The Normal Heart and Larry Kramer’s Letter
As part of my post today, I’d like to direct you over to We Love DC for my review of The Normal Heart – currently running at Arena Stage here in DC. The director and two leading actors helped this show – an intense drama about the first months and years of the AIDS epidemic – win the 2011 Tony Award for Best Revival of a Play; and now it comes to a city with one of the highest HIV rates in the world.
The play is an extremely thorough, blatantly autobiographical piece by Larry Kramer. So autobiographical, in fact, that Kramer himself was known to stand outside the theater after the show and pass out a letter to attendees discussing how true the story is.
I’m not sure if Kramer was there for the performance I attended. I know he’s had some health problems, and I’m partly hoping he wasn’t there for the regret I’d feel at not recognizing him and speaking with him if I had the chance; but someone who looks like him was outside waiting with a letter he wrote, and here’s just part of what it said:
Please know that everything in The Normal Heart happened. These were and are real people who lived and spoke and died, and are presented here as best as I could. Several of them have died since, including Bruce (whose name was Paul Popham) and Tommy (whose name was Roger MacFarlane and who became my best friend and who, after building three gay/AIDS agencies from the ground up, committed suicide in despair).
Four members of the original cast died as well, including my dear sweet friend, Brad Davis, the original Ned.
Please know that AIDS is a worldwide plague.
Please know that no country in the world, including this one, especially this one, has ever called it a plague, or acknowledged it as a plague, or dealt with it as a plague.
Please know that there is no cure.
Please know that after all this time the money being spent to find a cure is still miniscule, still almost invisible, still impossible to locate in any national health budget, and still totally uncoordinated.
Please know that here in America case numbers continue to rise in every category. In much of the rest of the world, like Russia and India and Southeast Asia and in Africa, the numbers of the infected and the dying are so grotesquely high that they are rarely acknowledged.
Please know that every single president beginning with Ronald Reagan (who would not say the word “AIDS” publicly for seven years), said nothing and did nothing, or in the case of the current president, says the right things and then doesn’t do them.
Please know that most medications for HIV/AIDS are inhumanly expensive and that government funding for the poor to obtain them is dwindling and often unavailable.
Please know that pharmaceutical companies are among the most evil and greedy nightmares ever loosed on humankind. What “research” they embark upon is calculated only toward finding newer drugs to keep us, just barely, from dying, but not to make us better or, god forbid, cured.
Please know that as I write this the world has suffered at the very least some 75 million infections and 35 million deaths.
I have never seen such wrongs as this plague, in all its guises, represents, and continues to say about us all.
Please know that this is a plague that need not have happened.
Please know that this is a plague that has been allowed to happen.
– Excerpt by Larry Kramer, June 2012