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Leila Mazhari

on 21 March 2014

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a bright room called day (1985)
tony kushner
Born in 1956 in New York City
Very liberal parents (both musicians!)
He knew of his sexuality from an early age
but remained closeted until he came out in his mid 20's
Just like the character Joe, he came out to his mother over the phone
Married Mark Harris in 2011
“I had a dream, in 1985, I believe, when a friend I’d gone to school with was sick—one of the first people I knew who’d gotten the AIDS virus. I had a dream of him in his bedroom with an angel crashing through the ceiling. I wrote a poem called “Angels in America.” I’ve never looked at the poem since the day I wrote it” (Kushner, 2003)
Plot is cenetered on a woman named Agnes Eggling living in Germany in the 30’s
The action of the play is occasionally interrupted by scenes featuring Zillah, a young woman in the 1980s living in Long Island who believes that Reagan is becoming too much like Hitler
Clinton era. That combination of rage and grief and optimism is a something that the play reflects pretty effectively” (Kushner, 2008).
“This is… this is gastric juices churning, this is enzymes and acids, this is intestinal is what this is, bowel movement and blood- red meat—this stinks, this is politics, Joe, the game of being alive” (II. VI. 122-124).
“There are no gods here, no ghosts and spirits in America, there are no angels in America, no spiritual past, no racial past, there's only the political, and the decoys and the ploys to maneuver around the inescapable battle of politics” (III. II. 73-75).
“Angels in America explores how those in power legislate and enforce normative assumptions about sex and sexuality, gender, race, and class” (Borreca, 2013).
1. Do you think there’s a villain to this play?

2. Why do you think Kushner decided to use cross-gender casting?

3. In Act 2 Scene 9, what do you think Prior means when he says "There is a law. You'll see."?

4. Which do you think is more effective: the stage production or the HBO adaptation?

5. Do you see the play ending in an optimistic way?
In a 1991 survey, 47% of heterosexual respondents believed that a healthy man was "almost sure" to get AIDS if he had sex with an UNINFECTED man, even if they used condoms.
A 2014 study revealed that 57% of practicing nurses had at least one misconception about HIV/AIDS transmission
38% of nurses agreed with the statement "people who got HIV through sex or drugs have gotten what they deserve"
NBC's earliest report on AIDS (1982):
Robert Bazell reports on a new form of "cancer" that NBC claims to be only affecting homosexual men
AIDS is labelled as: "the gay plague"
AIDS broke out in 1981 and was classified as a pandemic
Reagan prevented his Surgeon General (C. Everett Koop) from speaking out about the epidemic
In 1986, (5 years into his presidency) Reagan finally publicly mentioned AIDS for the first time in White House Documents, vowing in a letter to Congress to make AIDS research a priority
In his 1980 campaign trial, he spoke of the gay civil rights movement:
“My criticism is that [the gay movement] isn’t just asking for civil rights; it’s asking for recognition and acceptance of an alternative lifestyle which I do not believe society can condone, nor can I”

- Religious authorities gave the impression that AIDS was a disease limited to the gay male community
the pope publicly stated that being gay is "being immoral"
- U.S. Court of Appeals ruled that no one has the “fundamental right” to be gay
- The U.S. Department of Defense stated homosexuality is incompatible with the military
- To many, being gay labeled people as being “mentally ill”
social stigmas: coming out meant "social suicide"
- "G.R.I.D." (Gay-Related Immune Deficiency)

In the 80's, AIDS was thought only as an illness contracted by homosexuals
Act 1, scene 9 – Roy gets the news from the doctor that he has AIDS
“Homosexuals are not men who sleep with men. Homosexuals are men who in fifteen years of trying cannot get a pissant antidiscrimination bill through City Council. Homosexuals are men who know nobody and who nobody knows. Who have zero clout. Does this sound like me, Henry?... AIDS is what homosexuals have. I have liver cancer”
negative reception of the play:
“Angels in America is a second-rate play written by a second-rate playwright who happens to be gay, and because he has written a play about being gay, and about AIDS, no one—and I mean no one—is going to call
AIDS in the media:
the early years
Zillah has fled to Germany out of frustration and anger at the growing power of the Republican Party in America during the 1980s
“But I couldn’t figure out a way to have modern American people talk about politics without being so specific. Also, it was the end of the Reagan era—we thought—and the beginning of the
Angels in America the overwrought, coarse, posturing, formulaic mess that it is” (Lee Siegal, 2003)
1990 Kennedy Center Fund for New American Plays (non-competitive grant)[13]
1991 Bay Area Drama Critics Award for Best Play
1991 National Arts Club Joseph Kesselring Award
1992 Evening Standard Award for Best Play
1992 London Drama Critics Circle Award for Best New Play
1992 Kennedy Center Fund for New American Plays (non-competitive grant)
1992 Los Angeles Drama Critics Circle Award for Best New Play
1993 Drama Desk award for Best Play
1993 New York Drama Critics' Circle Award for Best Play
1993 Pulitzer Prize for Drama[14]
1993 Tony Award for Best Play
1994 Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Play
1994 Tony Award for Best Play
2004: the HBO miniseries wins 5 Golden Globes and 11 Emmys
Production Timeline
May 1990
: Millennium Approaches first performed as a workshop in LA
May 1991: Angels in America: Millennium Approaches premiered in San Francisco at the Eureka Theatre Company, directed by Oskar Eustis
January 1992: Millennium Approaches opens at the Royal National Theatre in London, directed by Declan Donnellan
November 1992: Millennium Approaches and Perestroika are produced together for the first time in LA
May 1993: Angels in America: Millennium Approaches debuts on Broadway
December 2003: the HBO miniseries of Angels in America is aired
January 2004: the HBO miniseries wins 5 Golden Globes and 11 Emmys
March 2010: in Paris, Angels in America is made into an opera
November 2010: Angels’ first major NYC revival is performed at Signature Theater
March 30, 2012: Court Theatre’s production of Angels in America opens
“This play has already been talked about so much that you may feel you have already seen it, but believe me, you haven't, even if you actually have.”
(Frank Rich, New York Times, 1993)
“What has really affected "Angels in America" during the months of its odyssey to New York, however, is not so much its change of directors as Washington's change of Administrations. When first seen a year or so ago, the play seemed defined by its anger at the reigning political establishment... but the shift in Washington has had the subliminal effect of making "Angels in America" seem more focused on what happens next than on the past."
(Frank Rich, New York Times, 1993)
Why was it successful?
political context (current and succeeding Administration)
social context (AIDS epidemic)
human relationships
HBO Adaptation
"(Angels in America) is now coming out on HBO during what, in my opinion, is this kind of appalling and frightening and profoundly dangerous re-occurrence of Reaganism in the form of the second Bush administration."
(Tony Kushner, HBO Interview, 2003)

6-part HBO miniseries
included both "Millennium Approaches" and "Perestroika"
most watched made for TV film in 2003
Theatre Staging vs. Film Technique
shaky camera
theatrical dream sequences
extreme close ups
"eye contact" with the audience (staring straight into the camera lens)
minimal scenery
simultaneous staging
no blackouts
scene shifts done by actors
theatrical illusion is obvious (the wires show)
(There is a great blaze of triumphal music, heralding. The
light turns an extraordinary harsh, cold, pale blue, then a rich, brilliant warm golden color, then a hot, bilious green, and then finally a spectacular royal purple. Then silence.)
PRIOR (An awestruck whisper): God almighty . . .
Very Steven Spielberg.
inspiration for the play
Full transcript