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“The Normal Heart” Benefit for the Houston GLBT Center on Dec. 1

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On World AIDS Day, the Center and Theatre New West present benefit staged reading of ‘The Normal Heart’ on its 25th anniversary

Representative Jessica Farrar joins event as honorary chair; local arts luminaries join cast

Twenty-five years after its premiere, The Normal Heart, Larry Kramer’s explosive drama about the early days of the AIDS crisis, remains one of the most significant works to deal with the AIDS epidemic. To commemorate the play’s twenty-fifth anniversary, the Houston GLBT Community Center and Theatre New West will present a benefit staged reading of The Normal Heart on World AIDS Day, Wednesday, December 1, at 7:30 p.m., at Stages Repertory Theatre (3201 Allen Parkway).

Tickets to The Normal Heart are $30 each (which is tax deductible). Proceeds will benefit the Center and its programs, including the weekly Center HIV Support Group.

Texas Representative Jessica Farrar (District 148) is honorary chair of the event.  Rep. Farrar is serving her eighth term in the Texas House of Representatives.

The Center and Theatre New West will host a pre-show reception at the club Guava Lamp (570 Waugh Dr., adjacent to Stages), beginning at 6:30 p.m.  A talk-back session with the director and cast and local HIV experts will follow the production.

Two well-known arts luminaries have joined the Normal Heart cast.  Roy Hamlin, associate artistic director of Theatre Under the Stars, will serve as the narrator, reading stage directions for the production.  St. John Flynn, host of “The Front Row” on KUHF Houston Public Radio and director of cultural programming for the NPR station, will perform the role of Bruce Niles.

The World AIDS Day staged reading will be a version of the critically acclaimed production of The Normal Heart presented by Theatre New West in 2006. Theatre New West artistic director Joe Watts and the actors (most of whom performed in the 2006 production) are donating their time and talent for the reading.  Stages is donating the theater space.  The Houston production has been inspired by staged readings of The Normal Heart presented this year in Los Angeles and New York and directed by Joel Grey.

“We are thrilled to partner again with Joe and Theatre New West, which has for years been a steadfast friend and supporter,” Center president Tim Brookover says.  “We are also honored that Stages Repertory Theater is donating the performance space for this benefit and that Representative Farrar, a champion of human rights, has joined us as honorary chair.”

The Houston GLBT Community Center is home base for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender individuals and allies in the metropolitan area and southeast Texas.  Founded in 1996, the Center will celebrate its fifteenth year of service in 2011. The Center is located at the Historic Dow School, 1900 Kane St., in the Old Sixth Ward Historic District.  The phone number is 713.524.3818.  The website is www.houstonglbtcommunitycenter.org.

Theatre New West is the theater company established by Joe Watts in 1983. Recent productions have included The Laramie Project and Bent. The website is www.theatrenewwest.com . Tickets for the benefit staged reading ($30) can be purchased through Theatre New West by calling 713.522.2204 or online through PayPal at the Center website, www.houstonglbtcommunitycenter.org . This is a Theatre New West production that is a benefit for Houston GLBT Community Center, please do not call Stages box office.

Quotes from Reviews of THE NORMAL HEART
Produced by Theatre New West in the fall of 2006

THE NORMAL HEART: “Heart Stopper-Theatre New West presents Larry Kramer’s revenge-and his testament.”

“Theatre New West’s production, under the stylish and prudent direction of Joe Watts, is everything Kramer’s drama aims to be, and then some.  In the intimate space of the Bering & James Gallery, the play is right in our faces.  The downsizing condenses the heat and focuses the message. With Watts’ lower-wattage approach, the anger and frustration, so much an essential element in Kramer, is accumulative; intensity remains, but without resorting to screams and rants. The play builds inexorably, so that the final scene, the quiet hospital-bedside wedding between protagonist Ned (Steve Bullitt) and dying partner Felix (Joseph Zoellers), becomes overwhelming—the distillation of all that’s come before. It has show stopping (and heart stopping) impact.
“The production is marvelously cast with an acting dream team. Bullitt’s self-effacing dignity grounds them all. He’s not as prickly as the real-life Kramer, and his subtler indignation and frustration give Ned more sympathy. Warm and believable, he’s one of us, not a legend descending from on high with holy commandments. When he incants the list of renowned gay men throughout history (the play’s most quoted scene): “I belong to a culture that includes Proust, Henry James, Tchaikovsky, Cole Porter, Plato, Socrates,” Bullitt’s clenched-jaw reading is as deafening as a thunder clap.”
—D. L. Groover,
Houston Press

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“With a stellar cast and superb direction, Theatre New West’s production of The Normal Heart is compelling and chilling. Steve Bullitt delivers a brilliant portrayal of activist Ned Weeks, making the audience feel directly involved in his cause.
“Watts is realizing his dream with his masterful direction of The Normal Heart. He, like Kramer, is a leader in the AIDS awareness movement. The year Kramer’s play made its debut in New York (1985), Watts produced and directed the first AIDS themed play in Houston—a one-man production about a man living with the disease entitled One. The Houston Post named the production in it’s TOP 10 of that year. The production was the first “theater benefit” for the newly formed KS/AIDS Foundation, which is now AIDS Foundation Houston. Though the face of AIDS in our nation has changed dramatically since the virus was first identified twenty-five years ago, The Normal Heart still beats powerfully.”
—Isabel Rougeau, ArtsHouston


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