IN ANCIENT Greece and Rome, roses were associated with the goddesses of love, Aphrodite and Venus. In Christianity, a red rose was associated with Christ’s death and sacrifice. For 21-year-old playwright Junine Ray “Rayne” Jarabo, a rose’s petals symbolize resilience while its thorns symbolize challenges.

Artist Playground Arts and Performances, in partnership with the Red Whistle and Twelfth Studios, will present Roses for Ben, an original OPM musical about HIV awareness on June 15.

With musical direction by Jesse Lucas, choreography by Lezlie Dailisan, and direction by Roeder Camañag, the musical follows 21-year-old Benny Boy “Ben” Maglaque, Jr., a closeted bisexual man who works an entertainment company and is in a happy relationship with his girlfriend. But his world turns upside down when he learns that he has been infected with HIV after learing that his ex-boyfriend died of AIDS.

In writing the play, Mr. Jarabo drew inspiration from plays and musicals that carry a message of resilience, citing Rak of Aegis, Skin Deep, and Angels in America.

“I do not only aim to share from my personal experiences but also share experiences from other people and put it into life,” he told BusinessWorld at the musical’s press launch in Quezon City on May 11.

“My goal as a playwright is for the people to see the reality that everything, may it be a struggle or achievement, it is not the end of you,” he added.

The musical has 21 original pop songs which director Roeder Camañag described are aimed to capture the musical sound of the youth. “It’s not the typical musical. It’s not Les Miserables, it’s not The Phantom of the Opera, but it’s very now. It’s very pop… It will not be a typical musical. We’re going to combine an art form with watching a gig at the same time,” Mr. Camañag said.

Talks about HIV will be conducted after each show.

“My aim is to enlighten everyone that we have to break the stigma that if you have HIV, you’re going to die. It’s not just because you have the disease, it’s going to be the end of you,” Mr. Jarabo said.

Alternating in the role of Ben are Jude Matthew Servilla and Benj Espina, while Beulah Mae Saycon takes on the role of Ben’s girlfriend Alice, a hotel singer. Bobby Martino and Jerome Fugoso alternate as Ben’s father, Mang Boyet, and Sir Wency, the CEO of Agapi Entertainment Company where Ben works.

Also in the cast are Mirriam Reyes, Kim De Las Alas, Dene Gomez, Ken Del Prado, Christian Silang, April Jasmin Rosales, and Nikki Herrera. April Jasmin Rosales and Jerome Fugoso will play Ben’s conscience.

Roses for Ben will have performances on June 15, 16, 22, and 23, 7 p.m., at Arts Above at 112 West Ave. Quezon City. For details call 0975-919-3179. — Michelle Anne P. Soliman