Cabaret to Fight AIDS Returns to The Rrazz Room
For Sean Ray, the AIDS crisis has never ended. The cabaret and former Gay Men’s Chorus performer has lived with the virus for many years. On May 14 and 15, Ray hosts the tenth annual Cabaret to Fight AIDS at The Rrazz Room in San Francisco’s Hotel Nikko.
"I don’t like being preachy, but the kids don’t realize that a lot of what they have today is because of our struggles in the ’80s and ’90s," Ray said in a telephone interview with BARtab. "They’re not ungrateful. They just don’t know."
Ray has very vivid memories of those battles. "I’ve struggled at times with HIV," he recalled. "But my health is really good now. It’s become a manageable illness if you have the resources. Things are easier in the Bay Area."
But the picture wasn’t so rosy a while back. "I was a client at Project Open Hand for a brief time," Ray said. "When I walked in as a client, after having referred clients to them, they didn’t judge me. People had no idea that I had gotten to a point that I needed help to eat." Later, Ray spoke at an Open Hand luncheon. "Both experiences were so humbling."
Ray has an extensive resume as a performer, and even appeared nude Off-Broadway. "I was with the Gay Men’s Chorus in New York for ten years. In the 1980s and ’90s, we were doing a lot of memorial services. We were doing a West Coast tour and I fell in love with San Francisco. I met a San Francisco chorus member, we fell in love, broke up, but I still moved here. It’s hard to leave once you’ve been here."
Though he sang with the San Francisco Gay Men’s Chorus for one season, he now prefers performing in cabaret. In producing the Annual Cabaret to Fight AIDS, Ray says he’s trying to emulate the wonderful work being done by Broadway Cares: Equity Fights AIDS in New York’s theater community. "I worked with God’s Love We Deliver and Gay Men’s Health Crisis in New York. My friends were dying back then, so this is very personal for me."
The title of this year’s AIDS Cabaret is No Day But Today, which is the finale number from the musical Rent. "I’ve pulled together singing friends of mine that I’ve worked with over the years," said Ray. "We’ve got showtunes, pop, jazz standards, country, a little bit of everything. I know the singers very well, and I know their voices. They donate their time because they believe in the cause."
Since its inception a decade ago, AIDS Cabaret has benefited service organizations such as San Francisco AIDS Foundation, UCSF AIDS Health Project, AIDS Life Cycle, Positive Being, Project Open Hand, among others.
"It’s such a great event," said Ray. "I’m so proud to be a part of it. I hope Senator Mark Leno can come again. He came in 2002."
Sean Ray urges people to do their part in combating the virus. "If you don’t have money, you can volunteer your time," he says. "There’s always something you can do to help others."
Sean Ray, hostess Donna Sachet, and a wonderful group of singers perform in an evening of song and comedy. Annual Cabaret to Fight AIDS happens on Monday and Tuesday, May 14 and 15 at The Rrazz Room, at the Hotel Nikko, 222 Mason in San Francisco. $35 advance tickets, $40 at the door. $50 for reserved seating and a champagne reception. For more information, please visit: www.cabaray.yolasite.com