EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW:  Television Star Beth Broderick in Just Outside Redemption

    Many people instantly recognize actress Beth Broderick as "Aunt Zelda" from the television show "Sabrina, the Teenaged Witch."  But few know that she took off from her acting career in 1985 to co-founded one of the first programs for persons with AIDS in New
York City.  
    So her commitment to the world premiere staging of the play Just Outside Redemption - about the Texas gay and lesbian community's fight to be included in the James Bird Hate Crimes Bill - continues her personal conviction of supporting the GLBT community.  
      Theatre en Bloc is partnering with Equality Texas to debut the new play, written by Dennis Bailey and inspired by the work of Dianne Hardy-Garcia and the fight for inclusive hate crimes legislation in Texas in the 1990s.  The world premiere production runs through September 30th at The City Theatre.
    Olin Meadows talked to the actress about her legacy of fighting for people dealing with AIDS and HIV, life after "Sabrina, the Teenaged Witch" and why the message of Just Outside Redemption is important to her.

Olin Meadows:  What made you decide to work on Just Outside Redemption, given its touchy topic?

Beth Broderick:  I have a long history of defending the LGBT community.  In 1985, I co-founded MOMENTUM, a program for persons with AIDS in New York City.  This was also a pivotal time in our history.  
     When I first became aware of the crisis in 1984, there were whispers about this strange disease which they called "Gay Men's Cancer." No one understood the causes or nature of the disease, and the fear of contagion - and widespread bigotry against gays - brought out the worst in many folks.  There was even a state ballot measure proposed in New York that advocated the quarantine of all gay men.
       Life expectancy was six to eight months from the time of diagnosis.  I abandoned my acting ambitions and helped form MOMENTUM.   With my partner Peter Avitabile, we strove to provide food, clothing and - most importantly - community to a terrified and often terrorized group of young men and women.  I was witness to a lot of ignorance, but also great courage and a fierce determination to get answers and save lives.
    I spent the next five years on the front line of the AIDS fight and did not resume my acting career until I was 28.  I am proud to say that the program still exists and continues to provide support for people coping with AIDS.  We have come a long way, but there is still work to be done.
O.M.:  What do you draw from in your personal life and history that helps make your character and her story come to life?

B.B.:  Just Outside Redemption captures an important moment in both Texas and human history.  The eight-year struggle to include gays in the James Boyd Jr. Hate Crimes Act touched a lot of lives and set the stage for the national reform of our legal response to these kinds of devastating acts.  This kind of progress is only possible because of the bravery and determination of ordinary people.
     Those are my kind of heroes, and Dianne Hardy Garcia, the legislators, volunteers and victim's families are among them.  There are many, many people to thank for the progress we have made as a society, and this play is a way of doing that.  I am excited to be a part of producing and performing this piece.
    I am playing the role of "Harlene."  She is from a small town in West Texas that has been rocked by the vicious murder of her hairdresser and friend Billy.  She is outraged by the act and the killer's attempt to justify it by claiming he was afraid of being propositioned by a gay man.  Harlene is a socialite who is propelled by her maternal instincts into acting on behalf of folks like Billy.  She joins the fight because she cannot help herself, much the same way that I took a five year detour in my twenties to fight for the rights of people with AIDS and the search for a cure.  I simply could not look away. She is also funny and irreverent and I love her for that.

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