21 June 2012

"PLEASE KNOW" by Larry Kramer

The George C. Wolfe-directed Tony Award winning production of "The Normal Heart," Larry Kramer's 1985 masterpiece, is at DC's Arena Stage through July 29, 2012. This production is perfectly timed to coincide with some upcoming
 HIV/AIDS-related events in the city, like the  International AIDS Conference (July 22-27, 2012).

If you are looking for a review, head over to Washington Post's Peter Marks, whose review is spot on. I'm taking this opportunity instead to share the June 2012 edition of Mr. Kramer's "The Normal Heart" exit-letter:

By Larry Kramer
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 I could. Several more have died since, including Bruce (whose name was Paul Popham), and Tommy, (whose name was Rodger McFarlane and who became my best friend, and who after building three gay/AIDS agencies from the ground up, committed suicide in despair), and Emma (whose name was Dr. Linda Laubenstein), after a return bout of polio and another trip to an iron lung. On his deathbed at Memorial, Paul called me (we’d not spoken since our last fight in this play) and told me to never stop fighting.

Four members of the original cast died as well, including my dear sweet friend Brad Davis, the original Ned, whom I knew from practically the moment he got off the bus from Florida, a shy kid so very intent on becoming a fine actor, which he did.

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 amount of 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—Russia, India, Southeast Asia, Africa—the numbers of the infected and the dying are so grotesquely high they are rarely acknowledged.

Please know that all efforts at prevention and education continue their unending record of abject failure.

Please know that there is no one in charge of this plague. This is a war for which there is no general and for which there has never been a general. How can you win a war with no one in charge?

Please know that every single president beginning with Ronald Reagan (who would not say the word 'AIDS' publicly for seven years), said nothing and done 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 an awful lot of people have needlessly died and will continue to needlessly die because of any and all of the above.

Please know that as I write this, the world has suffered at the very least some 75 million infections and 35 million deaths. When the action of the play that you have just seen begins, there were 41.

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.


Incidentally, here's a piece (from May 2011) in which Ms. Barbra Streisand sets the record straight about the sad story behind their version of "The Normal Heart" film that never was (via Playbill's Andrew Gans).