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John Kinzer
IU Department of Theatre and Drama

Last modified: Thursday, February 23, 2012

Playwright, social activist and humanitarian Larry Kramer to deliver 2012 Ralph L. Collins Memorial Lecture

WHAT: "An Evening With Larry Kramer," the 2012 Ralph L. Collins Memorial Lecture
WHEN: 5:30 p.m. Thursday, March 1
WHERE: Wells-Metz Theatre, Lee Norvelle Theatre and Drama Center, 275 N. Jordan Ave.
TICKETS: Admission is free of charge

Feb. 23, 2012

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- Award-winning playwright, social activist and humanitarian Larry Kramer will give the 2012 Ralph L. Collins Memorial Lecture in the Wells-Metz Theatre on the Indiana University Bloomington campus at 5:30 p.m. March 1.

Sponsored by the Department of Theatre and Drama, the lecture is free and open to the public.

Feisty and fearless in expressing his opinions, Kramer is considered a pioneer in the fight against AIDS. He is co-founder of the Gay Men's Health Crisis, the first world HIV/AIDS service organization, and the founder of ACT UP, the international activist group responsible for the development and release of most HIV/AIDS treatments.

As a playwright, Kramer is probably best known for "The Normal Heart" (1985), an autobiographical drama that was one of the first theatrical productions to tackle the topic of AIDS. The longest-running play at New York's Public Theater, "The Normal Heart" was selected by Britain's National Theatre as one of the 100 Best Plays of the 20th Century. The play received the Dramatists Guild's Marton Award; City Lights Award for Best Play of the Year; the Sarah Siddons Award for Best Play of the Year; and a nomination for the Olivier Award for Best Play. Shortly after the play's run at the Public Theater, Kramer was named Man of the Year (1986) by the California-based Aid for AIDS and received an Arts and Communication Award from the Human Rights Campaign Fund in 1987.

Called his "masterwork of love, rage and pride," it was revived on Broadway and was the winner of three Tony Awards in 2011, including Best Revival of a Play; three Drama Desk awards; an Outer Critics Circle award; and the New York Drama Circle's Special Citation award.

Of the play, Kramer has said, "I got involved in the AIDS mess early on -- I lost two friends and someone I was in love with -- and I knew it was the saddest thing I'd ever know. And it was obscenely difficult to get anyone to pay attention to AIDS. There's a line in the play in which the young man who's dying says, 'There's not a good word to be said for anybody in this entire mess.' It seems to me that was what had to be said." After performances of the Broadway run, Kramer greeted audience members, passing out letters that gave information about AIDS, as well as about the people who inspired the play's characters.

Some of Kramer's other plays include "Just Say No," "Sissies' Scrapbook," "The Furniture of Home" and "The Destiny of Me," a sequel to "The Normal Heart." While its reputation is not quite as monumental as "The Normal Heart," "The Destiny of Me" won an Obie for Best Play and was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize in 1993, losing to Tony Kushner's "Angels in America."

Kramer is also well known for his screenplay adaptation of D.H. Lawrence's "Women in Love," which was nominated by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences and the British Academy of Film and Television Arts for Best Screenplay. Since 1978, Kramer has been researching and writing a novel called "The American People." Now over 4,000 pages long, the novel has been described as his magnum opus, a chronicle of the history of homosexuality in America culminating with the AIDS plague. Farrar, Straus and Giroux recently announced it will publish the work in two volumes, with the first volume scheduled to appear in spring 2012.

In 2001, Kramer achieved another of his life's goals when he convinced his alma mater, Yale University, to support an academic position in gay and lesbian studies. Kramer was the first openly gay person to receive a Public Service Award from Common Cause when he became the recipient of the Award in Literature from the American Academy of Arts and Letters. Kramer and his partner, architect/designer David Webster, live in New York and Connecticut.

About the Ralph L. Collins Memorial Lecture Series
Ralph L. Collins (1907-1963) was born in Eclectic, Ala. He was educated at the University of the South, where he earned a B.A. in 1928, and at Yale University, where he earned a Ph.D. in 1933. Before joining the Department of English at Indiana University in 1935, he did editorial work for Atlantic Monthly and taught one year at the University of Tennessee. At Indiana, he served as varsity tennis coach from 1940 to 1945 and as director of the Writers' Conference from 1941 to 1948. He was named assistant dean of faculties in 1948 and vice president and dean of faculties in 1959.

As a teacher and scholar, Collins was principally interested in the area of theater and drama. He published articles in the area of theater and drama, including many in Modern Language Notes, Philosophical Quarterly, Theatre Annual and University of Kansas Review. For many years he taught undergraduate courses in modern drama and in Shakespeare, and a graduate seminar on George Bernard Shaw.

Collins maintained his interest in theater even after assuming his many administrative duties. For him, drama was more than a form of entertainment. It was an intense presentation of behavior, a projection of gestures of mind and heart and a searching analysis of motives and moral foundation. No static memorial could honor Collins' memory as do the present lectures.