‘The Normal Heart’ virtual reading set with Sterling K. Brown, Laverne Cox

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For the first time in history, a predominantly Black, LGBTQ and POC cast – led by Sterling K. Brown and Laverne Cox – will be starring in Larry Kramer’s famed play, The Normal Heart.

According to The Hollywood Reporter, the play, which follows the start of the HIV/AIDS epidemic, will have it’s historic virtual table read on May 8th.

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In addition to Brown and Cox, the cast will be rounded out with Jeremy Pope, Vincent Rodriguez III, Guillermo Díaz, Jake Borelli, Ryan O’Connell, Daniel Newman, Jay Hayden, and Danielle Savre.

Martin Sheen, who starred in the original London production back in 1986, will also make a cameo to provide a special introduction.

Ahead of the show, director Paris Barclay spoke to THR about the decision to re-imagine the story in a way that highlighted Black love against the backdrop of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I was in New York when this play happened and felt the reverberations of it in every aspect of my life,” explained Barclay. “I went and saw the original production at The Public Theater, in which Brad Davis played the Ned Weeks role, and not only was I moved by it, but it’s one of the things that made it clear to me that I couldn’t have a career without also being some kind of an activist.

“That’s the plea of the play, that we have to all get involved. We have to all do something to help each other. And so very, very early before I even was a director, I was still an advertising copywriter at that time, this play is one of the things that instilled the idea that there really isn’t a public life without activism.”

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The 64-year-old then explained how the impressive A-list cast was assembled to take part in the project.

Sterling K.. Brown and Laverne Cox Photo: theGrio collage

“What happened was I was offered the opportunity to do the reading of the play by the heroes at the ONE Archives Foundation. I immediately grabbed at it — I said, “Sure, I’ll do a reading, I don’t have anything to do with my spare time, I’ll just do a reading of The Normal Heart, why not,” he recalled.

“I immediately thought of Sterling K. Brown. I thought Sterling K. Brown would be exactly suited to the power, the passion and the emotion of Ned Weeks,” he continued. “Before the casting process even really began, I ran that name up the flagpole, it was agreed, I reached out to him and he agreed to do it.

“So he was the linchpin of the cast for me — I’ve always admired him, I’ve never had a chance to work with him directly, and we’re going to have that chance at some point soon, I hope. But he became Ned Weeks and once he became Ned Weeks I thought well, there’s no reason when you’re doing a reading not to cast it with people that you also think would be powerful in the roles regardless of who they appear to be.”

This week’s reading is being organized by ONE Archives Foundation, the oldest active LGBTQ organization in the U.S., along with the Invisible Histories Project, which is dedicated to making LGBTQ Southern history accessible to the community.

One hundred percent of ticket sales will go towards the One Archives Foundation and its initiatives.

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