Pitt State Theatre presents show that explores AIDS crisis 

Next up by Pitt State Theatre: a raw and heartfelt production that is considered the first to seriously examine the subject of the AIDS crisis. 

Based on the real-life experiences of playwright Larry Kramer, The Normal Heart will be produced by Pitt State Theatre in the Miller Theater at the Bicknell Family Center for the Arts April 21-24.  

The year is 1982, and New York City journalist Ned Weeks has learned of a new virus devastating the gay community as several of his young, healthy friends seemingly drop dead.  

Along with friends and volunteers, they rally together, fighting for answers and assistance from the government.  

Weeks is an outspoken man, who along with a newly formed organization of activists, fiercely fights when the mayor of New York shrugs off AIDS as a non-issue. 

Kramer’s work, which delves into how humans express love and the importance of social activism, won a Tony Award and Drama Desk Award.  

“This is a passion project for me and a love letter to the experience of being a queer person whether now or 40 years ago,” said graduate student Cooper Dammrich of Olathe, Kansas, who directs the production. 

The action of the play spans five years, as the characters battle interpersonal conflicts, discrimination, learn to grow closer to each other, and increase in their own self-understanding. 

“The timeliness of this piece amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic mirrors the same themes of hysteria, misinformation, and governmental distrust experienced during the AIDS crisis,” Dammrich said. 

The cast of The Normal Heart features Bryce Presley (Lee’s Summit, Missouri), Dane DeTar (Coffeyville, Kansas), Michaela Henningsen (Joplin, Missouri), Josh Ramsey (Altamont, Kansas), Rashid M. Bey (Kansas City, Missouri), Westin Friederich (Le Mars, Iowa), Jerry Middleton (Parsons, Kansas), Ian Lee (Topeka, Kansas), DJ Ortiz (Pittsburg), and Eli Blankley (Emporia, Kansas). 

The production staff includes Associate Instructional Professor Linden Little as scenic and lighting designer, PSU Costume Designer Lisa Quinteros, and Jenna Russell (Oswego, Kansas) as hair and makeup artist. 

Performances will be at 7:30 p.m. April 21-23 and 2 p.m. April 23-24.  

Tickets: 

Tickets are $12 for general admission, $7 for those 17 and under or adults 65 and older, and free to all PSU students/faculty/staff with a valid PSU photo ID (must pick up in the PSU Ticket Office in person).  

Tickets are available through the PSU Ticket Office in Room 137 Weede Physical Education Building. Tickets may also be purchased by calling 620-235-4796, online, or at the door approximately 30 minutes prior to curtain.  

Purchasing tickets in advance is strongly encouraged. The play is intended for mature audiences.

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