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"Dear Harvey" playwright Patricia Loughrey to get Pride's Special Award for Cultural and Artistic Excellence

SAN DIEGO -- Nine individuals or groups will be honored this year by San Diego LGBT Pride.

The Pride board annually recognizes individuals and organizations for their activism and notable contributions made to the LGBT community during the preceding year or for extended periods of time.

This year’s awardees will be honored at Pride’s Spirit of Stonewall Rally at 6 p.m. Friday, July 16, at Marston Point in Balboa Park.

The outdoor rally marks the start of San Diego Pride weekend, which continues with a mile-long parade starting at 11 a.m. Saturday, July 17, through the heart of Hillcrest. The two-day festival in the park featuring the legendary Devo and other headline entertainment will be on Saturday and Sunday, July 17 and 18.

This week, San Diego Gay & Lesbian News is saluting the winners by category.

Special Award for Cultural and Artistic Excellence

Playwright Patricia Loughrey is saluted.

The legacy of 1970s activist Harvey Milk endures through Loughrey’s poignant production of “Dear Harvey.”

Commissioned by Diversionary Theatre, “Dear Harvey” had its world premiere in April 2009. Since then, it has been reproduced by San Diego State University, selected by the American College Theatre Festival for a reading at The Kennedy Center and most recently was chosen from more than 800 submissions for the 14th annual scheduled this summer for August 13 – 29.

Drawn from over 40 interviews conducted by Loughery, “Dear Harvey” recounts the achievements and vision of Milk, the first openly gay man elected to a major public office in the United States.

Milk and Mayor George Moscone were assassinated in San Francisco’s City Hall in November 1978.

The tribute play weaves together the voices of a drag queen, a state senator, an international gay rights activist, a 19-year-old composer and others with the personal and political writings of Milk to paint a portrait of a leader, and a vision for equality.

“[These were] people who knew or were impacted by Harvey, including his nephew Stuart Milk. I am deeply grateful to those people for sharing their memories and passion with me,” Loughery said. “I think the love that Harvey brought to the world through his work and his words is still present in our community.”

“His vision lives,” Loughery said. “We lost Harvey too soon, but in these stories, we get to hear the impact of his love and courage. It’s exciting to be able to share these intimate, sometimes surprising, stories with our community. I am so fortunate to have been able to participate in passing that message forward to the next generation.”

Loughrey’s playwriting talents have also touched audiences through works related to HIV/AIDS, including “The Inner Circle” and “Secrets,” which won a Ryan White Award and continues touring high schools statewide.

For reasons she cannot explain, Loughery credits the “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” play for drawing her into the world of theater. She was 11 and it was the first professional play she had seen.

“That show made me sit up in my seat and say ‘I want to do that’,” Loughery said. “Something in the show gave voice to an invisible world, and I related to that.”

Loughery has since been involved with playwriting. She was playwright-in-residence at the William Inge Center for the Arts, and at Point Loma High School. She wrote and performed one-woman shows in Santa Barbara and San Francisco.

She has also taught playwriting at San Diego State University, Independence Community College, and at Diversionary Theatre where she also coordinates the Queer Theatre – Taking Center Stage program.

Her advice to aspiring writers is to find a place and people to write for and with.

“There is a myth that writing is a solitary act. I find that to be both true and not true. I write alone, but I write within and for a community,” Loughery said. “The stories within our community are rapidly changing. We need to see ourselves onstage to honor and dignify our journeys and also to have fun.”

Although Loughery once lived in San Diego for over 20 years, she currently resides in Long Beach with her partner Nancy Martin, while she works on an MFA degree in dramatic writing.

She is looking forward to taking part in this year’s San Diego Pride Festival.

“I am looking forward to feeling the power and joyful energy of all of us being together in celebration,” Loughery said.

Loughery says she is honored to be recognized with the Pride award with a group of such devoted LGBT leaders.

“I applaud San Diego Pride for extending recognition to the work that art can accomplish,” Loughery said. “I think art nourishes and enriches individual lives in a way that nothing else can. When speaking about Harvey, Stuart Milk often shares Harvey quote ‘You are the medicine that the world needs.’ I truly believe that of gay artists. We are vital to the expression of the wholeness of the human experience.”

For more information about San Diego Pride weekend and volunteer opportunities, call (619) 297-7683 or visit www.SanDiegoPride.org.