Broadway Revival of Larry Kramer’s The Normal Heart Wins Three 2011 Tony Awards

The AIDS Memorial Candlelight Vigil, Washington DC, 1989

Broadway Revival of Larry Kramer’s The Normal Heart Wins Three 2011 Tony Awards

Larry Kramer’s The Normal Heart, which originally was performed at New York City’s Public Theater in 1985, won the 2011 Tony Award for revival of a play. The play is considered to be a literary landmark, contending with the AIDS crisis when few would speak of the disease afflicting gay men, including gays themselves. It remains the longest-running play ever staged at the Public Theater.

In addition, The Tony award for Best Performance by an Actress in a Featured Role went to Ellen Barkin, and the award for Best Performance by an Actor in a Featured Role in a Play went to John Benjamin Hickey, both for their performances in The Normal Heart. Producer Daryl Roth accepted the award, but it was the playwright Larry Kramer, an outspoken gay activist for many years, who received the biggest welcome from the audience. The writer exhorted the gay community to “carry on the fight,” adding that “our day will come.”

The stunning, pulse-pounding ensemble drama tells the groundbreaking story of love, rage and pride as it follows a group of New Yorkers confronting the AIDS crisis in the early 1980s. The story of a city in denial, The Normal Heart unfolds like a real-life political thriller, as a tight-knit group of friends refuses to let doctors, politicians and the press bury the truth of an unspoken epidemic behind a wall of silence. A quarter-century after it was written, this unflinching, and totally unforgettable look at the sexual politics of New York City during the AIDS crisis remains one of the theater’s most powerful evenings ever.

Tony Awards Acceptance Speech: The Normal Heart

Broadway’s Revival of The Normal Heart and The AIDS Crisis

Highlights From Broadway’s The Normal Heart

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Vin Diesel’s Multi-Facial: Not Too Light, Not Too Dark

Vin Diesel’s Multi-Facial: Not Too Light, Not Too Dark

Multi-Facial is a fascinating, emotionally moving 1995 short film that was written, directed and produced by Vin Diesel, who also played the starring role in the film. Whether you’re a cult fan of Vin Diesel’s high-octane action thrillers, or a movie snob who can’t stand him, you need to leave your biases at the door on this one: Multi-Facial is an awesome short film.

As a struggling actor in the early 1990′s, Vin Diesel couldn’t get any jobs. So he went in the time-honored direction for out-of-work actors and made his own film. The semi-autobiographical short film presents a dramatic male monologue about the problems that accompany an actor as he goes to a variety of auditions, due to his multi-ethnic appearance. It was a pretty successful move for him too; the film played at Cannes in 1995, and based largely on the impression the short made upon Steven Spielberg, Diesel was able to land his star-making role in Saving Private Ryan.

Vin Diesel’s monologue in the closing audition scene is unexpectedly emotional, effortlessly and organically concluding the themes built up throughout the film. A wonderful showcase for Diesel’s real talents, the film works amazingly well cinematically, making it one of the greatest short films ever made about acting.

Vin Diesel: Multi-Facial

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Grandma Madea’s Hoppin’ Good Advice on Love, Relationships and Your Life

Grandma Madea’s Hoppin’ Good Advice on Love, Relationships and Your Life

Emmitt Perry, Jr. was born in New Orleans in 1969. He later adopted the name Tyler Perry to separate himself from his father, who he claimed had abused him while growing up in New Orleans. Tyler dropped out of school when he was sixteen-years-old and moved to Atlanta in 1992. Perry produced his first play, the compassion-themed musical I Know I’ve Been Changed in 1998, using the $12,000 that he had saved selling used cars, doing construction work and working at other odd jobs. Sadly, only thirty people showed up for the play’s opening night in a 1,200-seat Atlanta theater, and Tyler ended up homeless within a week.

Subsequent to launching a more rigorous grassroots publicity campaign, his play was staged again later that year at Atlanta’s House of Blues, where it was a big hit. Tyler and the show went on the road from there, with another nine of his plays following before the touring shows ended in 2006. Tyler Perry is the star of what is still known as the “chitlin’ circuit.” He’s a moody, funny and astoundingly prolific writer/producer/director/actor. As an actor, Tyler is best known for his fabulous fashion looks when he dresses up in the rocking floral print frocks (with an Adam’s apple) as the no-nonsense Grandma Mabel “Madea” Simmons.

Tyler Perry is also known as The Emperor of All Black Media, who’s very handsomely paid to wear that dress. When his film Madea’s Family Reunion opened in 2006, it was ranked as number one at box offices nationwide. Perry is a man whose mythology is both intentionally cultivated and yet oddly disconnected from his fame. Many have wondered: Is he gay? He’s not really saying, and it actually doesn’t matter. He’s earned a combined total of $250 million in less than four years. In 2007, Tyler was named one of Entertainment Weekly’s smartest people in Hollywood, as well as one of Time Magazine’s most influential people in the world. But yes indeed, our dear rich Tyler stills wears a frock. Alas, nobody’s perfect!

The video presented below for your viewing pleasure is a selection from Tyler Perry’s very funny, albeit bittersweet play, Madea Goes to Jail. Grandma Mabel “Madea” again stars Tyler, with Madea once more wearing a humble beflowered gown as she holds court with members of her family. In this particular episode, Grandma Madea gives her hoppin’ good advice on love, relationships and keepin’ on going in your life.

Madea’s Hoppin’ Good Advice on Love, Relationships and Your Life

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Remembering 28 Days: Rediscovering the Intimacy of Love

Remembering 28 Days: Rediscovering the Intimacy of Love

28 Days is the story of a successful New York City writer who is living in the fast lane and is everyone’s favorite party girl. She shares her roller-coaster social lifestyle, hopping back and forth from dance clubs to bars and the morning after hangovers, with her boyfriend. He is handsome and magnetic, but equally attracted to life on the wild side. Life is nothing but a perpetual game of debauchery, until she gets drunk with her boyfriend on the day of her sister’s wedding, commandeers her sister’s wedding limousine and ends up with a 28-day stay in a substance abuse rehabilitation center.

A young urban woman who is cynical to the core, she is determined not to conform. But her experiences within the highly structured rehab setting begin to break through her carefully constructed defenses and lead her to start taking a closer look at who she might really be. Ultimately, she gradually starts to lose her deeply jaded sense of pessimism about life and begins to rediscover the possibility of having intimately loving relationships with others.

28 Days: Rediscovering the Intimacy of Love

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National Geographic’s Battle at Kruger: The Story of All Africa

The Battle at Kruger: The Story of All of Africa

The video that is presented for you below received a 2008 YouTube Video Award, winning as the best video in the Eyewitness Category. Battle at Kruger is an absolutely thrilling documentary that was captured on film while a tourist was on a safari in South Africa’s Kruger National Park. The spine-tingling, astonishing documentary shows a pride of lions attacking a baby wild buffalo, and the entire ensuing breathtaking battle that then took place between the group of lions, the buffalo herd and two crocodiles at a watering hole in Kruger National Park. After the pride of lions and crocodiles had pinned down the cape buffalo calf, the angry herd of buffalo was prompted by the attack to fight off the predators and it eventually saved the babe.

The Battle at Kruger

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The Breathtaking Battle at Kruger: A Babe is Saved

The Breathtaking Battle at Kruger: A Babe is Saved

The video that is presented for you below received a 2008 YouTube Video Award, winning as the best video in the Eyewitness Category.  Battle at Kruger is an absolutely thrilling documentary that was captured on film while a tourist was on a safari in South Africa’s Kruger National Park.  The spine-tingling, astonishing documentary shows a pride of lions attacking a baby wild buffalo, and the entire ensuing breathtaking battle that then took place between the group of lions, the buffalo herd and 2 crocodiles at a watering hole in Kruger National Park.  After the pride of lions and crocodiles had pinned down the cape buffalo calf, the angry herd of buffalo was prompted by the attack to fight off the predators and it eventually saved the babe.

During the video, you can hear a fellow traveler remark, “You could sell that video!”  After returning home, David Budzinski, the tourist from Texas who had recorded the stunning scene, did try to sell it, but National Geographic and Animal Planet weren’t interested.  Only after the battle, which is alternately horrifying and inspiring, became one of the most popular videos in YouTube’s history did the buyers come calling.  Last summer The National Geographic Channel purchased the television rights to the video, and on Sunday, May 11th, at 9 p.m. Eastern time, it will devote an entire hour to a documentary that deconstructs this thrilling wildlife drama.

The Breathtaking Battle at Kruger: A Babe is Saved

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St. Genet: The Erotic “Un Chant d’Amour”

St. Genet: The Erotic “Un Chant d’Amour”

At the age of 15, Jean Genet was sent to a reformatory, The Mettray Penal Colony, where he was detained for three years.  Subsequently, Genet continued to serve time in and out of French prisons after being arrested for theft, the use of false papers, vagrancy, lewd acts and other offenses.  However, by 1949 Genet had completed five novels, three plays and numerous poems.  These works included his acclaimed Our Lady of the Flowers (1944), Miracle of the Rose (1946) and The Thief’s Journal (1949).  In 1949, when Genet was threatened with a life sentence in prison, after having received ten prior convictions, Jean Cocteau and other prominent figures, who included Jean-Paul Sartre, Pablo Picasso, Francois Mauriac, Colette, Andre Breton and Andre Gide, successfully petitioned the French President Vincent Auriol to have the sentence set aside.  Genet never again returned to prison.

Un Chant d’Amour is French writer Jean Genet’s only film, which he directed in 1950.  Because of its explicit (although artistically presented) gay content, the 25-minute movie was long banned.  The film takes place in a French prison, where a prison guard takes voyeuristic pleasure in observing the prisoners perform masturbatory sexual acts. In adjacent cells, there are an older Algerian-looking man and a handsome younger convict in his twenties.  The older man is in love with the younger one, rubbing himself against the wall and sharing his cigarette smoke with his beloved through a straw.

The prison guard, apparently jealous of the prisoner’s relationship, enters the older convict’s cell, beats him, and makes him suck on his gun in an unmistakably sexual fashion.  But the older inmate drifts off into a fantasy world, where he and his object of desire roam the countryside.  In the final scene it becomes clear that the guard’s power is no match for the intensity of attraction between the prisoners, even though their relationship isn’t ever really consummated.

Genet didn’t use sound in the film, which forces the viewer to completely focus on closeups of faces, armpits, and other sensual images.  The film with its highly erotic atmosphere has later been recognized as a formative factor for works such as the films by Andy Warhol.  In addition, Genet’s novels have been adapted for film and produced by other filmmakers.  In 1982, Rainer Werner Fassbinder released Querelle, his final film, which was based on Genet’s Querelle de Brest.  It starred Brad Davis, Jeanne Moreau and Franco Nero.  Todd Haynes’ homoerotic movie Poison was also based on the writings of Genet.  In addition, several of Genet’s plays were adapted into films. The Balcony (1963), directed by Joseph Strick, starred Shelley Winters, Peter Falk, Lee Grant and Leonard Nimoy.  Tony Richardson directed a film, Mademoiselle, which was based on a short story by Genet, starring Jeanne Moreau with the screenplay written by Marguerite Duras.  The Maids, a play, was made into a film starring Glenda Jackson, Susannah York and Vivien Merchant.

Of particular significance to note, Genet’s play The Blacks was staged in New York.  It originally premiered in Paris in 1959, with its New York opening occurring in 1961.  The production of The Blacks was the longest running Off-Broadway non-musical of the decade.  The 1961 New York production ran for 1,408 performances, with an original cast that featured James Earl Jones, Roscoe Lee Browne, Louis Gossett, Jr., Cicely Tyson, Godfrey Cambridge, Maya Angelou and Charles Gordone.

Genet disdained the word intellectual, but it was in his role of a critical intellectual that in his later years he worked to sustain support from younger audiences and literary intellectuals for activist causes throughout the world.  Genet toured U.S. college campuses in support of Black Panther Bobby Seale after Seale’s arrest; he took credit for the recognition of gay rights in the Panther organization, mitigating the homophobia and sexism that touched many militant groups in the 1960s; he was a prominent participant in the bloody Chicago demonstrations during the 1968 Chicago National Democratic Convention.  Genet’s political commitments were pure and intransigent; despite his constant affirmation of treachery and betrayal in his novels, his work as a spokesman for activist politics illustrated his commitment to any struggle where identities were in the process of formation, whether these identities be gay, Black, or Palestinian.

Once released from prison, Genet’s personal life was a fairly isolated and solitary one, always living in small, nondescript hotel rooms.  He was found dead at the age of 75 on April 15, 1986, alone in a small Parisian hotel room.

Jean Genet: Un Chant d’Amour (1950)

(Please Click Image to Watch the Movie)

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