as there is a need for it."
The benefit's revived 5K run begins at 9 a.m. on Sunday. The cost to compete is $25, or $30 on race day. People can register online at www.runsignup.com. Search "Daedalus," under the "find a race" option on the right side of the home page. Competitors meet in the OSF courtyard before making a loop around Litha Park and back to the OSF campus.
Over the weekend around the OSF campus, sales of lemonade, T-shirts, baked goods and arts and other treasures will contribute to the Daedalus Project's fundraising, 100 percent of which is given away, organizers said.
Last year, Alan F. Collins AIDS Project at OnTrack Inc. in Medford received $57,000. Oregon HIV Alliance, serving Josephine, Douglas, Coos and Curry counties, was awarded $16,000. Siskiyou County HIV/AIDS Foundation was given $12,000. G.R.A.C.E. USA, which raises money for community-based programs addressing AIDS and other issues in Kenya, was sent $10,000, and Africare, a program serving all of sub-Saharan Africa, received $5,000.
Those organizations are still on the list for donations, Placer said, and more likely will be added.
"It's always had a very local focus, and that's important," Placer said. "But this is a community of lifesavers coming together to eradicate AIDS/HIV from the world, not just Ashland, Rogue Valley and Southern Oregon. We're on the verge of medical breakthroughs, and a day will come when we leave the Daedalus Project behind, and no longer have to do it. That will be a good day."
Sam Wheeler is a freelance writer living in Ashland. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.