Monday, June 1, 2020

Weekly Margin 2020, W22: A Fallen Fighter

I almost didn't post any of this. It all seems so meaningless, and everything feels so hopeless. The Black Lives Matter movement has been fighting for six years, a fight that has been treading the same infuriating ground for a century longer than that with the simple plea from Black people: stop killing us. Recognize that we are human. Recognize that we matter.

And they're still getting killed. They're still getting murdered, treated with mistrust, given no dignity, no way to safely exist in the world. Lynchings are alive and well and flourishing in the U.S.

So who cares what theater I saw this past week. I honestly don't. I wrote it down, out of habit only. Right now I feel so hopeless about so many things. But because this past week Larry Kramer died, someone who continued to fight when everyone tried to shout him down, who fought for decades, I want to at least say this:

Last week we lost Larry Kramer, a titan of queer writing and activism. He stoked his rage in the inferno of the AIDS crisis, lived with HIV for decades, and survived liver disease and a transplant. He lived longer than statistics said he should have. He lived so long that I expected him to live forever, fueled by his anger at humanity's failings, a twin flame with his belief that there is that within us which can do better, which should do better, which must do better.

He wrote The Normal Heart after he was kicked out of the Gay Men's Health Crisis, an organization he helped found. It is a howling cry of anger, an extended wail of grief. It is also, if you pay attention, a demonstration that even at your most helpless and scared, you can try to do something. Raul Esparza pointed out during the 2004 Off-Broadway revival in which he starred, that it plays now like a Greek tragedy, the audience and players knowing now what none of the characters knew in the play: the name of the disease, the scope and danger of it, and that it still cuts a swath through underprivileged communities. When the play was again revived in 2011, this time on Broadway, Larry Kramer stood by the door, handing out flyers to exiting patrons, reminding them that the events of the play are true, that nearly every character depicted in The Normal Heart is now dead, and that the so far unwinnable fight against the ravages of AIDS continues. He handed out these flyers because he was still fighting, because he had never stopped fighting.

We didn't deserve a man like Larry Kramer, but he fought for us anyway. We didn't deserve him, but we can try to earn him.

Streaming Theater-Related Content I Watched

Theater Developments

  • Playwright and activist Larry Kramer passed away from pneumonia at the age of 84.
  • The Drama Desk Awards, previously scheduled to be held online on May 31, have been postponed.

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