Windy City Media Group Frontpage News

THE VOICE OF CHICAGO'S GAY, LESBIAN, BI, TRANS AND QUEER COMMUNITY SINCE 1985

home search facebook twitter join
Gay News Sponsor Windy City Times 2021-12-08
DOWNLOAD ISSUE
Donate

Sponsor


  WINDY CITY TIMES

Director Paris Barclay talks about virtual reading of 'The Normal Heart'
by Andrew Davis
2021-12-01

This article shared 766 times since Wed Dec 1, 2021
facebook twitter pin it google +1 reddit email


The seminal Larry Kramer play The Normal Heart—which focuses on the rise of the HIV/AIDS epidemic in New York City in the early 1980s, through the perspective of the character Ned Weeks—is the subject of a reading that will take place Saturday, Dec. 4.

This reading will be revolutionary in at least two ways. It will be virtual and it will feature a cast that is predominantly BIPOC and/or LGBTQ+; participants include Sterling K. Brown, Laverne Cox, Daniel Newman, Guillermo Diaz, Jeremy Pope and Jake Borelli, among others. (Also, Martin Sheen will read the W.H. Auden poem "September 1, 1939," from which Kramer obtained the play's title.)

Paris Barclay—the famed Black, out gay director who is a trailblazer himself—helmed this reading, which actually took place earlier this year. He talked with Windy City Times about the play, Kramer and activism.

Windy City Times: Talk to me about the genesis of this project.

Paris Barclay: Well, it began with the ONE Archives Foundation. [Board Secretary] Chiedu [Egbuniwe] reached out to me—I didn't know him—and asked, "Would you ever be interested in doing a reading of The Normal Heart? We're getting the rights to it, and I think it's something that would be good for you."

I get a lot of requests to do different things from a lot of different organizations, but I do love The Normal Heart and I saw the off-Broadway production with Brad Davis back in the day, so I knew the play very well. So I said, "What the hell? I can do a full-time job as a producer and director of a network television show and pull together a reading on Zoom. I'll just reach out to people I know; it'll be easy." Of course, it proved to be anything but.

It was exhausting but, in the final week, it came together in a way that I think is quite beautiful and extraordinary.

WCT: And this took place in May, correct?

PB: Yes. We had been working on it for a few months before then. We started on ideas on who we wanted for our cast. We had a commitment to cast people other than what you may have seen in other productions; we wanted to choose people who were the essence of their character, regardless of gender or color—just find the right people for the parts. So Sterling became the first person we cast, and we built the cast around him.

WCT: So the goal wasn't to have a cast that's BIPOC and/or LGBTQ+? It just unfolded that way?

PB: Well, I think we had that in mind, but we thought it best to cast the people who best related the essence of their characters. And we leaned into the fact that we'd do it differently than it had been done. We could've made the rule that, in [2021], we'd only have gay people play gay characters, white people play white characters, and Jewish people play characters who were scripted as Jewish—but the future seems to be about casting people who are the essence of the characters.

So we built the cast out to be even more diverse and more interesting in our choices, while maintaining the essence of the characters—like Laverne being the essence of Emma Bruckner, or Sterling being the essence of Ned Weeks.

WCT: I'm sure there will be someone on social media who will say, "Why even have this reading? Why have this 'reboot?'"—to which you would say…

PB: "Where have you been for the last year and a half? You would then notice that there's been a reboot of the AIDS pandemic with the coronavirus."

We're seeing a disease that's affecting everyone and people of color are being disproportionately affected. Many of the themes we see in The Normal Heart are repeating themselves, on a huge scale. So we thought not only would we present this piece of history to a new generation, but it's also relevant to today's world because we're still fighting the powers that be—and a year and a half into the pandemic, we haven't really succeeded. Let's keep shouting, and let's use Ned Weeks' voice to keep shouting and to make it louder.

People will see the '80s and the AIDS crisis when they see this play, but there is still the same thing happening now—and there aren't enough Ned [Weekses] around, shouting about it. There are just people trolling.

WCT: As a journalist, I'm usually required to be objective. As a director, you can be an activist. What do you see as the advantages and disadvantages of that?

PB: That's such a good question that I've never been asked before. Well, the advantages are clear. I have an audience, although it may not be a huge one. I have people who follow me on Twitter; people I've worked with in the past; and people who recognize my name and my work. I have been the president of the largest union of all directors.

So there are people who know my voice means something. It would be a shame if I don't use it for the things that I think would help change the world for the better. If I don't use it for a positive good, I feel like I would be wasting my life. If I were to just stay quiet, with any influence at all, I would personally feel that I cheated myself and other people. I've worked with HIV and AIDS organizations for a long time—I've worked with Project Angel Food—and the thing is that you've got to help.

You're a human being, and other human beings are suffering. [Some] say, "I just want to make sure my groceries are paid for." That is not a decision I can stand by.

WCT: And the disadvantages?

PB:Some people won't like you. Some people will criticize you and say you should stick to your wheelhouse: directing. They will say you should direct episodes of Glee long after Glee has gone off the air. I say, "I can do that—and, even doing that, I want that to change the world, too." With Glee, a lot of people found themselves in those kids, and they found role models; they also saw that love and tolerance can actually work. So I would say that, yes, I get heat and people tell me to stick to doing what I do. But if you think I should not be saving lives, you are welcome to think that.

WCT: Did you ever meet Larry Kramer?

PB: I did. I met Larry several times. At one point, I was actually attached to direct the movie, back in the early 2000s. The rights had been bought by Anthony Edwards [best known for his role on the TV show ER] and his producing partner Dante Di Loreto, and it was going to be an independent film. So I went to New York and met [Kramer]—and I had seen him in ACT UP meetings, and I obviously knew his story because I had been in New York at the time all this happened. Eventually, it didn't get made, and it wasn't made until Ryan Murphy did it [with his 2014 movie], but it wasn't for lack of trying; we met with actors and tried to cast the movie. So I had a little bit of history with it back in the day.

WCT: Windy City Times has been doing an "HIV at 40' series this year. I've heard from different people that Larry Kramer had plenty of vitriol, but that he could be generous as well.

PB: I saw the vitriol and public display, but I never felt that Larry Kramer's anger was unjustified. That's my feeling.

I thought his anger and vitriol [were] our own inner truth. I did not feel that there was a much ego involved as some people thought. I was in the same pain he was in—and when you're in that kind of pain, you want to scream. People didn't understand and asked why he was screaming. I knew why he was screaming.

So, the public Larry Kramer, the letter-writing Larry Kramer was brutal—but it all came out of a broken heart. It all came from the pain and anguish of seeing something he thought could be prevented from happening over and over again. I'm on the pro-Larry side; it was about what was required.

WCT: Are you surprised there hasn't been an AIDS vaccine?

PB: I'm a little surprised—especially after the speed at which a coronavirus vaccine was created. There's something a little mysterious about that. I don't know why, scientifically, that hasn't happened.

WCT: Ultimately, what do you want people to take away from this reading?

PB: Ultimately, I want people to start doing things. I want people to stop expecting me and others to tilt at windmills; I think we should all be activists when injustice goes on. I hope it empowers kids to say, "Wow. Look at that story, and look at what happened when nothing happened. People didn't listen to them to say, 'I'm going to be the change.'" I do see, with this new generation, a greater openness but less fear of the establishment. I'm hoping this wakes people up—especially young gay men and women—to the fact that their voices are needed [regarding] the issues they care about.

The virtual reading will take place Saturday, Dec. 4, at 2 and 7 p.m., accompanied by a brand-new Q&A. See www.onearchives.org/normalheart/ .


This article shared 766 times since Wed Dec 1, 2021
facebook twitter pin it google +1 reddit email

  ARTICLES YOU MIGHT LIKE

Gay News

Victory Gardens presents reading of 'exercise your demons,' a play on trauma of a gay male body 2022-01-26
-- From a press release - CHICAGO, IL — Victory Gardens Theater presents the Ignite Chicago reading of exercise your demons: a play on the trauma of a gay male body written by Gage Tarlton and directed by Ryan Dobrin, with movement ...


Gay News

THEATER REVIEW The Moors 2022-01-26
- Title: The Moors. Playwright: Jen Silverman At: A Red Orchid Theatre, 1531 N. Wells St. Tickets: $30-$40; ARedOrchidTheatre.org. Runs through: Feb. 27 "I've been employed in many houses," declares newly hired Emily, following her arrival at ...


Gay News

Hell in a Handbag Productions presenting 'The Drag Seed' 2022-01-24
-- From a press release - CHICAGO (January 24, 2022) — Hell in a Handbag Productions is pleased to continue its 20th anniversary season with a revival of its popular comedy The Drag Seed, an unauthorized parody of the 1956 psychological horror-thriller ...


Gay News

PASSAGES Pansy Kings performance artist, education advocate Murray McKay 2022-01-20
- Pansy Kings performance artist, education advocate, curator, designer and LGBTQ activist Edward Murray McKay died Jan. 4 of cancer. He was 53. McKay was born Oct. 2, 1968, in Brussels, Belgium. The family moved to Toronto ...


Gay News

THEATER Red Orchid's 'The Moors' running through Feb. 27 2022-01-15
- A Red Orchid Theatre is running Jen Silverman's The Moors, directed by Artistic Director and Ensemble Member Kirsten Fitzgerald, through Feb. 27 at A Red Orchid Theatre, 1531 N. Wells St. The plot is as follows: ...


Gay News

THEATER About Face announces cast of queer-themed 'Laced' 2022-01-14
- About Face Theatre begins its 27th season with the world premiere of Samantha Mueller's drama Laced, running March 17-April 16 at the Den Theatre, 1333 N. Milwaukee Ave. Set in the aftermath of the vandalism of ...


Gay News

Black Ensemble Theatre announces 2022 Season of Excellence: The Season of Healings 2022-01-14
-- From a press release - Chicago, IL—Black Ensemble Theater's Founder and CEO Jackie Taylor announces its 2022 Season of Excellence: The Season of Healings. The 2022 Season includes four World Premiere musicals showcasing the power ...


Gay News

THEATER DuSable, puppet company to run Toni Morrison's 'The Bluest Eye' 2022-01-13
- The DuSable Museum of African American History is partnering with the 4th Chicago International Puppet Theater Festival to present a production of The Bluest Eye, based on Toni Morrison's 1970 groundbreaking coming-of-age novel. The production will ...


Gay News

THEATER 'This Is Only a Test' Feb. 11-March 12 2022-01-12
- Broken Nose Theatre, a pay-what-you-can theater company, is welcoming back live audiences this winter with the world premiere of Eric Reyes Loo's drama This Is Only a Test, directed by Toma Tavares Langston. The production will ...


Gay News

THEATER Queer-themed 'Queen of the Night' to run Jan. 29-March 13 2022-01-11
- Victory Gardens Theater is slated to open its 2021-22 Mainstage Season with Queen of the Night, written by travis tate and directed by Victory Gardens Artistic Director Ken-Matt Martin. Queen of the Night features Terry Guest ...


Gay News

THEATER 'Mary Rose' running through Feb. 12 2022-01-10
- Black Button Eyes (BBE) Productions is concluding its 2021-22 season with the world-premiere musical Mary Rose, featuring book and lyrics by Producing Artistic Director Ed Rutherford, music and lyrics by Jeff Bouthiette, direction by Ed Rutherford ...


Gay News

THEATER 'Queens of Infinite Space' canceled because of COVID 2022-01-07
- With the increase in COVID-19 cases in Chicago and beyond, Proboscis Theatre has decided to cancel the performances of The Queens of Infinite Space set to run at Epiphany Center for Arts, 201 S. Ashland Ave., ...


Gay News

THEATER Steppenwolf delays '1919' premiere due to COVID 2022-01-07
- Due to the COVID-19 surge driven by the Omicron variant, and out of an abundance of caution for public health, Steppenwolf Theatre Company has postponed its Steppenwolf for Young Adults world-premiere adaptation of Eve L. Ewing's ...


Gay News

Mercury Theater Chicago announces casting and artists for 'Women of Soul' 2022-01-06
--From a press release - Chicago —Artistic Director Christopher Chase Carter, Managing Director Shane Murray-Corcoran, and Executive Producers Walter Stearns and Eugene Dizonannounce the cast and creative team for the next Mainstage production of the ...


Gay News

THEATER Trans performer Sis is doin' fine in 'Oklahoma!' 2022-01-05
- This isn't your typical grandma's Oklahoma! The very first musical written by Rodgers and Hammerstein opened on Broadway in 1943 and continues to captivate audiences today. The dialogue remains the same, but updated casting choices have ...


 



Copyright © 2022 Windy City Media Group. All rights reserved.
Reprint by permission only. PDFs for back issues are downloadable from
our online archives. Single copies of back issues in print form are
available for $4 per issue, older than one month for $6 if available,
by check to the mailing address listed below.

Return postage must accompany all manuscripts, drawings, and
photographs submitted if they are to be returned, and no
responsibility may be assumed for unsolicited materials.
All rights to letters, art and photos sent to Nightspots
(Chicago GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times (a Chicago
Gay and Lesbian News and Feature Publication) will be treated
as unconditionally assigned for publication purposes and as such,
subject to editing and comment. The opinions expressed by the
columnists, cartoonists, letter writers, and commentators are
their own and do not necessarily reflect the position of Nightspots
(Chicago GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times (a Chicago Gay,
Lesbian, Bisexual and Transegender News and Feature Publication).

The appearance of a name, image or photo of a person or group in
Nightspots (Chicago GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times
(a Chicago Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender News and Feature
Publication) does not indicate the sexual orientation of such
individuals or groups. While we encourage readers to support the
advertisers who make this newspaper possible, Nightspots (Chicago
GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times (a Chicago Gay, Lesbian
News and Feature Publication) cannot accept responsibility for
any advertising claims or promotions.

 
 

TRENDINGBREAKINGPHOTOS







Sponsor
Sponsor


 



Donate


About WCMG      Contact Us      Online Front  Page      Windy City  Times      Nightspots      OUT! Guide     
Identity      BLACKlines      En La Vida      Archives      Advanced Search     
Windy City Queercast      Queercast Archives     
Press  Releases      Join WCMG  Email List      Email Blast      Blogs     
Upcoming Events      Todays Events      Ongoing Events      Bar Guide      Community Groups      In Memoriam      Outguide Categories      Outguide Advertisers      Search Outguide      Travel      Dining Out      Privacy Policy     

Windy City Media Group publishes Windy City Times,
The Bi-Weekly Voice of the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Trans Community.
5315 N. Clark St. #192, Chicago, IL 60640-2113 • PH (773) 871-7610 • FAX (773) 871-7609.