The Indiana University Department of Theatre and Drama announces the 2012 Ralph L. Collins Memorial Lecture. Award-winning playwright, social activist, and humanitarian Larry Kramer appeared March 1, 2012, in the Wells-Metz Theatre.
Feisty and fearless in expressing his opinions, playwright, screenwriter, novelist, and AIDS activist, Larry Kramer is a pioneer, perhaps the pioneer in the fight against AIDS. He is the co-founder of the Gay Men’s Health Crisis; the first world HIV/AIDS service organization, and the founder of ACT UP, the international activist group responsible for the development and release of the most HIV/AIDS treatments.
As a playwright, Kramer is probably best known for The Normal Heart (1985), an autobiographical drama that was one of the first theatrical productions to tackle the topic of AIDS. Many critics consider The Normal Heart to be the touchstone of the literature of AIDS and Britain’s National Theatre selected the play as one of the 100 Best Plays of the 20th Century. Additionally, the play was awarded the Dramatists Guild’s Marton Award, City Lights Award for best play of the year, the Sarah Siddons Award for the best play of the year, and a nomination for the Olivier Award for Best Play. The Normal Heart is the longest running play on the stage of New York’s Public Theater. Shortly after the play’s run at The Public Theater, Kramer was named Man of the Year (1986) by the California-based Aid for AIDS and was awarded an Arts and Communication Award from the Human Rights Campaign Fund in 1987.
Called his “masterwork of love, rage, and pride”, it was revived on Broadway and was the winner of 3 TONY Awards in 2011, including Best Revival of a Play, 3 Drama Desk awards, 1 Outer Critics Circle award, and received the New York Drama Circle’s Special Citation award. Of the play, Kramer has said, “I got involved in the AIDS mess early on—I lost two friends and someone I was in love with—and I knew it was the saddest thing I’d ever know. And it was obscenely difficult to get anyone to pay attention to AIDS. There’s a line in the play in which the young man who’s dying says, ‘There’s not a good word to be said for anybody in this entire mess.’ It seems to me that was what had to be said.” After performances of the Broadway run, Kramer stood out and greeted the audience, passing out letters that gave information about AIDS, as well as the people who inspired the characters seen in the play.
Some of Kramer’s other plays include, Just Say No, Sissies’ Scrapbook, The Furniture of Home, and The Destiny of Me, a sequel to The Normal Heart. While its reputation is not quite as monumental as The Normal Heart, The Destiny of Me won an Obie for Best Play and was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize in 1993, losing to Kushner’s Angel’s in America. Kramer is also well known for his screenplay adaptation of D. H. Lawrence’s Women in Love, which was nominated by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences and the British Academy of Film and Television Arts for Best Screenplay. Since 1978, Kramer has been researching and writing a novel called The American People. Now over 4,000 pages long, the novel has been described as Kramer’s magnum opus, a chronicle of the history of homosexuality in America, culminating with the AIDS plague. Farrar, Straus and Giroux recently announced that they will publish the work in two volumes. The first volume is scheduled to appear in the spring of 2012.
In 2001 Kramer achieved another of his life’s goals when he convinced his alma mater, Yale University, to support an academic position in gay and lesbian studies. Kramer was the first openly gay person to receive a Public Service Award from Common Cause when he became the recipient of the Award in Literature from the American Academy of Arts and Letters. Kramer and his lover, architect/designer David Webster, live in New York and Connecticut.
A great man of our times and a great man of the theatre, Larry Kramer is always an exciting presence and a passionate speaker.