A play on emotion

‘The Normal Heart’ opens Nov. 2; AIDS/HIV activist to speak

October 24, 2017

Lead actors Ned, left, played by Derek Johnson, talks with Felix, played by Christian Krohn, during a rehearsal for UW-Stout’s production of “The Normal Heart.”

A drama about the early years of the AIDS epidemic in New York will be performed at University of Wisconsin-Stout.

University Theatre is staging “The Normal Heart” at Harvey Hall Theatre. Show times are 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 2, through Saturday, Nov. 4, as well as Friday, Nov. 10, and Saturday, Nov. 11. A matinee will be at 1:30 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 11.

Tickets are $12. They can be purchased online and at the Service Center at the Memorial Student Center, 715-232-1122.

Preceding opening night, nationally known AIDS/HIV activist Dab Garner will speak from 6 to 7 p.m. at the theater, with a reception from 7 to 7:20 p.m. The talk, which is free, is co-sponsored by the Qube, part of UW-Stout’s LGBTQIA+ office.

According to his website, Garner was one of the first people in the U.S. diagnosed with HIV, then called GRID, in 1982. He was diagnosed several months after the deaths of a partner and a friend.

I speak at over 150 events a year in 10 countries including AIDS walks, rides, conferences, LGBT Prides, health fairs, women's events, colleges, high school and pretty much anywhere they will put a microphone in my hand,” he said.

Paul CalenbergThe play is set in the early 1980s when the AIDS epidemic began. Gay activist Larry Kramer wrote the play in 1985 after seeing the tragic effects of indifference and lack of response to the disease in New York.

“The Normal Heart” is for a mature audience, Calenberg said. It was made into an HBO movie in 2014 starring Mark Ruffalo, Julia Roberts and Jim Parsons, winning two Emmys.

“One of the reasons I chose this play is because of its historical significance. While teaching Gay Theatre, it has become increasingly apparent that students have little or no understanding of the impact the AIDS epidemic had on the gay community,” said Paul Calenberg, University Theatre director.

“Gay history is often overlooked in academia, and this play gives an empathetic examination of the devastating impact that indifference by political and social organizations can have on lives. At its core the play is a story of love and loss,” he added.

Lead roles in UW-Stout’s production are played by students Derek Johnson, of Riverside, Ill., as Ned; and Christian Krohn, of Oakdale, Minn., as Felix.

Felix, on floor, played by Christian Krohn, responds to Ned, played by Derek Johnson.The cast of 12 students and their majors are:

  • Jonah Brandt, of Janesville, real estate property management
  • Lois Cassell, of Ivory Coast, psychology
  • Spencer Davidsz, of Oak Creek, engineering technology
  • Kyle Fillmore, of Wisconsin Rapids, computer networking and information technology
  • Derek Johnson, of Riverside, Ill., applied mathematics and computer science
  • Garrett Kinser, of Hixton, graphic design and interactive media
  • Christian Krohn, of Oakdale, Minn., game design and development
  • Jacob Masbruch, of West Milwaukee, family and consumer sciences education
  • Matthew Matysik, of Sheboygan, hotel, restaurant and tourism management
  • Jacob Mueller, of St. Charles, Minn., undeclared
  • Kevin Pelzel, of Hudson, computer engineering
  • Rebecca Watring, of Madison, construction

Scenic and lighting design are by Assistant Professor Jennifer Sansfacon. Costume design is by Barb Weisenberger, of Eau Claire; and dramaturg by student Rebecca Olson.

Harvey Hall Theatre reopened in 2011 after renovation and reopened again in 2016 after the renovation of Harvey Hall, which is 101 years old. The theater is in the League of Historic American Theatres.

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Photos

Top: Lead actors Ned, left, played by Derek Johnson, talks with Felix, played by Christian Krohn, during a rehearsal for UW-Stout’s production of “The Normal Heart.”

Middle: Paul Calenberg

Bottom: Felix, on floor, played by Christian Krohn, responds to Ned, played by Derek Johnson, during a rehearsal for UW-Stout’s production of “The Normal Heart.”