Angels in America, Part One: Millennium Approaches
by Tony Kushner
Tickets: $6 Students, $8 Seniors, $9 Adult
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Assistant Director: Christina Casano
Scenic Design by Gion Defrancesco
Costume Design by Leticia Delgado
Assisted by Mari Taylor
Lighting Design by Russ Blain
Assisted by Les Dershem
Sound Design by Russ Blain
Hannah Pitt, Rabbi Isidor Chemelwitz, Henry, and Ethel Rosenberg
Roy Cohn and Prior II
Joe Pitt and Prior I
Harper Pitt and Martin Heller
Belize and Mr. Lies
Prior Walter and the Man
The Angel, Emily, Sister Ella Chapter, and the Woman
Often lauded as one of the most important plays of the last half of the 20th century, Tony’ Kushner’s epic Angels in America: A Gay Fantasia on National Themes has many awards to its name, including the Pulitzer Prize for Drama and two Tony Awards for Best Play (for Part One, Millennium Approaches in 1993 and Part Two, Perestroika in 1994).
Part One, Millennium Approaches is set in New York City in 1985 at the height of the Reagan Era and in the midst of lack of public acknowledgement of the AIDS epidemic. Roy Cohn is a fiercely anti-communist attorney who is a member of the U.S. Department of Justice, who denies his AIDS diagnosis. His protégé, Joe Pitt, is a young Mormon court clerk who is struggling with his sexual identity and his valium addicted wife, Harper. Louis Ironson and his lover, Prior Walter, are devastated by Prior’s recent AIDS diagnosis. Belize, a black ex-drag queen, comforts and cares for Prior and at the same time provides argument to Louis’s self-centered politics and abandonment of Prior.
Over the course of the play, Kushner uses fantasy, theatrical magic and a blend of comedy and realism to explore themes of love, death, identity and ethics. All of these work together to form a portrait of American life in the 1980s and the end of a millennium and a work of lasting impact that looks deeper than politics or societal roles for shared humanity.
Watch a video of playwright Tony Kushner as part of a series of "Angels in America at 20 Years," produced by Signature Theatre Company:
From a series of interviews including Broadway cast members and members of the original creative team. Click here for more>>
"The sense of the world in the late '80s when I started thinking about the play, and in the early '90s when I wrote it — it was a lot more of a millennial consciousness than an apocalyptic consciousness. There was a strong anticipation. I was a medieval studies major when I was at Columbia, and I was sort of trained to think a lot about millennia. And everyone on the planet, of course, in the late '80s and early '90s, [was] waiting for the year 2000 to arrive. You know, the Y2K virus and all that. There was a certain amount of postmodern versions of old medieval tropes regarding millennia, and a sense that when this sort of auspicious or forbidding date arrived, there would be some sort of transformation — something big was about to happen ...
"During ... the Reagan years, there was a sort of sea change taking place in American politics — and then, as it turned out, in European politics as well, and ultimately in global politics, that we were entering a new period where old reliables were going to be overthrown, and a new way of looking at the world was at hand. And it wasn't necessarily an appealing way of looking at the world, at least for me. ... There was a sense that something was coming and it might be something great, and might be something terrible ...
"I feel, going back now, that the early '90s, the late '80s, for all the horrors of the AIDS epidemic, were comparatively innocent and carefree times compared to where we are now. In the mid-'80s when I wrote the play, it included things about 'eco-cide,' about the collapse of the ozone layer. I really didn't believe in my heart of hearts that the human race was now threatening the survival of life on the planet. There's now absolutely no doubt that that's the case. ... It's completely clear that what we were beginning to get worried about in the '80s was very serious and very real things ... so the play, and the times, both feel darker to me now than they did back then."
from NPR.com and Tony Kushner on the play and its impact today.
“I have a kind of dangerously romantic reading of American history. I do think there is an advantage to not being burdened by history the way Europe is. This country has been, in a way, an improvisation of hastily assembled groups that certainly have never been together before and certainly have a lot of trouble being together, but who recognize that our destiny is not going to be a racial destiny. Anyone who thinks that completely self-interested politics is going to get you anywhere in America is making a terrible mistake. Which is why I object to Louis Farrakhan. Which is why I object to gays and lesbians in ACT UP who say ‘I hate straights.’ Or to Jews who think that the only thing that matters is Israel and defense against anti-Semitism. People who don’t recognize common cause are going to fail politically in this country. Movements that capture the imagination of people are movements that deny racism and exclusion. The country is too mongrel to do otherwise. This country is made up of the garbage, the human garbage that capitalism created: the prisoners and criminals and religious persecuted and the oppressed and the slaves that were generated by the ravages of early capital. That creates a radical possibility in this country that’s unique.”
from Conversations with Tony Kushner
Tony Kushner is an award winning playwright who is most known for his two-part, seven-hour play "Angels in America: A Gay Fantasia on National Themes," which earned him the Pulitzer Prize and Two Tony Awards. Tony Kushner is also co-author (with Eric Roth) of the screenplay for the 2005 film "Munich," directed by Steven Spielberg. It earned Tony Kushner an Academy Award nomination for Best Adapted Screenplay.
Tony Kushner was born in 1956 in New York City. Soon after Tony Kushner's birth, his family moved to Lake Charles, Louisiana, where Tony Kushner's father ran the family lumberyard. Tony Kushner's parents were classical musicians, and their home was filled with art. Kushner took an interest in theatre at an early age, when Tony Kushner saw his mother onstage performing. From childhood, Tony Kushner has "fairly clear memories of being gay since I was six." Tony Kushner did not, however, "come out" until after trying psychotherapy to change his sexual orientation.
Tony Kushner moved to New York in 1974 and graduated with a B.A. in English Literature in 1978. Tony Kushner went to graduate school to study directing at NYU in 1984, partly because he doubted his chances of becoming a playwright.
Tony Kushner's early plays include "Stella" (1987), an adaptation from Goethe produced in New York, "A Bright Room Called Day" (1987), produced in San Francisco, and "The Illusion" (1988), adapted from Corneille, produced in New York and then Hartford in 1990, and "Slavs!" (1994)
Bio from jbactors.com.
“Ronald Reagan was the most important and influential president of the last sixty years… at least. Beloved by Republicans, loathed by liberals, Ronald Reagan turned half a century of political and economic orthodoxy on its head, converting millions of Americans from Roosevelt Democrats into Reagan conservatives. More than any other single individual, Ronald Reagan is responsible for the conservative ascendancy in American politics that has continued to this day.
Whether you love Reagan or you hate him, you are living in the world that Ronald Reagan built.” More from Shmoop.com>>