Harvey Milk was assassinated in 1978. He was the first openly gay elected official in California. He was only 11 months into his first term as a San Francisco supervisor when he and the mayor, George Moscone, were shot and killed by fellow supervisor Dan White.
His vision, his passion, his joy and his death were all to become legend through various films, plays, musicals, an opera and several books. Now his story comes to Charlotte on May 22, which would have been Harvey’s 87th birthday.
The play “Dear Harvey — Stories of Harvey Milk” tells intimate, surprising stories based on interviews with Harvey’s nephew Stuart Milk, campaign manager Anne Kronenberg, AIDS Quilt founder Cleve Jones and other activists. This spirited tribute was written by Patricia Loughrey, with music by Thomas Hodges, and reaffirms his impact and the continued relevance of his campaign towards equality.
The readings are being produced by Dan Kirsch of Green Hair Creative, who led several Charlotte LGBTQ organizations from 1989-2004, and recently moved back to the city. “Like many others, the election was my call to action,” said Kirsch, who had commissioned and directed the play at Diversionary Theatre, San Diego, Calif.’s LGBTQ theatre. “Many of the local and national protests were similar to Harvey’s vision, which was to dream for a better tomorrow filled with the hope for equality and a world without hate. These readings were something I could do within the community to continue Harvey’s vision.” Kirsch has launched Green Hair Creative to imagine, advocate and produce work that highlight the stories of LGBTQ pioneers.
Readings will be held May 22 at Levine Museum of the New South, 200 E. 7th St.; Theatre Charlotte, 501 Queens Rd., and Chickspeare will do the first-ever all-female reading at NoDa Brewing Company, 2921 N. Tryon St. A reading will also be held on May 24 at the Levine Jewish Community Center, 5007 Providence Rd.
Dennis Delamar will act in “Dear Harvey” and is known for acting and directing several LGBTQ-themed productions in Charlotte, including “The Normal Heart,” “La Cage Aux Folles,” “I Am My Own Wife,” “Next Fall” and others. The play is “significant and relevant, especially with the current climate of intolerance that is sadly running rampant in our country today,” said Delamar. “As a retired teacher and lifetime educator, I feel it is important to bring Harvey’s story to new generations, and to anyone still in the dark about his contributions and legacy. This play is also for any of us who need encouragement, inspiration and momentum for today’s challenges in achieving and maintaining equality for all. The struggle is ongoing.”
Anne Lambert, a member of Chickspeare, jumped at the opportunity to do the first all-female reading of the play. “Harvey’s work made it possible for each of us to have the courage to be our true selves,” stated Lambert. “Breaking down barriers, challenging norms, pushing boundaries — these ideas are at the core of Chickspeare’s mission, so this project is a great opportunity to remind our audience of activists to celebrate his values of inclusion and participation.” Laughingly, she added, “And, there will be beer!” The Chickspeare reading will be held at NoDa Brewing Company.
Kirsch is using the event to bring attention to LGBTQ seniors. “Part of the any proceeds will go towards calling an LGBT Town Meeting this summer to talk about forming a SAGE Charlotte Chapter (Services and Advocacy for GLBT Elders),” said Kirsch. SAGE works to achieve a high quality of life for LGBTQ older adults, supports and advocates for their rights, fosters a greater understanding of aging in all communities and promotes positive images of LGBTQ life in later years.
The readings feature many notable Charlotte actors: Polly Adkins, Charlton Alicea, Frances Bendert, Veda Covington, Dennis Delamar, Christopher Jones, Zach Radhuber and Hank West. Chickspeare’s actors are Nicia Carla, Joanna Gerdy, Andrea King, Anne Lambert, Lane Morris, Sheila Proctor, Sarah Provencal, Karina Roberts and Gina Stewart. Several readings are directed by Kirsch; Vito Abate is the production manager, and the score will be played live at the Theatre Charlotte reading by Zachary Tarlton. Facilitated conversations about LGBTQ history will be held after each reading. Facilitators include Joshua Burford, assistant director for Sexual & Gender Diversity at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte and archivist with the Donaldson King, Sue Henry, Black Brockington Community LGBTQ Archive; and Jason Edward Black, Ph.D., chair and professor, Department of Communication Studies at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte and co-editor of the “An Archive of Hope: Harvey Milk’s Speeches and Writings.”
“Dear Harvey” readings are being promoted by the host sites and Voices for Justice, arts and social justice organizations: Greenspon Center for Peace & Social Justice, Keshet Committee at Temple Beth El, Paperhouse Theatre and Three Bone Theatre. Pass-the-hat donations will be split between the host organization, the formation of a SAGE Charlotte Chapter and Green Hair Creative. Donations are tax-deductible through a fiscal sponsorship with Fractured Atlas. Reservations for tickets can be made after May 8.
For details about each of the four readings, visit the event website at greenhaircreative.org.
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Harvey Milk, circa 1977
“My name is Harvey Milk and I want to recruit you. Recruit you into the fight for democracy. The Anita Bryants and the John Briggs are trying to constitutionalize bigotry. We will not allow that to happen. You must make your commitment. Without it you are just occupying space.”
Harvey Milk, 1978
“Somewhere in Des Moines or San Antonio there is a young gay person who all of a sudden realizes that he or she is gay; knows that if their parents find out they will be tossed out of the house, their classmates will taunt the child, and the Anita Bryant’s and John Briggs’ are doing their part on TV. And that child has several options: staying in the closet, and suicide. And then one day that child might open the paper that says “Homosexual elected in San Francisco” and there are two new options: the option is to go to California, or stay in San Antonio and fight. Two days after I was elected I got a phone call and the voice was quite young. It was from Altoona, Pennsylvania. And the person said “Thanks”. And you’ve got to elect gay people; so that thousands upon thousands like that child know that there is hope for a better world; there is hope for a better tomorrow. Without hope, not only gays, but those who are blacks, the Asians, the disabled, the seniors, the us’s; without hope the us’s give up. I know that you can’t live on hope alone, but without it, life is not worth living. And you, and you, and you, and you have got to give them hope.”