My brother David died in November 1992 from the complications of AIDS. I was with him at the moment he took his last breath. It was an incredible event to witness and be part of. The weeks leading up to his death I describe as the “richest” days of my life, I have never felt so alive.
David and I had a great relationship prior to his illness and death but spent most of our adult lives living far apart. He lived in New York City and I lived in the Pacific Northwest. He was a gay man, a multi-talented entertainer who performed on stages all over the world. I was a married straight-guy, a stay-at-home dad with three kids at the time of his death. Talk about living in different worlds!
AIDS brought a sense of urgency to our relationship. We spent a great deal of time together in the final years. His illness and death changed me, changed me in ways it took me more than twenty years to understand and make sense of. But, I made a promise to myself back in November of 1992… one day I would tell the story of his life and death. I didn’t know how, or when it would happen, or in what form this story would take, but I knew for certain that one day I would do it… I had no choice, it had to be told.
As the twentieth anniversary of his death approached in 2012 I created The David Serko Project. My goal was to find people who knew him. Using Facebook I found over 100 people who knew him at some point in his life, most I didn’t know. The scope and depth of what I learned was remarkable. Material gathered via Facebook include photos, video, audio recordings, and of course many stories, both large and small, of his life. Clearly, David was loved by all who knew him.
The Crazy Idea:
A year into the Project I realized I needed to tell some of what I learned in Project and about my journey with my brother during his illness. I decided the only way to do it was to write a play and perform it myself. I had never written for the stage nor performed before, never even taken a drama class in school. Now, that is what I would call a crazy idea!
Within a year I completed a first draft of the script. Pushing ahead, in the Fall of 2013 I booked two performances at a small theater in Tacoma, WA for early February 2014. Rehearsal began in December 2013 with my friend Brian Desmond as director.
The play opened February 1, 2014 to good audience reaction and critical review. In July of 2014 I performed the play in my hometown at “The Cider Mill Playhouse”, a theater my brother performed in many times in his late teens and early twenties. Many of his friends who participated in The Project on Facebook were in the audience along with my parents and siblings. It was a magical evening! See photos from that performance.
The evolution of the title…
From the start I wanted to call the play “My Brother Is Dead And Other Funny Stories”. It was catchy and a bit irreverent, perfect I thought for dealing with a subject that might be off-putting to audiences. Before I had written a word I had created a series of podcasts of the same name. The podcasts were done extemporaneously, I just started to tell some of the stories I had been thinking about in the years since David died. I soon realized I had stories to tell and I could tell them in an entertaining and often fun way. The podcasts became the foundation of the script.
I would later change the play title to: My Brother Kissed Mark Zuckerberg after I had a dream David kissed Mark Zuckerberg founder of Facebook. Since Facebook played such a big role in the Project it seemed an appropriate title.