The Normal Heart – 2 Nights for Charity

Larry Kramer’s The
Normal Heart
returns to Chicago for the first time since its Tony
Award-winning Broadway revival in 2011.


This fall, TimeLine Theatre Company will breathe
new life into one of the strongest historical dramas of the 20th


For younger audiences who never knew the dark,
deadly days of the early epidemic, the play relives the fear and panic of the
early 1980s in urban America. To expose young viewers to this era—and the
grassroots activism it galvanize—seemed to me its greatest virtue.

But of course The
Normal Heart
is so much more. 

TimeLine Theatre Company graciously provided me a
behind-the-scenes viewing of The Normal
, directed by Nick Bowling. I was moved to tears.

Yes, the drama chronicles the dawning of AIDS
activism in the wake of unconscionable political and institutional neglect.
Fueled by judgmental and homophobic disregard, the early crisis gained strength
in the absence of a robust government response. Yet a humanistic virtue will
always be at the heart of this drama.

Timeless and poignant, the play’s call to action
is as relevant now as it was when play debuted in 1985.

Ned Weeks, played by David Cromer, is a
confrontational activist in New York, fighting to bring attention to a disease plaguing
gay men. He organizes likeminded individuals and creates a grassroots movement
that struggles to gain steam in a culture that would rather turn a blind eye.

That’s not merely a glimpse at where we were. It’s
a commentary of where we are today.

Modern medicine has given many affected individuals
opportunities to survive and thrive with HIV, where once they faced certain
death. Yet the stigma associated with HIV continues to result in delayed or
deferred care for hundreds of thousands of Americans with HIV.

The AIDS Foundation of Chicago (AFC) estimates
that more than 35,000 people are living with HIV in the Chicago metropolitan area;
however, less than half enjoy access to care. Half. That means that less than 50 percent of this population is
living with a life-threatening disease. Without interventions, they will remain
at risk of serious health decline. What’s more, studies indicate that more than
6,000 individuals in metropolitan Chicago don’t even know that they are HIV-infected.
This group is at high risk for other serious medical conditions and may
inadvertently be exposing others to HIV.


The Normal
confronts these disparities and it does so with gifted acting and

Every character is deeply complex. Even in rehearsals,
the acting was so crisp and powerful that I looked beyond the lack of costumes,
beyond the missing props, beyond the bare stage, and I returned to the early
‘80s. I stood with Ned who knelt by his partner’s bed in the hospital room. I sat
in the grassroots campaign office, as the fledgling organization struggled to
get the government’s attention. I was
there because the characters became real to me. 

Yes, I encourage young people to see The Normal Heart for historical reasons.
But more than that, this drama is about our time. It’s about spurring people
into action whether they’re gay or straight, government officials or private
citizens. Everybody has a role to play in ending this epidemic, and we can only
end it if we work together.

AFC isselling tickets to The Normal Heart
for two nights:
Saturday, November 2 and Sunday, December 1, which is World AIDS Day. Proceeds benefit
AFC—but only on these dates and only if you reserve your seat through AFC.