Meet the Cast of The Normal Heart: Emma Jones
In 2022, State Theatre Company South Australia presents our production of Larry Kramer’s groundbreaking, multi-Tony Award-winning play, The Normal Heart. We’ll be interviewing the cast to chat about the importance of this play in the landscape of modern theatre and for LGBTQI+ communities. Read all the interviews.
We spoke with actor Emma Jones (fresh from filming for Peacock TV/NBCUniversal series, Joe Vs Carole, about the infamous Tiger King, Joe Exotic and his nemesis Carole Baskin), who will portray Dr Emma Brookner, a pivotal role in the production. Dr Brookner is a pioneering doctor at the beginning of the AIDS crisis, who is passionate and intelligent, intensely caring and committed to stopping this burgeoning epidemic.
Pictured: Emma in rehearsals for The Normal Heart
What was your first ever encounter with The Normal Heart?
My first encounter was a few years ago when I stumbled across a documentary called Larry Kramer In Love and Anger. It was the first time I had ever heard of Larry Kramer. I was floored by him as a person and deeply touched by his legacy. The documentary mentioned the play and included some snippets from the 2011 Broadway production – even those snippets were enough to prompt me to read it. The Normal Heart has stayed with me ever since. I fact that now, years later, I can be part of a production of this play blows my mind!
What does this role mean to you?
The role of Dr Emma Brookner is the kind of role any actor would want to play. She is driven by passion, conviction, a furious belief in what is right and is so unafraid to speak her mind it almost feels dangerous. And she is! A classic disrupter, a healer and a woman who won’t be told that she is wrong when the evidence proves she is right. Dr Brookner and I share a lot more than the same first name – we share a lot of the same beliefs, have had similar life experiences and both carry a belly-fire for many of the issues central to the play. So to portray her in all her visceral glory is a dream! This character is based on a true hero – Dr Linda Laubenstein. I want to do both these women the justice they deserve.
How do you identify with your character? Have you faced any obstacles in your own life similar to those of your character?
As a middle-aged woman who has lived decades with a visible, physical disability due to a childhood disease (in my case, bone cancer in my left knee resulting in amputation) I not only physically resonate with Dr Brookner, but also share the steadfastness that becomes a necessity when the world tries to tell you who you are, who you should be and sadly, often that you are not taken as seriously because you are different. The role is an absolute gift – a gift not only for female actors but especially for disabled female actors because many of us have spent long, hungry years screaming into the void, asking to be heard and seen. It would be an honour to speak her words and to do my part to continue to fill that void with our bodies and our experiences.
The Normal Heart is very much about the power of community – what’s a time where you personally experienced/witnessed the power of community?
I live in Darlinghurst in Sydney. It is one of the most powerfully community-focused areas I have ever had the privilege to live in. Darlo locals routinely band together, whether it be for the continued fight for LGBTQI+ rights, the protection of beautiful heritage buildings or important social institutions, fundraising, food and clothing drives for our eclectic local house-less population or even the collaboration of local businesses with their neighbours when lockdown was in full swing, Darlinghurst has a big, bloody, beating heart. It takes a village, and Darlinghurst for me, is that village.
The Normal Heart by Larry Kramer, directed by Dean Bryant, comes to the Dunstan Playhouse, 30 September to 15 October 2022.