ONE Archives Foundation, in collaboration with Invisible Histories Project, announced today a historic virtual reading of Larry Kramer’s largely autobiographical play The Normal Heart on Saturday May 8th at 5pm PT. Directed by Emmy Award-winner Paris Barclay, this new presentation will be the first time the Tony Award-winning play features a cast that is predominately BIPOC and LGBTQ+.
The virtual reading features an all-star cast: Sterling K. Brown (This Is Us, Black Panther) as Ned Weeks; Laverne Cox (Orange Is The New Black, Promising Young Woman) as Dr. Emma Brookner; Jeremy Pope (Hollywood, Choir Boy) Felix Turner; Vincent Rodriguez III (Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, Insatiable) as Bruce Niles: Guillermo Díaz (Scandal, Weeds) as Ben Weeks; Jake Borelli (Grey’s Anatomy, The Thing About Harry) as Tommy Boatwright; Ryan O’Connell (Special, Will & Grace) as Craig Donner/Grady; Daniel Newman (Walking Dead, Homeland) as Mickey Marcus; Jay Hayden (Station 19, The House Bunny) as David/Hiram Keebler; and Danielle Savre (Station 19, Heroes) as examining doctor.
There will be a special introduction by Martin Sheen who received an Olivier Award nomination as Best Actor for the role of Ned Weeks in the 1986 European premiere production at London’s Royal Court Theatre in 1986.
“When I was approached by ONE Archives Foundation to direct a virtual reading of The Normal Heart, I knew it was an opportunity I couldn’t pass up. I lived in New York through the 1980s, saw the original production with Brad Davis, and have never forgotten the experience. And through today’s lens, the story of a marginalized people pushed to activism by the onslaught of an epidemic clearly was worth telling again. We’ve assembled an extraordinary cast that makes this particular reading even more timely. And we hope more powerful,” said Paris Barclay.
The Normal Heart focuses on the rise of the HIV/AIDS crisis in New York City in the early 1980s. After cofounding the Gay Men’s Health Crisis in 1982, Larry Kramer founded ACT UP in 1987. Produced and taught all over the world, The Normal Heart was selected as one of the 100 Greatest Plays of the Twentieth Century by the Royal National Theatre of Great Britain. It was the longest-running play in the history of The Public Theater. It was also made into an Emmy award winning film for HBO by Ryan Murphy.
This performance of The Normal Heart is an important reminder that the HIV/AIDS epidemic is not over, with 38 million people living with HIV globally in 2019. Its ongoing impact disproportionately affects the Black community. As of 2018, 42% of new HIV cases have occurred within the Black community, which only makes up 13% of the US population. According to the CDC in 2019, Southern states account for an estimated 51% of new HIV cases annually, even though only 38% of the US population lives in the Southern region.
“While many believe that HIV/AIDS is no longer a contemporary issue, living with HIV is still a daily reality, especially within the Black community and communities of color. That’s what makes this virtual reading of THE NORMAL HEART especially important; it strives to inform, educate, and empower the public while sharing the history of HIV/AIDS activism—activism that is still necessary today,” said Executive Director of ONE Archives Foundation Jennifer C. Gregg.
“The South is home to the largest percentage of LGBTQ people in the US. One-third of all LGBTQ people live here. The South is also home to the largest number of new HIV cases annually. This virtual reading of THE NORMAL HEART reflects a continuing narrative of advocacy, organizing, and the importance of community activism—particularly in an environment with insufficient government resources,” said Maigen Sullivan, Director of Research & Development, Invisible Histories Project.
Tickets go on sale to the public on April 8, 2021 at onearchives.org/normalheart. Ticket prices range from $10 – $100.
Funds raised from this event will support ONE Archives Foundation’s LGBTQ education initiatives, including K-12 lesson plans on HIV/AIDS, teacher trainings, youth engagement, and ONE Archives Foundation’s exhibitions, such as Metanoia Online, which aims to center HIV history around Black women’s experience and contributions to AIDS Activism.
Funds raised will also support Invisible Histories Project’s legacy of HIV/AIDS and LGBTQ activists through archiving, inclusion training, exhibitions, and programs that keep Southern LGBTQ history alive.