Tom Prager sits in a hospital bed waiting for a breathing tube. He prepares to end his losing battle against AIDS (Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome). Prager puts his hand on his good friend, Beth Niven’s, pregnant stomach and says, “Take care of her. I really wanted to meet her.”
Fast forward 16 years. That baby that was once in Beth’s stomach is now junior Maggie Niven.
The man in the hospital bed was who she calls her Uncle Tom. Maggie’s mother met Uncle Tom while working at Julliard, and they had been good friends for ten years. During those years, Uncle Tom had become infected with HIV/AIDS.
“We have had numerous friends that have passed away from AIDS,” Kip Niven, Maggie’s dad, said. “It’s a disease that knows no boundaries.”
Because of Maggie’s close ties to the theatre community and the AIDS epidemic, she has decided to start a SHARE project called AIDS Awareness.
“My parents are both in the theatre community – my mom was and my dad still is – and they knew many people that died from AIDS and still people today [that] are [struggling with AIDS],” Maggie said. “It’s just a horrible disease and any way to help cure it and help people that are struggling through it is a great idea.”
One of Maggie’s main inspiration to start the project came last spring break when she went to go see the play “Memphis” on Broadway. After the curtain call the actors came out and collected money for the organization Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS.
She decided to incorporate AIDS awareness into a director’s gift.
“For the director’s gift for the Musical Revue we got them AIDS ribbons and picture frames and that’s what got people at East aware of this organization,” Maggie said. “And this year again we have decided to make it a whole project.”
Maggie’s main goal for the project is to show kids that AIDS is an important issue and to help them become more informed. She also hopes to carry on the project throughout the year by doing activities for National AIDS Awareness Day and talking to the health classes in hopes of informing students more about the disease.
“I hope they learn it is not a joke, anyone can get it and it’s a serious disease. Instead of joking about it we should do something about it,” Maggie said.
This year, during the Musical Revue, the project will create an entire display to inform families and students about the organization Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS. Every costume will also have a red accent in it, which is the color of the AIDS ribbon.
“We are going to have a whole lobby display to help show families how to donate and do other things throughout the year,” Maggie said.
Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS was started by the Actor’s Equity Association and was the organization Maggie chose to work with. The Actor’s Equity Association was formed in 1913 and represents over 48,000 actors and stage managers today. The organization helps to provide support for people in the theatre community that are affected by HIV/AIDS and raise awareness and money to help find a cure.
One of the main reasons Maggie will always want to work for the cure is her Uncle Tom and the reward she gets from knowing she is helping to cure the disease that took him.
“I’m sure that he would be very pleased with this and anyone who passed away from [AIDS] would be pleased,” Maggie said. “I hope that they would know there is still hope for people out there today.”
Maggie also hopes to continue to raise AIDS awareness until they do cure the disease.
“When I’m older I hope to become a director for theatre, television and film. If I ever work on Broadway I definitely want to a lot to help the [AIDS] community,” Maggie said. “I want to do every bit I can until they do find a cure.”