Rolling Out the RED Carpet
By Tamara Juarez, April 2017 Issue.
Aunt Rita’s Foundation, Arizona’s leading HIV/AIDS advocacy group, is rolling out the red carpet for its first fundraiser of the year: RED is the Night, an evening of entertainment that will make you feel like a Hollywood celebrity.
The inaugural event, set for March 24, will include a special appearance by six-time Emmy Award-winner Bruce Valinch, the internationally-renown troupe Scorpius Dance Theatre, local “auctiontainer” Letitia Frye and Phoenix’s own “Hip Historian” Marshall Shore.
“RED is the Night is all about fantastic entertainment,” said Glen Spencer, Aunt Rita’s Foundation executive director. “We wanted to entertain our donors and the people who are coming to our event with quality performances.”
The evening will also include a silent auction featuring a wide variety of autographed items, many of which have been autographed by noteworthy actors and actresses.
Glen Spencer, Aunt Rita’s Foundation executive director.
Proceeds from RED is the Night will be divided equally among Aunt Rita’s 16 partner agencies, which include the Bill Holt Clinic, McDowell Healthcare Center, HEAL International, Chicanos Por La Causa, Ebony House and one•n•ten among others.
Each organization provides a variety of critical services for HIV/AIDS patients, such as medical care, treatment services, case management, HIV prevention education, counselling and HIV testing.
According to Spencer, RED is the Night, and similar fundraising events that take place throughout the year, are critical.
“Federal funding for HIV and AIDS support is not growing, and the HIV-positive population is ...,” he said. “It’s very important that these events exist to keep the awareness around the HIV epidemic in the forefront of people’s minds.”
Since 2013, the number of identified HIV/AIDS cases has increased by 1,551 total patients, and a total of 17,349 Arizonans have HIV/AIDS, according to the latest report by the Arizona Department of Health Services.
Last October, the Phoenix City Council unanimously voted to join the United Nation’s Fast Track Cities “90-90-90” Initiative, which aims to strengthen HIV/AIDS programs and end AIDS as a health threat by the year 2030. The three-pronged initiative focuses on achieving three goals: Getting 90 percent of HIV patients diagnosed, 90 percent of diagnosed patients medicated and 90 percent of treated HIV patients to safely suppress the virus.
“At a time when the city of Phoenix has … become a UN Fast-Track City and adopted the 90-90-90 goal,” Spencer explained, “this event, as well as other HIV and AIDS funding events, become an additional opportunity for outreach and awareness.”
Scorpius Dance Theatre
With its unique blend of aerial acrobatics, contemporary dance, theatrical elements and original stories, Scorpius Dance Theater has captivated audiences for more than 17 years. Each performance is sexy and elegant as it explores a wide array of human emotions and experiences with a style that’s distinctly their own.
For its exclusive performance at Aunt Rita’s RED is the Night, Scorpius Dance Theatre has prepared a 30-minute repertoire from its most-recent productions: Rock, Kick-A Showcase and Catwalk.
“We, as artists, are very supportive of this community, and we wanted to reach out and share our art with them,” said Lisa Starry, Scorpius’ artistic director. “It’s great to work with Aunt Rita’s and help raise as much money as possible for other nonprofits.”
Gavin Sisson, Scorpius dancer and assistant director, said he is excited to partner with Aunt Rita’s.
“As a gay man who has a few HIV positive friends, and lost some friends due to the AIDS epidemic, it’s important for me to be involved in the community as an artist,” he said. “I think our mission coincides a little bit. We are both nonprofits and are always reaching out to the community.”
Scorpius and its members have been involved in numerous charity projects and received a variety of recognition for their advocacy work and contributions within the local community.
Still, one of the dance company’s main goals is to become more inclusive and attract a wider range of people who may be intimated by the abstract nature of modern dance.
“We have lots of theme shows that are open in all areas and concepts,” Starry said. “We’re open to anybody, and were not a reserved company that only a certain kind of group goes to watch. I think that’s why Aunt Rita’s felt so comfortable with us, because we weren’t afraid to perform about different subjects, and they really liked that openness about us as artists.”
Scorpius Dance Theatre will take the RED is The Night stage beginning at 8 p.m. For more information, visit scorpiusdance.com.