Written by Jamie Fuller. Media by Zach Bonner
When I left my faculty position at Greenville College last year to pursue an MFA in stage management from the University of Illinois, I already knew 3 things: 1. I was ridiculously blessed by this opportunity, 2. my faith was one of the few things unwelcome in the theatre world, and 3. I would be working on The Normal Heart.
What I didn’t expect was that I would have my faith both challenged and strengthened while working on The Normal Heart, nor that I would walk away completely captivated by the story and truth of the show.
In the midst of the 80s AIDS crisis, a love story between 2 gay men, and playwright Larry Kramer‘s angry railings against everyone imaginable —the straight world, the gay world, Christians, non-Christians, the rich, the government, etc.— lives The Normal Heart. And it is tragic. And beautiful.
The play follows Ned Weeks, writer, ranter, and activist, as he traverses the beginning of the AIDS epidemic and fights to make those around him, and the world, understand the gravity of the disease. He is joined by Felix Turner, his lover, Dr. Emma Brookner, a medical pioneer, and a myriad of friends and fellow fighters, all of whom are impacted by the epidemic in different ways. Each and every one of them are captivating and commendable due to a mesh of Kramer’s writing and the ridiculous talent of those who make up this show.
So what’s my point? Why should you, a GC student currently living 2 hours south of Urbana, IL care about this performance? Because readyor not, real life is coming for you. Sooner rather than later you will find yourself living outside the Greenville College community (ahh! I used the word!) and will have to decide who you are as a person, as a coworker, and as a Christian. You will have to choose what you care about, who you care for, and what beliefs you make public knowledge. And the world you’re getting ready to walk into looks an awful lot like the world reflected in The Normal Heart.
Personally, my views on everything from homosexuality to the excellence of this play are controversial in the Christian world, but it’s because of my experience both inside and outside the Christian community that I’ve been able to form those foundations and opinions; opinions that have been strengthened by the message of The Normal Heart.
The message of The Normal Heart is a challenge. A challenge to those who let this epidemic run rampant without acknowledging it was killing off a population, a challenge to the audience to not forget that this happened or to let it happen again, and a challenge to our current society to choose caring for all people over the ignorance of hate. Personally, I will walk away from The Normal Heart with a better understanding of my faith, as well as a deeper commitment to love everyone as a child of God.
Does some of the ‘stronger language’ bother me at times? Sure. Would some at GC be uncomfortable with the portrayal of homosexuality on stage? Yup. Would the Factory Theatre ever do this show? No way. And that is why I love it. Seeking truth at GC is an incredibly important part of each student’s education. Seeking truth outside of GC will be the challenge you are faced with for the rest of your life. And The Normal Heart is filled with potent and powerful truth that cannot be ignored.
The Normal Heart runs March 28–30, and April 2–7 at Krannert Center for the Performing Art’s Studio Theatre in Urbana, IL. For tickets, please call 1-800-KCPATIX or swing by krannertcenter.com.