Author-Activist Larry Kramer to Receive Tony Award Honors

Larry Kramer - P 2012
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Larry Kramer - P 2012

The playwright behind the classic AIDS crisis drama "The Normal Heart" will be the fourth recipient of the Isabelle Stevenson Award, recognizing a member of the theater community for his or her humanitarian efforts.

NEW YORK -- Playwright, novelist and essayist Larry Kramer, who has been at the forefront of AIDS activism since the outbreak of the crisis in the early 1980s, will receive the 2013 Isabelle Stevenson Award at the 67th annual Tony Awards.

Established in 2009, the prize was introduced to acknowledge outstanding humanitarian, social services or charitable contributions by a member of the American theater community. Past winners have been David Hyde Pierce, Eve Ensler and Bernadette Peters.

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Kramer is best known for The Normal Heart, his searing 1985 dramatic account of the dawn of the AIDS epidemic and the struggle of early activist pioneers to prompt action from the unresponsive government, media and healthcare establishments.

A long-running hit in its original Off-Broadway production at the Public Theater, the play was revived at the same venue to great acclaim in 2004. It was presented on Broadway for the first time in a superlative 2011 production directed by Joel Grey and George C. Wolfe, starring Joe Mantello in the central role of Ned Weeks. That staging won Tony Awards for best revival of a play, featured actor John Benjamin Hickey and featured actress Ellen Barkin.

After prolonged attempts over the years to get a feature adaptation off the ground, the film is currently in production for HBO, with Ryan Murphy directing a cast that includes Mark Ruffalo, Julia Roberts, Matt Bomer, Jim Parsons, Taylor Kitsch and Alec Baldwin. Kramer is also the subject of a forthcoming HBO documentary, its premiere scheduled to coincide with that of The Normal Heart.

The Tony Awards Administration Committee chose to recognize Kramer for his work as co-founder of Gay Men’s Health Crisis, the world’s first HIV/AIDS service organization. He is also a founder of ACT UP, the international activist network responsible for the development and release of breakthrough HIV/AIDS treatments. 

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Kramer is one of a handful of key on-camera subjects whose frontline role in the AIDS battle was chronicled in David France's 2012 Oscar-nominated documentary How to Survive a Plague.

Nominations for the competitive categories of the 2013 Tony Awards will be announced Tuesday morning by Jesse Tyler Ferguson and Sutton Foster. The awards ceremony will be broadcast live on CBS from Radio City Music Hall on Sunday, June 9.