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 Pre-order Book!
Pre-order Book!
Donate

Sponsor
Sponsor

  WINDY CITY TIMES

THEATER Larry Kramer (1935-2020), polemicist and playwright
by Jonathan Abarbanel, Theater Editor
2020-05-30

This article shared 2904 times since Sat May 30, 2020
facebook twitter pin it google +1 reddit email


Larry Kramer was an angry man and he made sure people knew it. The language of his public discourse—the hundreds of articles he wrote and speeches he made, his novels and plays—drips with venom, insult, sarcasm, accusation, curse, self-righteousness, exaggeration, provocation and plea.

It's remarkable, then, that in private he could be exceptionally soft-spoken and self-effacing without any of the ringing rhetoric one associates with him. That's the way he was some years ago when I interviewed him in his hotel room—just the two of us talking and drinking tea without a publicist or handler. His intelligence and commitment were obvious, as were his passion and dissatisfaction with so much he saw around him. Yes, his anger was apparent, too, but it had a much more gracious face in our one-on-one setting and even came with kindness, smiles and generosity. You see, Larry Kramer was a professional polemicist and provocateur, and words were his skill set, his toolkit, his weapons—but they were not all of who he was.

AIDS made Kramer an activist, an organizer, a political figure, and a lightning rod for dissent, opposition and suasion. He gained the experience to do these things as a multitasking film writer and movie producer, which was his work in the 1960s and 1970s, and which made him financially secure. In part, his financial independence allowed him to dedicate his very considerable energy, drive and focus to the cause of AIDS activism. One facet of that activism was playwriting.

The critical reception for Kramer's early plays was checkered, and at one point in the 1970s he vowed he'd never write for theater again. However, the AIDS crisis changed his mind in 1984 and he remained devoted to the art form. He did not write the first play about AIDS ( that honor belongs to the late Chicago/Milwaukee playwright Jeff Hagedorn and his play, One ) but he wrote one of the first successful plays about AIDS, The Normal Heart, which opened at the Public Theatre in New York in May 1985, just weeks after William M. Hoffman's As Is also opened successfully off-Broadway.

These two works became the first widely produced dramas about the AIDS pandemic. They are successful because both Hoffman and Kramer wisely chose to frame their passionate political arguments ( especially Kramer ) in human terms. Both plays are structured around enduring gay relationships, and the loss and devastation wrought by AIDS.

The Normal Heart first was seen in Chicago in a brilliant 1986 production at the Next Theatre Company, in Evanston. The production won four Joseph Jefferson Awards, among them the Jeff for Outstanding Production. Eric Simonson—long before he won an Oscar and became a Steppenwolf ensemble member—was the director.

Kramer wrote three more plays revolving around the AIDS crisis in various ways, of which The Destiny of Me ( 1992 ) was the most widely produced and successful. He was working on a new play at the time of his death, An Army of Lovers Must Not Die, a response to the COVID-19 pandemic. If the work was far enough along, one hopes the text might be published, so we can see if Kramer's approach to a different pandemic is equally as political and personal as his AIDS-related plays.

Here's the thing: Every social or political movement needs—no, requires—polemics and at least one incredibly skilled polemicist, because the political needle never moves without pushing, shoving, shouting and influencing. Think of how Tom Paine's Common Sense seeded the American Revolution, or Harriet Beecher Stowe's Uncle Tom's Cabin supported the Abolitionist Movement. Larry Kramer held everyone's fingers to the fire—even his own—and justifiably so. He greatly inspired a generation of younger writers who followed, with Tony Kushner ( Angels in America ) perhaps chief among them.

Larry Kramer wrote only six plays, one of which never has been produced. We can only speculate and wonder how many more plays, novels and films this gifted wordsmith might have spun if writing fiction had been all he had on his mind. In the end, though, writing was not his purpose but only a means; his art was subsumed by his mission. We are richer for that, and the world has changed because of his loud, constant, often shrill voice. Sometimes that's how you have to be, and what you have to do in order to move the needle. The LGBTQ world as it exists today would not be the same without Larry Kramer, who took upon himself the task of being Our Voice for 40 years. No, we didn't appoint him to the job, but it doesn't matter. He spoke Truth to Power, which we always must cherish, especially now when it's becoming a rare commodity.

Jonathan Abarbanel is Windy City Times' theater editor and a member of the American Theatre Critics Association.


This article shared 2904 times since Sat May 30, 2020
facebook twitter pin it google +1 reddit email





Windy City Media Group does not approve or necessarily agree with the views posted below.
Please do not post letters to the editor here. Please also be civil in your dialogue.
If you need to be mean, just know that the longer you stay on this page, the more you help us.


  ARTICLES YOU MIGHT LIKE

Gay News

Citadel Theatre to return in fall with a four-show 2021-22 season
2021-05-08
--From a press release - LAKE FOREST, IL - Citadel Theatre Company will return to live, in-person, indoor performances in September with a season of four productions — three plays plus the company's traditional holiday musical - according to Artistic Director ...


Gay News

Cast announced for May 18 virtual reading of JEFFREY
2021-05-06
--From a press release - CHICAGO — PrideArts today announced the full cast for its upcoming reading of Paul Rudnick's comedy JEFFREY. David Belew, founder and former artistic director of Eclectic Full Contact Theatre, will direct a cast that will include ...


Gay News

Heather Headley to headline Goodman Theatre's May 22 virtual gala
2021-05-03
Goodman Theatre announced that Tony-winning Broadway actor and Grammy Award-winning singer Heather Headley will headline the company's "Together Center Stage" virtual 2021 gala fundraiser. "Together Center Stage" is slated to stream Saturday, May 22, ...


Gay News

THEATER Artistic Director Anna Shapiro leaving Steppenwolf post
2021-05-03
Anna D. Shapiro—the artistic director of the Steppenwolf Theatre Company since 2015—will leave her post when her contract expires in August. Over the last several months, Shapiro has been working ...


Gay News

Actress Olympia Dukakis dies at 89
2021-05-01
Olympia Dukakis—who won an Oscar for her supporting role in the 1987 hit Moonstruck and starred in Look Who's Talking and Mr. Holland's Opus as well as iterations of TV's Tales of the City—died May 1 at her home in New York City ...


Gay News

VIRTUAL THEATER Oak Park Festival Theatre to present 'The Venetians'
2021-04-28
Oak Park Festival Theatre, in partnership with Kane Repertory Theatre, is presenting a virtual production of The Venetians, a new play by Matt Barbot that brings together various characters from several of Shakespeare's best-loved plays to ...


Gay News

PASSAGES: AIDS activist, anti-imperalist organizer Tryfan Morys Eibhlyn Llwyd
2021-04-25
Longtime AIDS activist and anti-imperalist organizer Tryfan Morys Eibhlyn Llwyd (also known as Arawn Eibhlyn, and who uses the pronouns they/them/their) died March 3 in Louisville, Kentucky due to natural causes. They were 70. Llwyd was ...


Gay News

Body of 19-year-old Chicago Black trans woman found in June 2020, identified April 2021
2021-04-24
On June 6, 2020, the body of an unidentified young Black trans person was found in an abandoned building at 7908 S Laflin in Chicago. https://twitter.com/KaylaraOwl/status/1292173435750277123 . Koko Nia Labeija was born 29 May 2001 in ...


Gay News

PASSAGES Retired Chicago Police Commander Nancy Y. Lipman dies
2021-04-22
Retired Chicago Police Commander Nancy Y. Lipman died April 11 due to complications from ovarian cancer. She was 61. Lipman was born Jan. 21, 1960 in Chicago and graduated from Morgan Park High School. She also ...


Gay News

PASSAGES Donald Duane Slater
2021-04-20
Donald Duane Slater, age 73, of Kalamazoo Michigan made his transition on April 8, 2021 in his home, of natural causes. Don worked in several bars in the 1970's and 80's. Among them the Glory Hole ...


Gay News

THEATER 'A Portrait of My Mother' to start streaming May 9
2021-04-08
Jarrott Productions will present the world premiere of A Portrait of My Mother, written and performed by Carlo Lorenzo Garcia and directed by David R. Jarrott. The autobiographical tribute to Garcia's mother, Maria, begins streaming on ...


Gay News

Mercury Theater to reopen; new artistic director named
2021-04-07
Mercury Theater Chicago, 3745 N. Southport Ave., has announced its reopening—along with new leadership. New Artistic Director Christopher Chase Carter returns to the theater where he collaborated on the hit productions of Little Shop of Horrors ...


Gay News

Story of Chicagoan and Broadway influencer Sister Rosetta Tharpe on to Broadway
2021-04-06
--From a press release - NEW YORK (April 4, 2021) — Prolific writer and Chicago native Cheryl L. West (FANNIE: The Music and Life of Fannie Lou Hamer; Jar the Floor), will be joined on the creative team of SHOUT SISTER ...


Gay News

Longtime LGBTQ activist Julie Valloni dies
2021-04-06
Longtime LGBTQ activist Julie Valloni died March 28 in Rockford, Illinois due to complications from a hip fracture. She was 80. Valloni was born July 12, 1940 and grew up in Chicago where she graduated from ...


Gay News

THEATER 'Security,' with Eric Roberts, running April 10-May 2
2021-04-05
Kane Repertory Theatre Artistic Director Daniil Krimer and Managing Director Avery Bowne announced the world-premiere online production of Hammaad Chaudry's Security, as part of the company's new Multiplatform Commission. Security ...


 



Copyright © 2021 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.