Tony-nominated South Dakota native streams live performance to benefit AIDS assistance

Published: Dec. 1, 2020 at 1:50 PM CST
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RAPID CITY, S.D. (KOTA) - The 50 performers in “Elegies for Angels, Punks and Raging Queens” have been rehearsing over Zoom calls.

For Bill Russell, writer and director and South Dakota native, the experience has been interesting. But it’s fitting as his cast prepares for a streamed performance of the 1989 revue for World AIDS Day to benefit Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS.

“The hard part of Zoom is rehearsing songs with more than one singer,” Russell said. “We’ve sort of found a way to do that. It’s been absolutely thrilling to me because so many of these big names I’ve admired for so many years and to be able to direct them in a piece that I wrote is just incredible.”

The Live version will benefit Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS. The cast list includes many top listers, including Nathan Lane, Cynthia Nixon, Fran Drescher, Academy Award Winner J.K. Simmons.

“I started writing this in 1987 with my collaborator Janet Hood at the height of the AIDS crises and when AIDS was encroaching on my friends,” Russell said.

The free-verse monologues celebrate lives lost to AIDS and tell the story with blues, jazz, and rock score.

“More than anything I’ve ever written, I felt the need to write about this subject. It’s had quite a history of that time. It’s still getting done around the world. It was just licensed in Germany, translated and published,” Russell said. “This is a particularly interesting step in the progress of this piece.”

Russell was born in Deadwood and raised in Spearfish.

The piece streams beginning at 5 p.m. ET, Dec. 1-5 at

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