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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Madness: Trapped in Elevator Car 30

Madness: Trapped in Elevator Car 30

In a New Yorker Magazine article by Nick Paumgarten that described a number of stories about elevator horrors and dangers, he recounted the harrowing experience of Nicholas White, a special assignment employee who worked in the mid-town Manhattan offices of Business Week magazine.

Nicholas White was a thirty-four-year-old production manager at Business Week. He was working late on a special assignment and wanted a cigarette. He told a colleague that he’d be right back and, leaving his jacket behind, headed downstairs. Thus commenced the longest smoke break of Nicholas White’s life, a harrowing experience that began at around eleven o’clock on a Friday night in October, 1999.

The Business Week offices were located on the forty-third floor of the McGraw-Hill Building in mid-town Manhattan. When White finished his cigarette, he returned to the lobby, got into Car No. 30 and pressed the button marked 43. The car accelerated. It was an express elevator, with no stops below the thirty-ninth floor, and the building was deserted. But after a moment, White felt a jolt. The lights went out, immediately flashed on again and then the elevator stopped.

The control panel made a beep, and White waited a moment, expecting a voice to give information or instructions, but none came. He pressed the intercom button, but there was no response. He hit it again, and then began pacing around the elevator. Time passed, although he was not sure how much, because he had no watch or cell phone. He occupied himself with thoughts of remaining calm and decided that he’d better not do anything drastic, because, whatever the malfunction, he thought it unwise to jostle the car. As the emergency bell rang and rang, he began to fear that it might somehow start a fire. Recently, there had been a small fire in the building, rendering the elevators unusable. He began hearing unlikely oscillations in the ringing: aural hallucinations. Before long, he began to contemplate death.

The most striking thing about the security-camera videotape of White’s time in the McGraw-Hill elevator is that it includes split-screen footage from three other elevators, on which you can see men intermittently performing maintenance work. Apparently, they never wondered about the one he was in. Eight security guards came and went while he was stranded there, and nobody seems to have noticed him on the monitor.

After a while, White imagined building staff members opening the elevator’s doors ten days later and finding him dead on his back, like a cockroach. Within hours, he had smoked all his remaining cigarettes. At a certain point, he decided to open the doors. He pried them apart and held them open with his foot. He was presented with a cinder-block wall on which, perfectly centered, were scrawled three “13”s-one in chalk, one in red paint, one in black. It was a dispiriting sight. He concluded that he must be on the thirteenth floor, and that, this being an express elevator, there was no egress from the shaft anywhere for many stories up or down. He peered down through the crack between the wall and the sill of the elevator and saw that it was very dark. He could make out some light at the bottom. It looked far away. A breeze blew up the shaft.

He started to call out. “Hello?” He tried cupping his hand to his mouth and yelled out some more. “Help! Is there anybody there? I’m stuck in an elevator!” He kept at it for a while. White opened the doors to urinate. As he did so, he hoped, in vain, that a trace of this violation might get the attention of someone in the lobby. He considered lighting matches and dropping them down the shaft to attract notice, but still had the presence of mind to suspect that this might not be wise. The alarm bell kept ringing. He paced and waved at the overhead camera. He couldn’t tell whether it was night or day.

Eventually, he lay down on the floor and tried to sleep. The carpet was like coarse AstroTurf, and was lousy with nail trimmings and other detritus. It was amazing to him how much people could shed in such a short trip. He used his shoes for a pillow and laid his wallet, unfolded, over his eyes to keep out the light. It wasn’t hot, yet he was sweating. His wallet was damp. Maybe a day had passed. He drifted in and out of sleep, awakening each time to the grim recognition that his elevator confinement had not been a dream. His thirst was overpowering. The alarm was playing more aural tricks on him, so he decided to turn it off. Then he tried doing some Morse code with it. He yelled some more. He tried to pick away at the cinder-block wall.

At a certain point, Nicholas White ran out of ideas. Anger and vindictiveness took root. He began to think, They, whoever they were, shouldn’t be able to get away with this, that he deserved some compensation for the ordeal. He cast about for blame. He wondered where his colleague was, why she hadn’t been alarmed enough by his failure to return, jacketless, from smoking a cigarette to call security. “Whose fault is this?” he wondered. “Who’s going to pay?” He decided that there was no way he was going to work the following week.

And then he gave up. The time passed in a kind of degraded fever dream. On the videotape, he lies motionless for hours at a time, face down on the floor. A voice woke him up: “Is there someone in there?” “Yes.” “What are you doing in there?” White tried to explain; the voice in the intercom seemed to assume that he was an intruder. “Get me the fuck out of here!” White shrieked. Duly persuaded, the guard asked him if he wanted anything. White, who had been planning to join a few friends at a bar on Friday evening, asked for a beer.

Before long, an elevator-maintenance team arrived and, over the intercom, coached him through a set of maneuvers with the buttons. White asked what day it was, and, when they told him it was Sunday at 4 P.M., he was shocked. He had been trapped for forty-one hours. He felt a change in the breeze, which suggested that the elevator was moving. When he felt it slow again, he wrenched the door open, and there was the lobby. In his memory, he had to climb up onto the landing, but the video does not corroborate this. When he emerged from the elevator, he saw his friends, with a couple of security guards, and a maintenance man, waiting, with an empty chair. His friends turned to see him and were appalled at the sight; he looked like a ghost, one of them said later. White told a guard, “Somebody could’ve died in there.” “I know,” the guard said.

White had to go upstairs to get his jacket. He went home, and then headed to a bar. He woke up to a reel of phone messages and a horde of reporters colonizing his stoop. He barely left his apartment in the ensuing days, deputizing his friends to talk to reporters through a crack in the door. White never went back to work at the magazine. Caught up in media attention, which he shunned but thrilled to, prodded by friends, and perhaps provoked by overly solicitous overtures from McGraw-Hill, White fell under the sway of renown and grievance, and then that of the legal establishment.

He got a lawyer, and came to believe that returning to work might signal a degree of mental fitness detrimental to his litigation. Instead, he spent eight weeks in Anguilla. Eventually, Business Week had to let him go. The lawsuit he filed, for twenty-five million dollars against the building’s management and the elevator-maintenance company, dragged on for four years. Eventually, they settled for an amount that White is not allowed to disclose, but he will not contest that it was a low number, hardly six figures.

He never did learn why the elevator stopped. There was talk of a power dip, but nothing definite. Meanwhile, White no longer has his job, which he’d held for fifteen years, and he’s lost all contact with his former colleagues. Now, he’s also lost his apartment, spent all of his money, and searched, mostly in vain, for paying work. White is currently unemployed.

Madness: Trapped in Car 30

Read more on Nicholas White’s ordeal and about other tales of dangerous elevator experiences in The New Yorker here.

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