One little acronym with a heavy connotation.
In the early 1980s, a handful of men began experiencing a series of rare illnesses that were often diagnosed as cancer or pneumonia. The cancer was referred to as Kaposi’s sarcoma and the pneumonia was called Pneumocystis Pneumonia Carinii.
By July 1982, it was diagnosed as AIDS.
Because this traumatic illness was often linked to homosexuality or drug use, many who sought treatment faced great adversity—judgment, discrimination, and often the refusal of care.
Then came an acronym with a much more positive outlook.
In 1985 Palmetto AIDS Life Support Services was created in South Carolina in order to fight AIDS with the proper treatment and care. Their services were, and still are, free to those suffering from HIV/AIDS and their loved ones. They were the light in the dark for many people.
Over 25 years later, PALSS still offers support and care to those in need.
In 2005, the organization formed a benefit concert called Torch.
“I have very good friends who were and still are on the Board of Directors of Palmetto AIDS Life Support Services. It was at their request that we put together the first and all subsequent benefits. Torch, in its current form, was first performed in 2005,” Artistic Director Randy Moore says.
As Artistic Director, Moore is in charge of selecting the performers for the show.
“When I was asked to do Torch for the first time, we were in the middle of the SC Shakespeare Company’s production of Man of La Mancha in Finlay Park. Most of the original Torch cast of four men and four women were selected from that musical production. Those who weren’t were hastily recruited at the last minute to help balance out the cast. We only had a little more than two weeks to put the entire show together,” Moore remembers. “While I wanted to keep the core group for future productions, some of the original cast weren’t able to do Torch again– some for just one year, some for several. In fact, only four cast members have performed every single year. It’s very difficult to find the same talent available every single year. So, we added new performers to take the place of those who were absent. As the years progressed, some of the original performers were able to return which increased the cast size. This year, we will have every single performer who has done Torch in the past ten years and our largest cast ever- twelve people.”
Many of the performers who have graced the stage for this sentimental benefit have been seen on local stages all over Columbia, one of which is local actress and choreographer Mandy Applegate.
“Performing with this group is incomparable! I am amazed at this web of friendship and love that spans decades. Some of these people I have known for 20 years, some for closer to 10. We frequently work together in musicals and choirs and are all friends outside of that as well,” Applegate says. “Some nights we can barely get through songs because we are either laughing, or crying, or both. We are truly a little family, and at times, our teamwork is effortless.”
This weekend, the benefit celebrates its 10th anniversary.
“Torch has grown so much since our first offering. We’ve expanded to two nights of performance, enlarged our cast and increased seating to include theatre seats as well as cabaret tables. I’m honored and humbled to have been a part of it these past ten years and to have raised so much money for such a terrific organization as PALSS. It also means a lot to have worked with these talented performers, whom you’ll never otherwise see all onstage at the same time,” Moore says.
In the end, both PALSS and Torch are all about love for one another, and how that love is used to help others through the good and the bad.
“Torch is a beautifully intimate gathering in support of PALSS and their very important work with food, drinks and song, guaranteed to warm your heart,” Applegate says. “Knowing we are raising money for PALSS, which is completely local, is truly heartwarming. The work they do is a gift to our community, and we are glad to give our service of song in support of that each year.”
Don’t miss Torch this weekend, November 7-8 at 6;30 in the Black Box Art Space at CMFA on Pulaski Street!