A Tough Discussion with “The Normal Heart”

 Life Magazine
“The Normal Heart” takes audiences back to 1981. 

Student-led production pays tribute to marginalized community

KENNESAW, Ga. (Jan 31, 2020) — Students in the Department of Theatre and Performance Studies (TPS) are tackling complicated issues in their upcoming production of Larry Kramer’s “The Normal Heart,” a heart-wrenching piece centered around the early years of the HIV/AIDS epidemic in New York City. The entire creative team for this production is comprised of current TPS students, including senior Zach Elton as Director, and will be performed at the Onyx Theater February 18-23.

“The Normal Heart,” a largely autobiographical piece by playwright Larry Kramer, takes audiences back to 1981 and shows the rise of the HIV/AIDS crisis through the eyes of writer and activist Ned Weeks, the gay founder of a prominent HIV advocacy group. Weeks, notorious for being exceptionally passionate and obstinate, navigates through the media and the political system in order to identify this disease affecting the gay male community and bring awareness to the issue before the death toll mounts even higher. Despite his efforts, he and the community he represents are essentially ignored. Kramer’s overwhelming story, constructed through the directorial vision of Elton, leaves audiences reflecting on the lives lost and how society has (or has not) changed since the time of this story.

Normal Heart“I take pride in telling a story that is so often overlooked,” says Elton. “The early years of the AIDS epidemic are rarely studied in our classrooms…we aren’t exposed to the pain, fear, rage, and love that united these men through one of the most horrific epidemics of the past 100 years…the only way we can break down the stigmas surrounding the AIDS crisis is to start a discussion.”

 “Our job as cast and crew is not only to educate our audience,” Elton continues, “but also to honor those who so needlessly died. Our job is to give these men more life and more love than they received in their lifetimes. By doing so, I hope to foster empathy, understanding, and above all else, love.”

 “‘The Normal Heart’ was born thanks to Zach Elton’s noteworthy initiative and vision,” says Karen Robinson, Assistant Chair of TPS and Artistic Director. “His impassioned advocacy for telling this particular story about the AIDS crisis in the gay community, combined with his strategic approach to his directorial training in the program, inspired our Season Selection Committee to offer him to direct in the season. The fact that he is leading this project is a testament to our Department’s desire to empower our students to take on leadership roles when they demonstrate this kind of excellence and preparedness.”

While all productions through TPS provide excellent opportunities for its students, this show in particular holds great importance to the student-driven creative team: “This show is an opportunity for us to put the skills that we have learned during our time at KSU into practice and show ourselves and our professors that we are ready to move from a collegiate to a professional atmosphere,” adds Elton.

Grab the tissues and prepare for a difficult story that will inspire and create discussions about a marginalized community with the College of the Art’s production of “The Normal Heart.” Shows will run February 18 through 23 at the Onyx Theater on the Kennesaw Campus. An insightful pre-show discussion on AIDS activism, featuring School of Art and Design Professor Robert Sherer and Director Zachary Elton, will be held on Wednesday, February 19 at 6:30 p.m. This pre-show discussion is free for any ticketed patrons. Tickets are $10-12 and are available at ticketing.kennesaw.edu.


Watch cast/director videos and learn more!