Tag Archives: HIV

Pick yourself up, dust yourself off, start all over again!

From the day of the premiere of Merce last July, people have been asking when season 2 was coming out. The nerve! We’d barely put the show out, with all the creativity, guts and sweat that producing a musical comedy web series takes, and people were already demanding more. I guess that’s a good thing, right? I mean, better than the opposite, for sure. But Mama might say, Shoot, son! I went ‘n’ fixed you up a squirrel mousse pie, which you devoured like a li’l piglet, and now yer askin’ fer another!”

You know Mama's squirrel mousse pie is award winnin'!

You know Mama’s squirrel mousse pie is award winnin’!

When my producing partner Tyne Firmin and I started this Merce adventure, we had no idea what was in store or how we’d get the show even done. We were innocent in all things web series. Since then, we’ve not only produced an amazing show, but we were written up in a lot of publications, official selections in the Brooklyn Web Fest and the Austin Web Fest, and licensed for OUTtv in Europe. AND we’re in negotiations to have Merce licensed on a new LGBTQ app here in the states called REVRY. All amazing stuff.

When it came time to write the new season, I had a bit of writer’s block.  The truth is, I wasn’t sure where to take Merce next.  Dorothy Parker once wrote that “writing is the art of putting the ass to the seat,” but my ass wasn’t feeling it. 

Somewhere around February or March, my friend Cathy was in town, and we were at my favorite Chinese place, the Szechuan Gourmet on 39th Street, eating potstickers. We were talking about HIV, since she works in the medical field, and she brought up a cure.

A cure for HIV. Hard to admit, but the notion never even occurred to me. At least, not in a realistic way. I mean, Charlie Sheen may be cured with his Mexican goat milk injections, but no sane person’s buying it. As a person living with HIV, I’ve just gotten used to the fact that I’ll be on meds the rest of my life with what is now (miraculously) a chronic, manageable condition. The concept that I may some day be free of the virus is not an idea I’ve even entertained. Isn’t that awful? And sad? And that’s when I realized: a cure for AIDS/HIV is exactly the inspiration for Merce in season 2! Now, I’m not going to give away any plot points, but that idea is what got me writing, and we have scripts for 8 new fabulous episodes! Thanks, Cathy!

We’re also going to tackle such topics in season 2 as secondary conditions to HIV, serodiscordant relationships, PrEP, slut shaming, and gay marriage. It’s gonna be chock full, I tell ya! And a lot of favorite characters will be back for season 2, including (of course) Mama, Corvette, Remington, and the Fairies! And new characters, Merce’s Aunt Bless, Cousin Todd (the whore), and many more surprises along the way.

But life is not all rosey. It’s with a heavy heart that I tell you that composer/lyricist Kenny Kruper has parted ways with us for season 2. Sad news indeed. No hard feelings; we simply had some creative differences. We are totally grateful for the amazing work he did for season 1. Truly, Merce would not have had the magic and shine that is has without Kenny’s creativity, humor, hard work and fantastic skill. He will always be a valued member of our Merce family. Much love and luck to you, Kenny!

But when God closes a door…

We are happy to tell you that the amazing Rob Hartmann is coming on board as our new composer/lyricist. Rob is a super-creative, funny, sophisticated composer/lyricist, and someone that we were interested in working with for season 1. He was unavailable at the time, because he was moving to London (like ya do). He’s still there, but settled, and is happily joining our team from across the pond. Right now he’s teaching at the Mountview Academy of Theatre Arts (fancy), so we’ll be doing all the collaborating via internet and cell phone (we’re so modern, yo). You can find out more about Rob on his website: www.robhartmann.com. Welcome, Rob!

Rob Hartman and Charles

I was recently in Washington DC on some HIV advocacy business for the CDC (I’m fancy too), and Rob Hartmann happened to be in town at the same time–Miracle!

Our timeline for season 2 (tentatively) is to raise funds this summer, go into pre-production and rehearsals in August, record the music and solidify the team in September, and shoot in October. We’ll edit through the winter, and hopefully have a premiere in spring of 2017.

New logo with a subtle but important change.

New logo with a subtle but important change. (Thanks to Walter Harper for his design work!)

One last thing: we’ve changed the tag line for season 2. The former tag line, “Life can be positive even when you’re positive,” is good, but something about it was starting to bug me: the “even.” Sounds like an apology, and there’s nothing to apologize for. So, The new tag line is

“Life can be positive when you’re positive!”

Onward we go. Fresh squirrel pie not quite in the oven yet, but we do have a new recipe.
Besos,
Charles
P.S. We recently produced a short, fun video that we sent out to all our season 1 donors.
You can check it out here.  (Thanks to Rich Aronovich and Lucas Van Engen for helping us create the vid!)
P.P.S. I recently had an article about LGBTQ Pride published in the Huffington Post. It’s called I’ve Got My Pride, and if you missed it, please check that out, too.

I Need To Be More Like Merce

I have a bad attitude. Seriously.

When I was in the seventh grade, my teacher Mrs. Montgomery was all about the good attitude. She made us memorize the poems, “The Man Who Thinks He Can” and “Don’t Quit.” Lately I’ve wanted to go into the way-back machine and punch Mrs. M right in her dirty mouth.

I know that’s not really in line with the sunshiny, rainbow sprinkly Merce brand, but although Merce and I look a lot alike, we are not the same person. I kinda want to punch him, too. (But not in the kisser–wouldn’t want to mar that fabulous face!)

Am I blue?

Am I blue?

It’s not that I feel the glass is half-empty, it’s more that I’m pissed at the glass itself, unsatisfied with it’s size and shape.

Here’s what’s up: Before Merce came out, I thought I was prepared for anything, for any reaction or result of the show. A very smart friend reminded me before we started releasing the episodes, that none of it is going to happen the way I imagine it, good or bad, and that totally made sense to me.

The show itself, I’m thrilled with. I think we’ve created what we set out to: a funny, smart, original show with a heck of a lot of pizzaz, that actually has something to say. The entire team went above and beyond, and Merce is sensational.

It just hasn’t created the sensation I’d hoped.

“Whats your damage, Heather?” you may ask. “Merce was written about by major publications. You’ve gained audience three-fold over the first show you put out, Manhattan Man-Travels. And personally, people are respecting the hell out of you, as a writer and creator, and even as an activist! That’s amazing, Charles!”

Yeah.

I’m disappointed, and here’s why: even though I thought I was prepared for anything, (and this is humiliating to admit) I still, in the dreamy MGM part of my brain, thought that everything in my life was going to be fixed once Merce came out. Cray cray! I know! But somewhere in my wee head, I really thought that I’d have, for example, agents calling, that some network or company would want to hire our team to do Merce on a bigger scale or create something new (and they’d pay for it!), I imagined offers for other creative projects, that someone would ask me to act in something that I didn’t have to write, that I’d get to write something that I didn’t act in, that money would start pouring in, that I’d get to quit my survival job, all this would happen in a matter of weeks, and that I’d be well on the way to being ….(oh no! Did I really believe this??? Yes, somewhere in my sick, childish brain, I really did)…A Big BROADWAY STAR! Turns out, there’s still a part of me that’s 15.

And people are asking me about a season 2! Holy fuckballs, are you kidding me?! Tyne and I just barely survived getting these eight episodes out, and you want us to dive in again??? Are you mad???

BUT.

But if I take a moment, and take a breath, and maybe look at the world through Merce-colored glasses, I can get some perspective.

Because here’s the absolute truth: OMG, Merce was written about in extraordinarily favorable ways by every major HIV publication in the country, including POZ (several times!), HIVPlus, A&U, and TheBody.com, and a few around the world: PositiveLite.com in Canada and EstoyBailando.com in Spain! And we were also written about in Broadway World, The Big Gay Picture Show, Frontiers Media and much more! (To see all our fabulous write ups, visit the media page on our website.)  We have over 1,000 views on the first episode alone on Vimeo, not to even count YouTube, and Merce has been viewed as far away as Thailand and Columbia! I was a guest on the Invitation to Love podcast recently, where hosts Alicia Camden and Nate Waggoner plugged the hell out of Merce. And most excitingly, Merce is an official selection to the inaugeral Brooklyn Web Fest next month, and Tyne and I have been asked to speak as part of the panel on Emerging Voices. (For details, visit the BKWF website.)

BKWF official selection

Also (and this is a biggie), we’ve been approached by a gay European channel that wants to broadcast Merce across all their platforms including their website and app. OMG! That’s a possibility of our show being seen in a much bigger way around the world! Amazing. (Stay tuned for an official announcement when we have more details.)

Oh, and along the way, I had an article published in the Huffington Post! “Remember that, Charles??”

And all of this is just SO FAR, because we have other stuff coming up! Co-producer and Mama Tyne Firmin and I were interviewed by HIVHero.org‘s Michael Cavnaugh last week, and that should be coming out soon. Also CJ Stryker of MNN’s StrykeZone show is a big fan, and plans on doing an entire episode about Merce in January! (He also plugs the show on his Episode 35, and I have a cameo promo in the episode as well.) Plus Tyne and I are looking into other festivals to enter and other ways to get the show seen.

Since I’ve been looking through these Merce-colored glasses and  trying to wear my gratitude hat (tiara?), things are feeling pretty freaking great.

Yesterday, at the gym, I had a spark of an idea of how the first episode of Merce, Season 2 might start. and I’m starting to get more ideas for season 2: What happens between Merce and Remington? Do Corvette and Jo stay together, or does she go back to seeing Joes? And of course, what the hell kind of shenanigans could Mama be up to?

Damn. Maybe Mrs. Montgomery was right:  a good attitude makes all the difference. Maybe it doesn’t matter if the glass is half-empty or half-full. I need to remember to be grateful that I have a glass at all.

Besos,

Charles