Rybeck's activism goes back to the beginning of the AIDS crisis, and has taken on many artistic forms. "Like many people, I denied as long as I could muster. It dawned on me that if someone walked in with a gun and threatened to shoot my friends, I would do something. I was working at Cambridge Food Co-op [now part of Harvest Cooperative Markets], and realized that my contribution had to be more than putting a little sign on the pumpkin seeds stating that they helped boost your immune system." So he quit his full-time job and dedicated himself to queer theater.
With the United Fruit Company, the predecessor to The Theater Offensive, he would do safe-sex guerrilla theater in gay cruising areas. "It served its purpose better than a stage, and much better than sitting in an antiseptic room putting condoms on bananas." He used these experiences while working as an activist in Costa Rica, where HIV is a large problem. He ran safe-sex and theater workshops, traveling back and forth over a three-year period. This culminated in the first Costa Rican gay theater troupe. And from the seeds of the Costa Rican experience sprang Immaculate Infection.
Rybeck's work over the years has resulted in many awards, both as an artist and an activist, including a 1999 Elliot Norton Award, an AIDS Action Committee Unsung Heroes Award, an award for individual excellence from the Greater Boston Business Council, and Peace and Justice Award from the City of Cambridge.
As an artistic director, Rybeck is aware of the need to sell an AIDS play. "People see the issues as tired, but the issues are as real as ever and as tough as ever. Our expression and art is what needs work." He adds, "The series of scenes which are supposed to be in an AIDS show are all missing." Immaculate Infection, Rybeck says, is "not a comedy, but very funny--not a tearjerker, but a very emotional show."
The Boston premiere of Immaculate Infection runs from June 8 through 24 in the Black Box Theater at the Boston Center for the Arts. A Spanish-language premiere of the play will be presented by Yuyachkani Theater at the Latin American Human Rights Theater Festival in Lima, Peru, June 25-30. The Spanish-language version will also be presented at the Latin American Institute for Prevention Education and Health, one of the world's leading AIDS activist organizations, in San Jose, Costa Rica, in February.