In a virtual performance for the ONE Archives and the Invisible Histories Project, a star-studded cast including Sterling K. Brown, Laverne Cox, Jake Borelli, Jeremy Pope, Guillermo Diaz, and Ryan O’Connell brings to life Larry Kramer’s breakthrough play The Normal Heart. One of the first pieces of art to chronicle the impact of HIV and AIDS on the gay community, the event is directed by Emmy winner Paris Barclay with a special introduction from Martin Sheen. Tickets are on sale for the May 8 screening now.
The performance that features primarily a cast of BIPOC and LGBTQ+ performers is a reminder that the HIV epidemic continues, according to a release from ONE Archives.
“Its ongoing impact disproportionately affects the Black community. As of 2018, 42 percent of new HIV cases have occurred within the Black community, which only makes up 13 percent of the US population,” the release states. “According to the CDC in 2019, Southern states account for an estimated 51percent of new HIV cases annually, even though only 38 percent 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.”
The Public Theater's longest-running play in history, Kramer's semi-autobiographical Normal Heart focuses on the rise of HIV and activism in response to a government that turned a blind eye to the communities affected by it. Ryan Murphy directed a film based on the play in 2014 that included Mark Ruffalo, Joe Mantello, Jim Parsons, and Matt Bomer.
For Barclay, who is gay and came up during the height of the epidemic, directing the Normal Heart is personal.
“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,” Barclay says. “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.”
This Is Us star Brown plays the lead character Ned Weeks, the character based on Kramer’s life, while Cox plays the compassionate Dr. Emma Brookner. Hollywood’s Jeremy Pope is Weeks’s love Felix Turner and Diaz plays Weeks’s attorney brother Ben Weeks. Grey’s Anatomy and The Thing About Harry star Borelli portrays Tommy Boatwright (played by Jim Parsons in the film). Rounding out the cast are Jay Hayden, Daniel Newman, Vincent Rodriguez III, Danielle Savre, and O’Connell. The performance includes a special introduction from Martin Sheen.
ONE Archives Foundation is the oldest active LGBTQ+ organization in the United States and is dedicated to telling the accurate stories and history of all LGBTQ+ people and their culture. The Invisible Histories Project is dedicated to making LGBTQ+ Southern history accessible to the community, according to the release.
Catch a glimpse of the cast below.
Watch a brief clip of Brown in the lead role below.