Pioneer Players to present Larry Kramer’s groundbreaking play ‘The Normal Heart’

November 15, 2013

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The Normal Heart

PLATTEVILLE, Wis. — The University of Wisconsin-Platteville’s Department of Performing and Visual Arts Theatre and Pioneer Players will present Larry Kramer’s political play, “The Normal Heart,at the Center for the Arts Theatre on Nov. 20-23 at 7:30 p.m. and on Nov. 23 and 24 at 2 p.m. Tickets are $9 for adults, $8 for seniors and UW-Platteville faculty and staff and $5 for UW-Platteville students.

There will also be a Benefit Wednesday performance on Nov. 20 at 7:30 p.m. Tickets for the benefit performance are $3 and the proceeds will go to the Platteville Food Pantry and the Platteville Fire Department.

Originally staged off-Broadway in 1985, “The Normal Heartis a largely autobiographical play focusing on the rise of the HIV-AIDS crisis in New York City between 1981 and 1984, as seen through the eyes of writer/activist Ned Weeks, a gay Jewish-American founder of a prominent HIV advocacy group. Ned prefers loud public confrontations to the calmer, more private strategies favored by his associates and friends.

According to the play’s director, Associate Professor of Theatre Ann Dillon Farrelly, “A groundbreaking and intense look inside the fight as it was taking place, ‘The Normal Heartis a stunning example of political theatre. It makes no apology for its agenda. People were dying, and no one knew why.”

Finally receiving its Broadway debut in 2011, the play won the Tony Award for best play. In her review in the New York Daily News, Liz Smith called the play "An astounding drama . . . a damning indictment of a nation in the middle of an epidemic with its head in the sand. It will make your hair stand on end even as the tears spurt from your eyes." 

“This play is tough to sit through because of the enormity of the tragedy and, as we now know, the hundreds of deaths that took place during the time of the play only grew into the millions,” said Farrelly. “It’s an uncompromising look at people fighting for their lives in a world that just did not seem to care that gay men were dying.”

The cast includes UW-Platteville students Jacob Lange as Ned Weeks, Kyle James as Felix Turner, Elliot Frieden as Ben Weeks, Noah Thomas as Bruce Niles, Ebony Darden-Murphy as Dr. Emma Brookner, Dakota Vaassen as Mickey Marcus, Gage Risen as Tommy Boatwright, and Nick Varela and Cody Wisman, who take on multiple roles. Jordon Schulte is the stage manager. Jeffrey Strange, assistant professor of theatre and resident designer/technical director, is the scenic and lighting designer for the production, and new faculty member and resident designer Sarah Strange is the costume designer.

“It was really important that we tell this story and pay tribute to the lives of those who fought and died,” said Farrelly. “We honor them, and we remain mindful that the AIDS crisis is not over.” Because of strong language and adult situations, this production is recommended for mature audiences only.  

In addition to the play, the theatre program, in conjunction with the Office of Diversity and Inclusion and the Liberal Arts and Education Film Committee, will present a screening of the Academy Award-nominated documentary “How to Survive a Plague.” The screening will be Monday, Nov. 18 at 6 p.m. in the Lundeen Lecture Hall in Doudna Hall, UW-Platteville. The event is free and open to the public. There will be a discussion immediately following the film. Those who attend the film screening can receive a coupon for a reduced ticket price for the play.

“This documentary gives a thorough history of the plague after the time depicted in ‘The Normal Heart,’” said Farrelly. “Larry Kramer went on to found ‘ACT UP,’ which became one of the most powerful political forces of that era.”

For tickets and information call the CFA Box Office at (608) 342-1298.

Contact: Michael Breitner, director of arts facilities and series, Center for the Arts, (608) 342-5432,

Written by: Dr. Ann Dillon Farrelly, Department of Performing and Visual Arts, (608) 342-6045,

Formatted by: Laurie Hamer, College of Liberal Arts and Education, (608) 342-6191,

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