Saturday, July 23, 2011

INSIDE STORIES PODCAST 29: LARRY KRAMER'S PLAY "THE NORMAL HEART"



Hot off the proverbial presses, the latest Inside Stories podcast. Listen on the player above, or subscribe to the podcast series here. This episode is a radio segment I produced for the arts and culture program Studio 360, about the recent Broadway revival of Larry Kramer's 1985 play "The Normal Heart." 

I happened to see the revival on opening night, which was a treat. In attendance was the biggest concentration of stars I'd ever encountered in person: Sarah Jessica Parker, Matthew Broderick, Nathan Lane, Rose Perez, Gabriel Byrne, and film director Alejandro González Iñárritu. I also managed to crash the opening night party, with a ticket generously supplied to me by the show's star, Joe Mantello. Just goes to show, it doesn't hurt to ask. Well, if he were a less gracious person, maybe he'd have punched me in the nose, and it would have hurted to ask. But as it happened, he was very friendly. Thanks, Joe!

Anyway. The play takes place in the early 1980s, as activists organize against the burgeoning epidemic. The play is often polemical, but wow are the polemics excellent! I left the theater enraged all over again at how AIDS was ignored then (President Reagan famously did not even publicly utter the word "AIDS" until years into his tenure), and, to a lesser extent, how the battle against it is underfunded now. I got to wondering how this play was being received by young audiences today (especially those born after the original 1985 production), as compared to its reception in 1985, when it was first produced. So that's what the segment is about.

Studio 360 is a co-production of Public Radio International and WNYC Radio. Thanks to the show for permission to re-use the segment as a podcast episode, and for everything else. Thanks in particular to staffers David Krasnow and Josh Rogosin, and host Kurt Andersen.

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