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character, Merce, a makeover...and also think about an actual budget for their project, as well as professional filmmakers and actors. The result was a new online comedy series, called Merce. Some may think that HIV and comedy don’t mix. Merce might just prove them wrong. “HIV

Merce: A Modern Day HIV Comedy writer & actor charles sanchez talks about his new on-line comedy series



“I think Merce is about more than HIV or gay people,” Firmin says. “I think it’s about surviving and having a great attitude about life, no matter what happens to you. We all need a support system of family and friends to make

the rough stuff a bit easier. And everything is better with a song, a dance, and a bawdy joke!” There will be eight ten-minute episodes of Merce. A premiere party is scheduled on July 15, at the LGBT Center in New York City, to celebrate the release of Merce the very next day, on July 16 After the first episode on July 16, new episodes will air every Thursday until September 3. While, at this point, there are no concrete plans for the future of the show, there is hope that it will succeed, and, in turn, lead to a second season. “And we don’t mind if some big networks found us, and produce [Merce] on a larger scale,” Sanchez concludes. “I mean, Oprah’s network could use a good comedy, no?” To find out more about Merce, and keep up with the show, please visit Alina Oswald is Arts Editor of A&U. A&U • JUNE 2015

photos courtesy Tyne Firmin

is a subject that doesn’t get a lot of press these days, but it hasn’t gone away,” Sanchez comments, reflecting on his by Alina Oswald new show. He goes on mentioning that HIV is still affecting many people, and that it is not allamboyant, funny, outrageous, ways easy for HIV-positive individuals to know glamorous, bawdy, while also how to live with the virus. Also, there is still too very much “the guy next door” much stigma attached to it, even today. (in a funny, glamorous way Hence, the idea of a show that would that is), Merce captures, ever help end HIV/AIDS-related stigma. so candidly, and also fearlessly, the reality “I wanted of living with HIV/AIDS in today’s society. to create a Mama (Tyne Firmin) Who or what is Merce you might ask? modern HIV Skypes with Merce Merce is the lead character of a new online story,” Sanmusical comedy with the same name, chez further created by Charles Sanchez, and directed explains, “one by Tyne Firmin. that didn’t end in death. Every show or The idea of Merce started out three movie with an HIV theme seems to years ago as a web series called Manhattan only tell a story from thirty years ago, Man-Travels, written by Sanchez and filmed and is tragic. Those are true and necesby Firmin, about a middle-aged man called sary stories, to be sure, but I wanted to show Merce, living in New York City. After two someone with HIV today, who isn’t ruled or seasons, with no budget, and not much defined by the condition, and who, like experience, they decided to me, is actually enjoying his life.” give the It turns out that Sanchez didn’t only create Merce (he wrote the role of Mama especially for Firmin), but he also plays Merce in the series. When I inquire about the name of the show, Sanchez mentions that he’s always loved the name, Merce. “My father had wanted to name me Merce when I was born, [but] my mother won. I’ve just always thought it was a cool name, and here was my chance to use it.” Sanchez and Firmin fundraised their project on Indiegogo, raising $15,000. They cast over twenty actors, and brought Merce creators Charles Sanchez and Tyne Firmin amazing artists to the team, including composer and lyricist Ken Kruper, who wrote the original songs for the show.

A&U JUNE 2015