Larry Kramer, the playwright whose voice and pen raised theatergoers’ awareness of the AIDS epidemic, has died at the age of 84. Bill Goldstein, a writer who was working on Kramer’s biography, confirmed the news that the he died of pneumonia on Wednesday.
The Connecticut-born man was, perhaps, best known for his public fight to secure medical treatment, acceptance and civil rights for people with AIDS. By writing The Normal Heart, in which a furious young writer — not unlike Kramer himself — battles politicians, society, the media and other leaders to bring attention to the crisis, Kramer vociferously told the world that the Gay community was grappling with a plague. An updated edition of the work in 2011 was universally praised by critics and earned the best revival Tony award. “I’m very moved that it moved so many people,” he said at the time. Larry often stood outside the theater handing out fliers asking the world to take action against HIV/AIDS. “Please know that AIDS is a worldwide plague. Please know there is no cure,” it said.
Shortly thereafter in 1987, Kramer founded ACT UP, a group that became famous for staging civil disobedience at places like the Food and Drug Administration, the New York Stock Exchange and Burroughs-Wellcome Corp., the maker of the leading anti-AIDS drug, AZT. These collective actions put pressure on those in charge and helped persuade the powers that be to speed up the approval of new drugs and Burroughs-Wellcome to lower its price for AZT.
Larry Kramer was a trailblazer for getting the world’s attention toward the problem that was, and still is HIV/AIDS.
Photo: David Shankbone