Broadway and television stars take center stage in Arena Stage’s new production.
By Kinne Chapin
AIDS is demanding attention in D.C. this year, and not a moment too soon– the virus affects 3% of Washington’s population in comparison with 1% of the general population, according to the World Health Organization. This year, the 2012 International AIDS Conference will come to the District, providing the optimal opportunity to talk about how we can better the health of our city. But the discussion needn’t end in the conference room – the July Conference will be associated with an independent artistic performance for the first time, Arena Stage‘s production of the 2011 Broadway hit The Normal Heart.
The Normal Heart follows a group of friends striving and struggling to adapt as the AIDS epidemic sweeps New York City in the early 1980s. The play first made a splash off-Broadway in 1985, and received high praise from critics for its 2011 Broadway revival. This summer it will debut in D.C., playing at the Arena Stage from June 8 to July 29. The Arena Stage production will feature many of the names who made the sold-out Broadway season unforgettable. Director George C. Wolfe will return, as will cast members Patrick Breen and Luke MacFarlane. They will be joined by TV actress Patricia Wettig of Prison Break and Brothers and Sisters, as well as Tom Berklund, Michael Beresse, and many others.
The play’s author, Larry Kramer, is excited to see his work premiere in Washington. Kramer notes, “I consider Washington my hometown and it’s been exceedingly upsetting to me that it’s taken so long for The Normal Heart to be professionally produced there and doubly exciting that Arena is doing it at last…This is the most important city for this play. I hope Washington will respond to it as it finally joins with the many productions it’s had all over the world.”
In conjunction with the performance, Arena Stage will partner with the International AIDS Conference and other organizations to hold events focused on raising awareness about the disease. Portions of the AIDS memorial quilt will be on display in the Mead Center. There will also be several panel discussions following matinee performances to discuss the way that AIDS currently influences our society, as well as a benefit performance of the production on July 23, in conjunction with the Washington AIDS Partnership.
AIDS may continue to affect our society– but with the help of The Normal Heart and Arena Stage, perhaps Washington can begin a discussion about systematic change.