Dear Harvey
April 2009
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See our calendar for all upcoming theatre events.

 

Read about San Diego State University's student production of "Dear Harvey" under This 'n That

Dear Harvey

This is the second project of Diversionary's 2009 Queer Theatre - Taking Center Stage. Queer Theatre gives voice to the stories of LGBT people, and is supported by a grant from The James Irvine Foundation New Connections Fund. Dear Harvey is also funded in part by Carlos Malamud.

This is a limited run special event. Show times:
Monday & Thursday at 7:30pm
Friday & Saturday at 8:00pm

Monday, April 20 performance:
$16 advance or pay-what-you-can at the door
Thursday, April 23 - April 25 performances:
$24
Student Rush: $10.00 tickets for students w/ID starting one hour before curtain.
Please ask for the discount at time of purchase.

Food for the world premiere performance on Sunday, April 19 will be generously provided by California Cuisine.

 

Under the tab "This n That," read about Julie Warren's Harvey Milk artwork, Daniel Nicoletta's Los Angeles exhibtion, future productions of Dear Harvey and more.

Show Summary

In December 2007, Diversionary Theatre commissioned Patricia Loughrey to write a new play about Harvey Milk.  After dozens of interviews with community leaders and Harvey’s friends and family, the play Dear Harvey will be given its world premiere at Diversionary April 18-25.

“These stories about Harvey Milk are from the people he knew and the lives he changed,” said playwright Loughrey.  “I’ve had the remarkable privilege of talking with people close to him, and it’s exciting to be able to share these intimate, sometimes surprising, stories with our community. We lost Harvey too soon, but in these stories, we get to hear the impact of his love and courage.”  The play is based on interviews with Tom Ammiano, Toni Atkins, Jackie Grover, Cleve Jones, Christine Kehoe, Anne Kronenberg, John Laird, Stuart Milk, Nicole Murray-Ramirez, Daniel Nicoletta, Mary Stockton, Robin Tyler, Dottie Wine and others. Loughrey has also secured permission to use many photos by San Francisco LGBT photographer Daniel Nicoletta, and has enlisted the help of local composer Thomas Hodges to write music to underscore the play. 

This is the second project of Diversionary's 2009 Queer Theatre - Taking Center Stage. Queer Theatre gives voice to the stories of LGBT people, and is supported by a grant from The James Irvine Foundation New Connections Fund.

Creative Team

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John Garcia Tony Houck Aaron Marcotte Jerusha Matsen Neal
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Carla Nell Kim Strassburger Scott Striegel  

Press Photos

Photo Photo
Pictured (l-r): The cast of Dear Harvey. John Garcia, Patricia Loughrey (playwright), Tony Houck, Kim Strassburger, Scott Striegel, Chris Bland (stage manager), Carla Nell, Jerusha Matsen Neal Pictured (l-r): The cast of Dear Harvey. John Garcia, Patricia Loughrey (playwright), Tony Houck, Kim Strassburger, Scott Striegel, Chris Bland (stage manager), Carla Nell, Jerusha Matsen Neal

 

Press Release

Diversionary pays tribute to Harvey Milk with “Dear Harvey
           
It was 1973 and Harvey Milk was giving a speech to the International Longshoreman & Warehousemen’s Union of San Francisco, We don't have to wait for budgets to be passed, surveys to be made, political wheeling and dealing.  For it takes no compromising to give people their rights… it takes no money to respect the individual.  It takes no political deal to give people freedom.”  After three failed campaigns, Harvey finally won a seat on the Board of Supervisors in January 1978. Eleven months later he was assassinated in City Hall.

Harvey Milk was the first openly gay elected official in California.  His vision, his passion, his joy and his death were all to become legend through various films, plays, musicals, operas, book and stories.

In December 2007, Diversionary Theatre commissioned Patricia Loughrey to write a new play about Harvey Milk.  After dozens of interviews with community leaders and Harvey’s friends and family, the play Dear Harvey will be given its world premiere at Diversionary April 18-25.

“These stories about Harvey Milk are from the people he knew and the lives he changed,” said playwright Loughrey.  “I’ve had the remarkable privilege of talking with people close to him, and it’s exciting to be able to share these intimate, sometimes surprising, stories with our community. We lost Harvey too soon, but in these stories, we get to hear the impact of his love and courage.”  The play is based on interviews with Tom Ammiano, Toni Atkins, Jackie Grover, Cleve Jones, Christine Kehoe, Anne Kronenberg, John Laird, Stuart Milk, Nicole Murray-Ramirez, Daniel Nicoletta, Mary Stockton, Robin Tyler, Dottie Wine and others.  The play also uses historical materials (with permission, from the Harvey Milk Archives-Scott Smith Collection, James C. Hormel Gay and Lesbian Center, San Francisco Public Library) and materials and excerpts (used with permission) from the Bay Area Reporter, including Milk’s weekly column, the Milk Forum, published from the summer of 1975 until his death in November 1978.  Loughrey has also secured permission to use many photos by San Francisco LGBT photographer Daniel Nicoletta.

Diversionary’s Executive & Artistic Director, Dan Kirsch, will direct the tribute.  “It’s been very humbling to work on this project,” said Kirsch.  “Harvey’s legacy has been far-reaching and incredibly impactful to the LGBT community, and we are very proud to share this play with our audience.”  For the first time, Diversionary will present a school-morning performance of the play for local GLSEN and GSA students.

Loughrey has enlisted the help of local composer Thomas Hodges to write music to underscore the play.  Hodges is a student at San Diego State University.  The cast features John Garcia, Tony Houck, Aaron Marcotte, Jerusha Matsen Neal, Carla Nell, Kim Strassburger and Scott Striegel.  Chris Bland will stage manage.  Dominic Abbenante will create projections, and Jeff Fightmaster is lighting designer.

Started in 1986, the mission of Diversionary Theatre is to produce plays with gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender themes that portray characters in their complexity and diversity both historically and contemporarily.  Dear Harvey is part of Diversionary’s Queer Theatre – Taking Center Stage program.  The program honors the ideas, the energy and commitment people have made to tell LGBT stories.  During the 2008-2009 season, Diversionary is telling LGBT stories through two unique projects: Dance/Theatre and Dear Harvey, both funded in part by The James Irvine Foundation New Connections Fund, California Institute for Contemporary Arts and an anonymous donor.

Dear Harvey is a Diversionary special event with limited previews and performances from April 18-25.  Public performances are Monday, April 20 at 7:30pm; Thursday, April 23 at 7:30pm; and Friday and Saturday, April 24 and 25 at 8:00pm.  All tickets for public performances are $24 and are now on sale.  For information, call the Diversionary box office at 619.220.0097 or log on to www.diversionary.org.
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Financial support for Diversionary Theatre is provided in part by the City of San Diego Commission for Arts and Culture.

Reviews

Sandiego.com
San Diego Arts
'Dear Harvey' at Diversionary Theatre
‘Medicine the world needs’
By Jennifer Chung Klam
Posted on Mon, Apr 20th, 2009

The 2008 biopic “Milk,” starring Sean Penn, won two academy awards and brought mainstream recognition to the life of politician and gay rights activist Harvey Milk. He was the first openly gay man to be elected to public office in California, and was a sitting member of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors when he was assassinated on Nov. 27, 1978. In the 30 years since his death, Milk has become an icon for gay rights.

Now adding to the iconography of Milk as human rights activist is a world premiere play commissioned by Diversionary Theatre. Part tribute and part documentary, “Dear Harvey” is based on interviews with politicians, fellow activists, friends and nephew Stuart Milk. Playwright Patricia Loughrey also includes Milk’s own words from speeches, official statements, personal letters and a column he wrote for the Bay Area Reporter.

Through these various sources emerges a touching, life-affirming and at times humorous portrait of the activist who affected so many and changed the course of politics. Milk fought not only for gays and lesbians, but for minorities, the elderly, unions, public transit, health care, and even dope smokers and prostitutes. He believed in individual freedoms, the power of community and the importance of gays to come out of the closet, to be seen and heard.

Loughrey incorporates many local voices – including politicians Toni Atkins and Christine Kehoe, and activists from local chapters of Old Lesbians Organizing for Change and the National Organization for Women – that provide a sense of what the movement was like in San Diego.

In one particularly funny story, a woman recounts how local NOW members dressed conservatively and set up tables at local supermarkets with signs that read, “Meet your local lesbian,” in a bid to demonstrate that gays and lesbians were neither intimidating nor freakish.

There are coming out stories. Memories of meeting Milk for the first time. Cleve Jones’ recollections of starting the AIDS Memorial Quilt project. Thoughts on the riots that followed the sentencing of Dan White – who received just seven years for the murders of Milk and Mayor George Moscone.

The ensemble includes John Garcia, Tony Houck, Aaron Marcotte, Jerusha Matsen Neal, Carla Nell, Kim Strassburger and Scott Striegel, all of whom bring immense energy and affection to the production. Their affinity to the play and its subject matter are apparent. Strassburger especially brings a strong presence to her roles, as well as a good dose of humor. Striegel gives a moving performance as Cleve Jones, who conceived of the AIDS Memorial Quilt at a memorial for Milk. The quilt has become the world’s largest community arts project, honoring more than 83,000 Americans killed by the disease.

No single member of the ensemble plays Milk; instead, each plays a number of different “characters,” giving them distinct voices and mannerisms. Director Dan Kirsch does a fine job of layering the voices, sometimes in lyrical fashion, other times evoking an angry mob or a throng of fans.

One of the most touching moments in the play comes when we are introduced to composer Thomas Hodges, who provides the lovely and perfectly fitting piano music that underscores the play. A 20-year-old student at San Diego State University, Hodges comes out from behind the piano to take the stage, reading his own “Dear Harvey” letter of gratitude and inspiration.

The play is not only the story of Milk, but of his legacy, and the changes that have happened since his assassination that acknowledge his death wasn’t in vain. It’s an important piece of history, an inspirational story and engaging theater.

If you don’t catch “Dear Harvey” in its limited run, through April 25, you’ll have another chance when SDSU’s School of Theatre, Television and Film produces at the end of September.

About the author: Jennifer Chung Klam is an editor at The Daily Transcript and a freelance arts and culture writer.


San Diego Reader
By Jeff Smith
Sunday, April 19, 2009

For a tribute to Harvey Milk, Patricia Loughrey interviewed "the people he knew and the lives he changed." At Diversionary Theatre, a cast of seven reads/performs letters, interviews, and testimonials while Thomas Hodges plays original music on piano and slides project on a scrim. What comes through is a courageous man, savvy in politics, with a remarkable gift for seeing the potential in people - like Anne Kronenberg, whom he made his campaign manager when she was an inexperienced 22. The movie Milk has been criticized for hagiography (as if he were the first gay person to run for office, and the first to shout "come out!"). Loughrey's script verges at times on gilding, but succeeds in painting a balanced portrait (as when Kronenberg says "he was a mensch in many ways - and a diva"). What also comes through are touches missing from the movie (for me, at least, Sean Penn stood between Milk and the audience, his performance calling as much attention to himself as to Milk). Dear Harvey offers more personal observations and recollections - the off-camera Harvey Milk, in other words, who, the 55-minute Diversionary piece shows, was quite a human being.  Worth a try.


www.sdnn.com
Pat Launer: Spotlight on Theater
Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Got Milk? This may just be Harvey’s year. On the heels of the Oscar-winning film, “Milk,” in the 30th year after his assassination, there’s a state bill, SB 572, being sent to the Governor, to make May 22, Harvey’s birthday, Harvey Milk Day in California. At the same time, Diversionary Theatre commissioned its own tribute to the civil rights activist. “Dear Harvey,a world premiere conceived long before the film was released, honors the impassioned, inspirational visionary, the first openly gay elected official in California, who championed all human rights. On November 27, 1978, ten months after he was elected to the San Francisco Board of Supervisors, Milk, 48, and Mayor George Moscone, 49, were gunned down by conservative city supervisor Dan White. White got off lightly on the “Twinkie Defense,” served five years in prison and killed himself shortly after his release.

“Dear Harvey” was based on local playwright Patricia Loughrey’s interviews with those who knew Milk, from politicos and activists to local politicians Toni Atkins and Christine Kehoe. Interspersed with the touching letters, testimonials and remembrances are historical/archival materials, including Harvey’s own speeches and photos by San Francisco LGBT photographer Daniel Nicoletta, whose character featured prominently in the film. San Diego playwright/actor/musician/composer Thomas Hodges created music for the production, which he played live on a piano at each performance. Nimbly directed by Diversionary’s executive/artistic director, Dan Kirsch, the first-rate cast - John Garcia, Tony Houck, Aaron Marcotte, Jerusha Matsen Neal, Carla Nell, Kim Strassburger and Scott Striegel - persuasively represented a range of people and voices.

It all added up to an inspiring, edifying, enlightening and sometimes amusing evening, one that really should have a future, which has already begun. The Lambda Players of Sacramento will present the piece from May 7-31. Theater students from SDSU will kick off the fall semester with their production (Sept. 24-Oct. 4). Celebration Theatre in Los Angeles has also expressed interest, and two of the lesbian activists featured in the play, Dottie Wine and Ivy Bottini, attended a performance and said they want to mount readings in Long Beach and West Hollywood. In the meantime, excerpts of the play will be posted on the Facebook page Hodges created, Put LGBT History in Schools. And on May 22, what would be Harvey’s 79th birthday, a petition will be delivered to the Governor, who vetoed the proposed Harvey Milk Day last year. Perhaps this year, the tide has turned.

Here at home, the first annual Harvey Milk Diversity Breakfast, hosted by the LGBT Community Center, will be held on May 22, at the Holiday Inn by the Bay (7:30-9:00 a.m.), 1355 North Harbor Drive. In the tradition of the Martin Luther King and César Chavez Breakfasts, the event is intended to “honor the memory of an American hero” and “strengthen coalitions among the many diverse social justice groups that work toward equality in San Diego.” Information on the petition at: www.eqca.org/harveymilkday. Tickets ($35) and sponsorships for the breakfast here.

This n That

The Future of Dear Harvey

San Diego State University's School of Theatre, Television, and Film
September 24-October 2, 2009
Read Lauren Beck's dramaturg blog at http://dearharveysdsu.blogspot.com

Posted September 14, 2009

San Diego State University School of Theatre, Television, and Film is pleased to present Dear Harvey in the Experimental Theatre.  Dear Harvey was written by SDSU Alum Patricia Loughrey with music composed for the play by SDSU student Thomas Hodges. 

Dear Harvey tells the stories of Harvey Milk, the people he knew, and the impact he had on those people.  Ms. Loughrey conducted interviews with individuals whose lives were changed because of Harvey and melded these stories into a funny, personal, inspirational play.  Dear Harvey premiered at the San Diego Diversionary Theatre in April of 2009.  This presentation includes a new cast of SDSU students who bring an exciting new, young voice to activism and to the script.  The slain San Francisco councilman and gay rights activist was recently the subject of the Academy Award-winning film MILK and was chosen this year by President Obama to receive the Medal of Freedom. 

Join us on opening night as we present a post show lecture panel on “Activism – Then and Now”. Nicole Murray Ramirez will sit with one of our SDSU cast members to discuss the role of the activist in both San Diego history and present day needs. The panel will be moderated by Equality California’s Albert Ogle Executive Director of the San Diego regional office.

Dear Harvey will open in the Experimental Theatre on Thursday September 24 at 8 p.m. and will close October 2 at 8 p.m. Evening performances are on September 24, 25, 26, 30 and October 1, 2 at 8 p.m. with a matinee performance on September 27 at 2 p.m. For group discounts call (619) 594-6365 or email OnStageSDSU@sdsu.edu. Tickets and information are online at theatre.sdsu.edu; you may wish to visit the Performing Arts Box Office Monday through Thursday between 11 a.m.- 2 p.m. or call the Box Office direct at (619) 594-6884.

 

SDSU is proud to work with our community partner, Diversionary Theatre as we are committed to bringing all styles and genres of theatre to our campus, including the important voices of activism, civil rights, and equality for all. Theatre students at SDSU will make up the new cast of Dear Harvey and be a part of bringing the LGBT voice and issues surrounding equality and justice to the San Diego community. All of us in the School of Theatre, Television, and Film are excited about our continued relationship with Dan Kirsch and Diversionary Theatre.


Julie Warren creates new painting to celebrate Harvey Milk

Julie Warren has created a new painting to celebrate Harvey Milk. Sales of artwork will benefit Diversionary. Contact Diversionary through the box office at 619.220.0097. Visit our Gift Shop for more information.

Photo
© Julie Warren 2009 all rights reserved

Get the play! New play about Harvey Milk now available!

Diversionary Theatre, San Diego’s LGBT Theatre, commissioned Patricia Loughrey to write a new tribute play to Harvey Milk. 

Based on the writing of Harvey Milk and first person interviews, Dear Harvey shares the stories of Harvey's rise and untimely death, and how his life and passion influenced the lives of many people around him.  Interviewees include: Tom Ammiano, Cleve Jones, Anne Kronenberg, John Laird, Dan Nicoletta, Stuart Milk, Chris Kehoe, Robin Tyler and others. 

Dear Harvey features original music by Thomas Hodges and photos by Daniel Nicoletta (Daniel worked in Harvey’s camera store and has photographed queer San Francisco since the late 70's.)

As a celebration of Harvey's birthday (May 22), the authors offered Dear Harvey royalty-free during the month of May 2009 to theatres or community groups who want to host a reading.  The authors asked that host organizations donate a portion of ticket proceeds to an LGBT organization in their community. 

The show runs approximately one hour and can be done with as few as two or as many at thirteen actors (it was done with seven actors and live piano accompaniment at Diversionary).

Patricia was a playwright-in-residence at the William Inge Center for the Arts in the fall of 2008, and Thomas Hodges joined Patricia in Independence, Kansas to workshop the first draft of the play.  Since that workshop, the Gus Van Sant film “Milk” has come out, and a bill has been re-introduced in the California Senate to name each May 22 a state holiday in honor of Harvey Milk (SB572 http://www.eqca.org/site/pp.asp?c=kuLRJ9MRKrH&b=5023623)

Organizations interested in doing a reading or a future production can contact the playwright for a script and production information at:

Patricia Loughrey
plwho2002@yahoo.com
619.322.9837

In addition to the script, the original score and a disk of photos and images used for the play are available.  Dear Harvey premiered at Diversionary Theatre on April 19, 2009.  There is additional information about the play at www.diversionary.org

Readings were presented in May 2009 at:

Lambda Players, Sacramento
May 14-31, 2009 (8 PM every Thursday and Sunday)
Dramatic readers theatre – rehearsed – with music and photos.
the Studio Theatre
1028 R Street
Sacramento CA 95811
916.444.8229
www.lambdaplayers.com

South Bay LGBT Center, Torrance, CA
Friday, May 22, 2009
www.southbaycenter.org

Celebration Theatre, Los Angeles
Sunday, May 31, 2009
www.celebrationtheatre.com


Be A Part of the “Dear Harvey” Project!

“I ask for the movement to continue, for the movement to grow because last week, I got the phone call from Altoona, Pennsylvania and my election gave somebody else, one more person, hope. And after all it's what this is all about. It's not about personal gain, not about ego, not about power -- it's about giving those young people out there in the Altoona, Pennsylvanias hope. You gotta give them hope.”
From Harvey Milk’s political will - recorded 9 days before his death

On November 27, 1978, eleven months after becoming the first openly gay elected city official in history, Supervisor Harvey Milk was assassinated in San Francisco’s City Hall. To honor the thirtieth anniversary of his death, Diversionary is creating a play to celebrate his life. Dear Harvey will include memories and gratitude from our community; describing the freedoms and changes that Harvey did not live long enough to see.

Please write a letter to Harvey Milk!

Dear Harvey was commissioned by Diversionary Theatre and is being written by Patricia Loughrey (The Daddy Machine) with additional writing and musical composition by Thomas Hodges.

Write a brief letter to Harvey describing who and where you were in the fall of 1978. If you knew of Harvey’s assassination, describe where you were when you learned of it, and what affect his death had on you. If you didn’t know about him in 1978, when did you learn, and what impact does the story of Harvey Milk’s life and work have on you today? Is there anything you would like to tell him about your life or the progress of gay rights since his death?

You may use the following line openers if you like:

Dear Harvey,

In the fall of 1978 I was living….

When I heard about your death I…
(or)
Learning about your life has given me…

Something I’d like to tell you about the years since your death is…

Thank you for…

Email your letters to Dan Kirsch at dkirsch@diversionary.org. Please note "Letter to Harvey" on the subject line. You can submit a word document or type your letter into the email. Your submission indicates you are granting the use of the letter and releasing copyright to the playwright Patricia Loughrey. Letters may be edited.