by Corey Ralston
A group of Fresno State Alumni are getting together to tell the story of civil rights activist Harvey Milk through music, pictures and words in the unique theater piece, Dear Harvey, written by Patricia Loughrey, who wrote the piece as a commemoration of the 30th Anniversary of Milk’s death.
Director Miguel Gastelum describes the piece as a documentary style play which tells the story of Harvey Milk, while incorporating testimonials from friends, family and some strangers, sharing how Harvey affected their lives politically and personally. The show has a wide variety of interviews including Cleve Jones, the founder of the Names Project (the AIDS quilt) and Stuart Milk, Harvey’s nephew. Interwoven between all the interviews are a myriad of Harvey Milk speeches and personal writings. It also has fantastic original music, as well as a wonderful slideshow which runs cohesively with the show.
Gastelum, who works primarily with Stageworks Fresno, has decided to put this production up to not only honor the life of Milk, but to benefit the Bulldog Pride Fund and their Harvey Milk Hope Award. The $2,000 award goes to a Fresno State junior or Senior who is enrolled in the Humanics Certificate Program.
Gastelum says, “My first exposure to Harvey Milk was the movie Milk, and after I saw that film my entire perspective on my life changed. It gave me the strength and the courage to come out. The more I read and learned about Harvey Milk, the more inspired I felt. Harvey Milk, has made me realize it’s okay to be who I am and more importantly, his legacy makes me proud of who I am.”
College of Sequoias Theater Professor Chris Mangels has joined the cast, and is playing Milk’s nephew Stuart, as well as openly gay ex-Mayor of Santa Cruz, John Laird.
“I leaped at the opportunity because Miguel is a really talented young artist, the cast is absolutely amazing and I believe it to be an incredibly good cause,” Mangels said. “Getting to perform it in Fresno and help bring Milk’s message to the Valley, as well as support the Bulldog Pride fund is a double whammy of goodness.”
Choosing to use Fresno State Alumni for this performance proved to be a winning idea for Director Gastelum. “I am ecstatic about the group of actors I have selected. The idea was to use actors who had attended Fresno State, whether they were Alumni or only attended at some point. And as luck would have it, some of the strongest actors in the Central Valley happen to have a tie to Fresno State and so the dream cast was born.”
The reason he chose to produce this show for a Fresno audience is simple. “Dear Harvey is a powerful piece of theatre about a man who strongly influenced a movement we are currently still in the midst of. This show is a piece which needs to be seen and a story that needs to be told and re-told.”
Dear Harvey has two performances, May 22 (tickets $100/$50/$25) and 23 (tickets $15) at the Painted Table in the Tower District. Call 559.278.2586 for details and to purchase tickets.