Silent Amidah: A Remembrance, a play written by Mark Belson, a staff member of the Barker Engineering Library, has been published by Seaview Press in conjunction with the last World AIDS Day of the century on December 1.
The play is about an Orthodox Jewish family a year after the older son has died of AIDS. The family has not come to terms with the son's life and his death. In the play, the man who was the late son's lover meets the family for the first time. The term "Silent Amidah" refers to a part of the Jewish liturgy that is a time for individual prayer and personal reflection.
"The play was originally written in the late 1980s," said Mr. Belson. "I was studying public health at the time, and the AIDS crisis was at its height. I learned that a childhood friend of mine had contracted AIDS. He was very much involved in community theater and did a lot of public speaking on what it's like to live with AIDS." This friend, Jeff Avick, is one of the people to whom the book is dedicated. Avick died earlier this year, just before the play was published.
After making many efforts to have the play published, Mr. Belson learned of the Australian company Seaview Press through a former Libraries staff member, Barbara Ives. Seaview is marketing Silent Amidah actively in the United States, including with an ad in the December issue of Library Journal. The advance preview copy has a medallion with the notation: "In This Premillennial Year, A Commemorative Edition. In Special Observance, World AIDS Day, December 1, 1999." On the book's cover is a photograph by Nicolas Nixon, whose photographic essays on people with AIDS have appeared widely in galleries throughout the United States.
Mr. Belson is a senior circulation assistant at Barker, where he has been working for 19 years. In 1981 he was awarded a Council for the Arts grant for another play, The Jaded Marsyas, a character study of a psychiatrist whose professional ethics are tested by a personal crisis. He is also the host/producer of Homophobia in the Media and Society: One Life to Live and Beyond (1993), an MIT educational outreach video program distributed in association with the Council for Primary and Secondary Education.
Silent Amidah, which Mr. Belson believes can be appreciated as an individual reading experience, has not yet been produced, although it has had a public reading at the Arizona Theatre Company New Play Reading Series. With a small, intergenerational cast, it's "a chamber play that would work best in a small space, an intimate setting," he said.
The Silent Amidah book will be featured in an exhibit in the Humanities Library during the first week in December, and will be sold at the MIT Press Bookstore in Kendall Square and at several other bookstores in the Boston area. A portion of the proceeds from the sales will be donated to various AIDS service organizations.
A version of this article appeared in MIT Tech Talk on November 24, 1999.