Skip to main content

Michael Kearns papers

 Collection — Box: 1
Identifier: Coll2008-009

Scope and Content of Collection

The Michael Kearns Papers primarily documents Kearns' theatrical and charitable contributions to the community from the early 1970s. He organized and produced various benefits and awareness raising events for political, HIV/AIDS, and community organizations including an annual event in commemoration of World AIDS day. The collection includes awards, clippings, correspondence, flyers, manuscripts, photographs, programs, scripts, and VHS videotape cassettes. To a lesser extent, the collection also includes materials regarding Kearns' personal life, including his relationship with his husband Philip Juwig (died 1992) and with his daughter Tia.


  • 1950 - 2014



The collection is open to researchers. There are no access restrictions.

Publication Rights

All requests for permission to publish or quote from manuscripts must be submitted in writing to the ONE Archivist. Permission for publication is given on behalf of ONE National Gay and Lesbian Archives at USC Libraries as the owner of the physical items and is not intended to include or imply permission of the copyright holder, which must also be obtained.


Michael Kearns was born in St. Louis, Missouri, 1950. He attended the Goodman Theater School in Chicago before making his way to Los Angeles in the early 1970s where he has acted on the stage, in television, and in motion pictures. Since the 1980s he has grown into the profession as director, producer, acting teacher, playwright, and author. Hollywood's first openly gay actor, Kearns has been involved in various theater productions throughout Los Angeles addressing HIV/AIDS while also appearing in mainstream television. In addition to more than a dozen produced plays and solo pieces including The Truth Is Bad Enough (1983), Intimacies (1989), More Intimacies (1990), Rock (1992), Attachments (1996), Tell-Tale Kisses (1998), Make Love, Not War (2005), and Once upon a Time in South Africa (2007), his writings have appeared in a wide variety of publications, including the Los Angeles Times, LA Weekly and Advocate. He has authored seven books: T-Cells & Sympathy, Acting = Life, Getting Your Solo Act Together, The Truth is Bad Enough, The Solo Performer's Journey, The Drama of AIDS, and Life Expectancies. He received the 2002 Playwright’s Arena Award for Outstanding Contribution to Los Angeles Theater acknowledging three decades of his work as an actor, writer, producer, director, teacher, and fundraiser. In addition to his artistic contributions Kearns has been honored for his philanthropic endeavors by numerous organizations. Among his philanthropic accomplishments was the creation of Southland Theater Artists Goodwill Event (STAGE), which since 1984 has raised millions of dollars for HIV/AIDS services and charities throughout Southern California.

Sócrates Silva


15.5 Linear Feet (10 archive cartons, 6 archive boxes, 5 flat archive boxes, and 1 archive shoebox)

Language of Materials



Clippings, flyers, manuscripts, photographs, programs, posters, scripts, and VHS videotapes of the works, theatrical performances, and appearances of Michael Kearns; a parent, playwright, producer, director, actor, author, and activist, who is openly gay and HIV-positive.


The collection is arranged into six series, Theater; Emcee, Model, and Speaker; Writings; Awards, Commendations, and Honors; Biographical; and Professional and Personal Papers. The Theater Series and the Writings Series are divided into subseries. The Theater Series includes the subseries: Playwright, Director, Actor, and Producer and the Writing Series includes the subseries: Author, Poet and Journalist, and Columnist. Each of these series and subseries are arranged alphabetically by the title or name of the performance, publication, or organization. With the following exceptions, readings by Kearns at ONE, Spoken Interludes and the West Hollywood Book Fair were placed at the end of the Actor subseries; and the folders of Editorials and Letters to the Editor along with articles about Family were placed at the end of the Journalist, Columnist subseries. The Professional and Personal Papers series comprises materials donated after the initial publication of the finding aid in 2008.

Acquisition Information

Gifts of Michael Kearns, July 2008, May-July 2011, October 2012, June 2013, March 2014, and June 2014, and dates unknown.

Separated Materials

Videos separated to the ONE audiovisual collection:

ACT UP / LA demonstration at University Hospital, February 14, 1992. Laughlin, Nevada trip, March 15, 1992. ABC Australia "Review, " airdate February 24, 1992. Los Angeles Riots, March-May 1992. VV3260 [VHS]

AIDSWatch. Channel 6, West Hollywood. 2002. VVA0601 [VHS]

And The Band Played On. HBO. VVSR0623 [VHS]

Backlot Rejects. Produced by Maytal Mizrahi. Directed by Stacey Kleiger. Starring Matt Russak, David Schifilliti, Nee Kirschman, Michael Kearns, Dave Markham and Courtney Hagen. 2009. [DVD]

Bill and Eddie trailer. Written by Robert Harders, directed by Jon Lawrence Rivera. 2001. VV3261 [VHS] Starring Brittany, Kellie Guinot, Michael Kearns. Written and Directed by Adrian Vargas. 2008. [DVD]

Charles Pierce Memorial Service. June 19, 1999. VV3262 [VHS]

Dream Man. Written by James Carroll Pickett, starring Michael Kearns. The Pride Playhouse Collection, volume 2. 1991. VV3263 [VHS]

Express Yourself Workshop. Michael Kearns. Human Being Society Studios. 6 minutes. 2007. VDD1026 [DVD]

Get Used to It. "Civic Engagement." Show 137, taped August 2007. Guests: Charles Steward, Michael Kearns, and Torie Osborn. Running Time 57:06. [DVD]

Get Used to It. "Election 08." Show 146, taped November 2008. Guests: Michael Kearn, Torie Osborn and Phill Wilson. Running Time 58:10. [DVD]

Get Used to It. "Out Parenting." Show 123, April 2006. Guests: Ellen Ledley, Bill Weinberger, Michael Kearns, and Phill Wilson. Tape date March 24, 2004, running time: 59:13. VDD1027 [DVD]

Get Used to It. "The 100th Show." Show 100, June 2003. Host Sheila James Kuehl. Running time: 56:15. VV3264 [VHS]

Get Used to It. "The Kids Are All Right." Show 163, taped October 2010. Guests: Tia Kearns, Carl Cade and Emily Gold. Running time 58 minutes. [DVD]

Happy Birthday Tennessee. The Katselas Theatre Company’s INKubator series. Tony Abatemarco, Richard Hochberg and Michael Kearns. 80 minutes. March 26, 2011. VDD1028 [DVD]

Intimacies: Michael Kearns Life and Art on Film. September 14, 2001. [VHS]

L.A. Tool & Die, HIS Video 1990. [VHS] and LFP Video Group 2002. [DVD]

Make Love, Not War. Final Soundtrack. June 2002. [CD]

Michael Kearns. (2 tapes) [DVCAM]

Nine Lives. Produced by Sean Abley and Dean Howell, directed by Dean Howell, starring Steve Callahan, William Christian, Dennis Christopher and Michael Kearns. August 14, 2004. [DVD]

The People of Silver Lake: Michael Kearns, Part 1. Interviewed by Cheryl Revkin. Silver Lake Historical Committee. November 22, 2013. [DVD]

The People of Silver Lake: Michael Kearns, Part 2. Interviewed by Cheryl Revkin and Mark Simon. Silver Lake Historical Committee. January 17, 2014. [DVD]

The Perfect Stranger. Produced by Hunter Lee Hughes and Nichole Cherill, directed by Ahmad Zahra, starring Michael Kearns. October 1, 2001. VV3265 [VHS]

Queen of Angels. Written by James Carroll Pickett, music by Jon Cohen, directed by Kelly Hill, starring Michael Kearns. San Francisco, July 2, 1993. VV3266 [VHS]

Rimbaud in LA. VB0062-VB0073 [Beta]

Rock. Michael Kearns. VVA0573 [VHS]

The Rumpelstiltskin Incident. Starring Michael Kearns as Agent Heron. [VHS]

Soap On a Rope: A Slice of the Low Life (Released as Behind the Red Door). Starring Michael Kearns as Horst. 2009. [DVD]

Soap On a Rope: A Slice of the Low Life (Released as Behind the Red Door). Starring Michael Kearns as Horst. 2011. [DVD]

The Tina Dance: Michael Kearns Rehearsing with Performers. Directed by Michael Kearns. 2006. [DVD]

The Truth Is Bad Enough: What Became of the Happy Hustler. Michael Kearns. Book Signing Party and Reading featuring Sharon Barr, Katherine Kearns, John W. McLaughlin, Dale Raoul, and David Trudell. June 16, 2012. VDD1029 [6 DVDs]

Voices of AIDS. Featuring Artists Confronting AIDS Michael Kearns, James Carroll Pickett, and Dale Raoul. 29 minutes. 1989. VVA0602 [VHS]

What's The Question? Theme Scene. Performance Piece. Michael Kearns. January 30, 2011. [DVD]

Audio separated to the ONE audiovisual collection:

Chorus singing "Santa Claus is Coming to Town" with new lyrics and Michael Kearns as Santa Claus. AC3014 [audiocassette]

Fits & Misfits 2004, benefiting Lamp Community. "Blessings" performed by Scotch, written by Michael Kearns, composed by Darien Martus. ACD1202 [CD]

Going in: Once upon a Time in South Africa. Text written and performed by Michael Kearns. 2008. ACD1201 [CD]

Homeless: A Street Opera. Michael Kearns and Darien Martus. 1990. AC3015 [audiocassette]

Metrospect with Ann Germain and Michael Kearns. KOST 103.5 FM. January 10, 1993. AC3016 audiocassette]

Messages from friends and acquaintances on the 20th anniversary of an unknown event/performance. AC3017 [audiocassette]

Michael Jackson Show. Michael Kearns and Stephen [Casik?] interview regarding homosexuality in Hollywood. December 2, 1988. AC3018 [audiocassette]

Michael Kearns and Amistead Maupin discussion regarding homophobia in Hollywood. AC3019 [audiocassette]

Michael Kearns and Judith Light regarding AIDS. AC3020 [audiocassette]

Michael Kearns interview regarding Intimacies. KGIL 94.3 FM, Mission Hills, California. AC3021 [audiocassette]

Michael Kearns question and answer. Des Moines, Iowa. October 18, 1986. AC3022 [audiocassette]

Michael Kearns with Alan Farley. KALW, San Francisco. June 6, 1988 and August 15, 1989. AC3023 [audiocassette]

Queen of Angels. Music by John Cohen, lyrics by James Carroll Pickett. 1991. [audiocassette]

Sunday Weekend Edition, NPR, Rock segment. KCRW 89.9FM. January 26, 1992. AC3025 [audiocassette]

Separated to the ONE Pamphlet collection:

The Uncommon Denominator. Poets & Writers 2015 Workshop Leaders Retreat at 826LA.

Separated to the ONE T-shirt collection:

Blue shirt with yellow text on front: "Celebration Theater / Los Angeles." Text on front is flanked by the comedy/tragedy masks. Text on back: "Come Celebrate with Us!"

Brown shirt with black text on front: "Politics, Pedagogies, and practices." The Performing AIDS symbol with the text “Performing AIDS” is on the right side. On the back: "Politics, Pedagogies, and Practices / Performing AIDS / February 22-25, 1996 / Omni International Hotel / Cleveland, Ohio." On the left sleeve: "Nightsweats & T-cells" with a heart symbol.

Red shirt with white text on front: "Occidental College AIDS Week / Are You Positive? / Presented by Programming Board."

White shirt with a black-and-white image of Michael Kearns on the front. Text on front: "Michael Kearns."

Processing Information

Collection processed by Michael C. Oliveira, with assistance from Sócrates Silva, 2008. Additional materials processed by Kyle Morgan and Dione Surdez Oliver, 2015.

Michael Kearns Papers Coll2008.009
Michael C. Oliveira, Kyle Morgan, and Dione Surdez Oliver
© 2015
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note
Finding aid written in: English
Processing this collection has been funded by a generous grant from the National Historical Publications and Records Commission and the Council on Library and Information Resources.

Repository Details

Part of the ONE Archives at the USC Libraries, University of Southern California Repository

909 West Adams Boulevard
Los Angeles California 90007 United States
(213) 821-2771