Lexington theater group brings HIV/AIDS story to the stage

by Leah Bomar

A local production of The Normal Heart brings the critically acclaimed “searing,” “passionate” and “controversial” play to Lexington, making its debut at the Pam Miller Downtown Arts Center April 1-10, 2022.

Produced by ActOut Theatre Group, who’s mission is to promote thought provoking LGBTQ+ themed theatre in and around Central Kentucky, the semi-autobiographical play written by Larry Kramer highlights the early 1980’s struggle to gain awareness of how HIV/AIDS was ravaging the gay community.

“We chose this play for a variety of reasons, including the timelessness of the pandemic vs. the pandemic,” said the director, Marty Wayman. 

“There is an amazing parallel in the play where they were doing all the things young people still do now… going out to bars, going out with strangers, not using condoms.  People aren’t paying attention. HIV and AIDS are still out there.”

The second Friday showing on April 8th will host a special “Talk Back” session after the performance with community advocates and medical personnel including HIV/AIDS healthcare professionals and members of AVOL Kentucky, the Aids Volunteers of Lexington.

Playwright and gay activist Larry Kramer published a personal letter telling audiences about the real lives and deaths of men the play was based on and can be read on the ActOut website.  This live production includes one monologue from the movie version of The Normal Heart released in 2014, also written by Kramer.

The words HIV or AIDS are not even used in the play because in the early days of the pandemic the deadly virus had no name or treatment.  Presidents and politician refused to acknowledge the “plague” for years, resulting in the continued spread of the virus and misinformation.

“The younger generation doesn’t understand even hospitals were afraid to help.  People were dying and we didn’t know what from.  Back then when they begged to be tested, the doctors didn’t even know what to test for!”

The audience will get an up close and personal experience in the intimate setting where the actors always remain on stage, sitting in donated chairs from the AVOL office where actual HIV and AIDS patients sit and meet for therapies. 

“Even the chairs used on stage have a powerful history and I’m honored to have them and bring this story to the community.  I hope when people leave the theatre, they feel they are a part of that group of men in the 1980’s.  Cause they were real people and I want them to feel the puzzlement and confusion of all the people from then.  We need to keep the history of the AIDS crisis alive.  It’s still going on.”

Tickets can be purchased at https://bit.ly/NormalHeartTickets or by calling (859) 425-2550.  The boxoffice located at Pam Miller Downtown Arts Center, 141 East Main Street, Lexington, Kentucky.

Learn more at https://www.facebook.com/actoutky

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