As Much-Protested AIDS Play Opens, Arson Destroys Home Of SupporterAP , Associated Press
Nov. 16, 1989 9:25 AM ET
SPRINGFIELD, MO. SPRINGFIELD, Mo. (AP) _ An arson fire destroyed the home of a vocal supporter of a play about AIDS shortly before its debut in this conservative Ozark town.
Investigators believe it was related to his involvement to ''The Normal Heart.''
''It does look like there may be some connection'' between Brad Evans' support for the play and the fire, said Springfield fire investigator Kent Turner.
Evans, 22, is president of the group People Acting with Compassion and Tolerance, which led an effort to produce ''The Normal Heart'' at Southwest Missouri State University. He was attending an opening-night candlelight vigil outside the theater when the fire was reported at 7 p.m. Wednesday, Turner said. Two cats died in the fire.
No other disruptions were reported after a week of demonstrations for and against the production at the state university.
''It doesn't discourage me,'' said Evans. ''But I never thought anything like this would happen.''
There were no arrests, Turner said.
The back door to the single-story house had been forced open and flammable liquid was found on the floors of two rooms in the house, he said.
''The Normal Heart,'' written by gay activist and writer Larry Kramer, is set in New York in the early 1980s. The drama, which appeared off-Broadway in 1985, attacks society's slow response to the AIDS crisis.
Opponents of the play, including state Republican Rep. Jean Dixon of Springfield and Citizens Demanding Standards leader Paul Summers, said it promotes homosexuality. They called it obscene and contrary to the moral standards of the community and should not be supported with tax money.
On Wednesday night as the play opened, several dozen security officers stood outside the theater, but a lone protester peacefully handed out leaflets stating that the Bible was against homosexuality.
Wednesday's soldout performance capped a week of protests at the school.
On Tuesday, actress Tess Harper joined faculty members and about 300 others at her former school in blasting opponents of the play.
On Monday, more than 1,200 opponents of the play packed a hall. They sang gospel songs and heard fiery speeches against the production.