An oral history traces the life of an iconic American play.
Tony Kushner’s Angels in America won accolades when it opened on Broadway in 1993, winning a Pulitzer Prize, many Tony awards, and critical acclaim. In their debut book, theater director Butler and Slate writer Kois gather the voices of 250 actors, directors, producers, critics, audience members, and historians—and Kushner himself—to tell the story of that momentous play and its dramatic context. A rich historical resource, the book chronicles the emergence of AIDS and the nation’s changing attitudes toward homosexuality from 1978 to 2018, when Angels is set to be revived yet again. Each of five sections opens with a timeline, beginning with the assassination of gay rights activist Harvey Milk and progressing through the election of Ronald Reagan, the Army’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy, and the Supreme Court judgment making gay marriage legal in all states. Contributors include many of the actors in the original production and some (like Marcia Gay Harden) who performed over the years. Meryl Streep, who performed in the HBO production in 2003, remarked on the play’s immediate impact: “I’ve seen lots of performances that surprised me in the theater but this was on a scale—with ambition and imagination—that was unlike anything I’d ever seen.” It was, she added later, “the Hamilton of its time.” In his review, New York Times critic Frank Rich wrote that the play “speaks so powerfully because something far larger and more urgent than the future of the theater is at stake. It really is history that Mr. Kushner intends to crack open.” Despite the praise and awards, Kushner himself never quite believed his fame. In an interview with journalist Susan Cheever, he expressed worry that if a new play failed, he would “just be back to writing little plays for tiny little theaters.” She assured him that would never happen: “You’ve gone over to the other side now. You’ll always have done this thing and it’s permanent.”
A chorus of candid, emotional, and often moving testimonies.