Larry Kramer's ‘The Normal Heart’ opens at the Darkhorse Theatre

Rhubarb Theatre Company presents the Nashville Premiere of “The Normal Heart,” Larry Kramer's much heralded, controversial play about the early days of the AIDS epidemic. The production, directed by Julie Alexander, takes place June 9-12, 16-19, and 23-25, at Darkhorse Theatre, 4610 Charlotte Avenue. Performances on Thursday, Friday and Saturday begin at 7:30 p.m., and Sunday matinee performances begin at 2:30 p.m. Admission to all performances is $12.00.

Joseph Papp originally produced “The Normal Heart” at The Public Theater in April 1985. It has since been produced internationally and been named one of the 100 Greatest Plays of the 20th Century by the Royal National Theatre of Great Britain.

It's 1981 and Ned Weeks' doctor tells him he must convince everyone he knows to stop having sex or they'll die. The play follows Ned as he rails against a community that refuses to believe they are in danger, a bureaucracy that refuses to listen, and a President who won't even utter the word AIDS. Along the way Ned struggles to start an awareness organization as he loses friends to the then-mysterious disease. With rich characters, and not without its humor, the play remains as urgent today as it did when it was written. Today over 35 million people are reported as living with HIV—a virus that is ignored because of fear, politics and majority morality. The title of the play comes from a poem by W. H. Auden, the last line of which is this simple truth: "We must love one another or die." The play was revived at the Public Theatre last year and generated the same impact as when it originally opened.

Larry Kramer is known primarily for his criticism of political figures, media, and medical organizations for their poor response to the AIDS epidemic. He first gained national recognition for his 1970 screen adaptation of D. H. Lawrence's Women in Love. This work earned four Oscar nominations, including "Best Screenplay." In the early 1980s, Kramer began his tireless campaign to raise public awareness about AIDS and to demand that political and medical leaders find manageable, effective treatment for the disease, and ultimately a cure. AIDS activism and the promotion of a healthy homosexual lifestyle became frequent themes in his writing. A prolific writer, public speaker and essayist, Kramer published collections of his observations in Reports from the Holocaust: The Making of an AIDS Activist (1989) and We Must Love One Another or Die: The Life and Legacies of Larry Kramer (1997), edited by Larry Mass. He also wrote two more plays, Just Say No (1988) and The Furniture of Women (1989). Since the loss of many friends to AIDS and his own personal struggle with the disease, Kramer's sense of urgency and passion have become pervasive in his writings. He is determined to ensure that the disease that is killing so many gays is not ignored.

“The Normal Heart” features Brian Hill, Chandler Martin, Erik Garcia, Scott Douglas, J. Noble, Pat Rulon, John Vasile, Jim Manning, and Michael Roark. Addtionally, the role of the Examining Doctor will be played by different members of the Nashville media, activist and health communities on a rotating basis.

Rhubarb Theatre Company artistic director Julie Alexander directed Birds in Church, a collection of one act plays by playwright Joe Pintauro, in 2004 at the Darkhorse Theatre. She also directed Last Summer at Bluefish Cove in April 2003, also at the Darkhorse. She has acted and directed in Off- and Off-Off-Broadway in New York and the San Francisco Bay Area. In 2003 Alexander received a Tenny Award for directing Last Summer at Bluefish Cove.

Rhubarb Theatre Company is dedicated to addressing issues of diversity, tolerance and understanding through the freshness of contemporary theater. Nashville's increasing diversity has fostered an appreciation and thirst for more urban, sophisticated performing arts. Rhubarb Theatre Company strives to fill this need with edgy, challenging, entertaining theater that explores the human psyche and urges that underline current issues.

For further information and to reserve tickets, call 615-386-3551, extension 3.

Photo by Kenny Eliason on Unsplash

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