Opening Thursday, Oct. 8, the play is set against the historical backdrop of the initial discovery of HIV/AIDS in New York City in the early 1980s. It recounts Jewish-American writer and gay rights activist Ned Weeks’ one-man struggle to raise awareness of an unidentified disease that was killing off an oddly specific group of people in the city, gay men.
Faculty member Patricia Lin Ridge, director of the play, wants the public and especially modern gays to understand the history of the HIV/AIDS virus, what the first victims of the disease went through and what people still go through today.
“I was there when the discovery of AIDS happened, and it was very frightening,” said Ridge, “and no one would do anything about it.”
She believes that today’s gay men, around the world and especially on a college campus, need to know this history and to be more careful.
“To me, it’s a cautionary tale,” she said, “because, while HIV/AIDS is controlled right now, this is the age of these super bugs, so the chance of it staying completely controlled is uncertain.”
However, Ridge said, “The Normal Heart” is more than a history lesson.
It also tells a story about affection, personal relationships and loss, and the resentment and rage caused by the indifference exhibited by both public officials and the gay community in the face of a pandemic.
“But it also offers insights and perspectives on death and dying that will leave the audience inspired,” Ridge said. “Every night there will be an outstanding performance.”
Ridge has planned brief question-and-answer sessions with the actors after each show so audience members can ask any questions they might have about the history of AIDS and preparation required of the actors for their roles.
“The Normal Heart” runs from Thursday, Oct. 8, through Sunday, Oct. 11. All performances will take place in the Diversions Lounge Theatre, located in the Holmes Student Center. Performances start promptly at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights, and at 2 p.m. Saturday and Sunday afternoons.
All general admission tickets are $7. For more information, call (815) 753-1600 or email [email protected].