Weber State University student Carleton Bluford's 10-minute play "Breathe" will be read Wednesday during the run of Plan-B Theater's production of "Borderlands."
Bluford is one of four Utah playwrights commissioned by the theater company and the Utah AIDS Foundation to write short plays examining HIV/AIDS.
Bluford's play is about two men, one straight and the other gay. Both have contracted the HIV virus, and their lives intersect in a hospital room. The young man, Jason, is 18 years old and has just been diagnosed. He is despondent and depressed about his diagnosis, but finds a mentor in Tom, the older gay man who has been living with the disease for years.
"The older man ends up giving the younger kid hope for the future in dealing with what he has," Bluford said. "He just basically tells him that his life isn't over and to keep living every day likes it's the last, and to 'breathe' essentially."
Bluford, 26, said it was challenging writing a play about AIDS because he didn't want his script to be overly dramatic, but at the same time, he wanted to get across an important, poignant message -- particularly to younger audiences.
"There are a growing number of youth in Utah who are either ashamed of the fact that they have it or don't get tested," Bluford said. "I wanted to show that kind of shame that you have as a young kid when you have something like that ... and I wanted to show the contrast of someone who has had it and has been dealing with it."
Bluford said AIDS isn't necessarily a death sentence and that many people living with AIDS are doing a lot of hopeful things. He hopes his play will help the younger generation understand the seriousness of the disease and build awareness.
The play is directed by Mark Fossen.
Jerry Rapier, Plan-B-Theatre Company's producing director, said Bluford's play is appealing because it speaks to a wider audience.
"That was our hope that we would have a younger, straight male perspective," Rapier said. "We hoped to help people understand the complexity of HIV and AIDS, and that it is not solely identified with one demographic."
Bluford is working on a degree in musical theater.
He recently performed in the WSU production "Under Construction." He has appeared in Utah-shot films including "High School Musical," "American Pastime," "Halloween High" and "Anya's Bell."
Bluford's full-length play "The Empress of Virginia" was presented in February during a reading at Universe City in Ogden.
THE OTHER SHORT PLAYS
The Plan-B readings mark the 20th anniversary season of the theater company and the 25th anniversary of the Utah AIDS Foundation.
The other three plays:
* "Defenestrated," by Jim Martin and directed by Mark Fossen, is the story of three individuals -- a teacher, a school board member and a high school student -- all with different interests in the public school system's commitment to quality sex education.
* "Second Wave," by Isabella Iasella and directed by Jason Bowcutt, takes a snapshot journey through more than four decades of evolving attitudes toward "safer" sex.
* "The Clinic," by Daniel Beecher and directed by Bowcutt, follow two friends discussing, while they are waiting to hear the results of an HIV test, what it means to be HIV-positive.
After the reading, the plays will be available as resource material on the Utah AIDS Foundation's website.