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Angels in America A Gay Fantasia on National Themes Part I : Millennium Approaches Tony Kushner.

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Presentation on theme: "Angels in America A Gay Fantasia on National Themes Part I : Millennium Approaches Tony Kushner."— Presentation transcript:

1 Angels in America A Gay Fantasia on National Themes Part I : Millennium Approaches Tony Kushner

2 Anthony Robert Kushner is an American playwright and screen writer. He received the Pulitzer Prize for Drama in 1992 for his play, Angels in America: A Gay Fantasia on National Themes, and co-authored with Eric Roth the screenplay for the 2005 film, Munich.

3 Context Angels in America is a play in two parts by American playwright Tony Kushner. It has been made into both a television miniseries and an opera by Peter Eötvös. Angels in America Critical reaction to the play was immediately and overwhelmingly positive: the influential New York Times theater critic Frank Rich, for instance, called it "a searching and radical rethinking" of American political drama and "the most extravagant and moving demonstration imaginable" of the artistic response to AIDS.

4 Characters The play is written for eight actors, each of whom plays two or more roles. Kushner's doubling, as indicated in the published script, requires several of the actors to play the opposite sex. There are nine main characters: Prior Walter - A gay man with AIDS. Throughout the play, he experiences various heavenly visions. Louis Ironson - Prior's boyfriend. Unable to deal with Prior's disease, he ultimately abandons him. Theatre in the Park Prior Walter (Eric Carl), right, and Louis Ironson (Matthew-Jason Willis) in Angels in America. Daniel Belcher as Prior Walter and Topi Lehtipuu (with guitar) as his lover, Louis Ironson

5 Characters Harper Pitt - A neurotic Mormon housewife with incessant Valium-induced hallucinations. After a revelation from Prior (whom she meets when his heavenly vision and her hallucination cross paths), she discovers that her husband is a gay. Joe Pitt – Harper's husband and a deeply closeted gay Mormon who works for Roy Cohn. Joe eventually abandons his wife for a relationship with Louis. Throughout the play, he struggles with his sexual identity. Kirsty Bushell as Harper in Angels in America. Julia Migenes as Harper Pitt confronts Omar Ebrahim as Joe Pitt

6 Characters Roy Cohn - A closeted gay lawyer. It is eventually revealed that he has contracted AIDS, which he insists is liver cancer. Ethel Rosenberg - The ghost of a woman executed for being a Communist spy. She visits Roy, the man responsible for her conviction. Hannah Pitt - Joe's mother. She moves to New York after her son drunkenly comes out to her on the phone. She arrives to find that Joe has abandoned his wife. Belize - A former drag queen and Prior's ex-boyfriend and best friend. The Voice/Angel - A messenger who visits Prior. Roberta Alexander as Henry the doctor and Donald Maxwell as Roy Cohn receiving his diagnosis of AIDS Daniel Belcher as Prior Walter gets the word in his hospital room from Barbara Hendricks as the Angel

7 Plot Angels in America focuses on the stories of two troubled couples, one gay, one straight: "word processor" Louis Ironson and his lover Prior Walter, and Mormon lawyer Joe Pitt and his wife Harper. After the funeral of Louis's grandmother, Prior tells him that he has contracted AIDS, and Louis panics. He tries to care for Prior but soon realizes he cannot stand the strain and fear. Meanwhile, Joe is offered a job in the Justice Department by Roy Cohn, his right-wing, bigoted mentor and friend. But Harper, who is addicted to Valium and suffers anxiety and hallucinations, does not want to move to Washington. Angels in America Angels in America at the Théatre du Châtelet: Daniel Belcher as Prior Walter, Barbara Hendricks as the Angel, and the rest of the cast in the closing scene of the opera

8 Plot The two couples' fates quickly become intertwined: Joe stumbles upon Louis crying in the bathroom of the courthouse where he works, and they strike up an unlikely friendship based in part on Louis's suspicion that Joe is gay. Harper and Prior also meet, in a fantastical mutual dream sequence in which Prior, operating on the "threshold of revelation," reveals to Harper that her husband is a closeted homosexual. Harper confronts Joe, who denies it but says he has struggled inwardly with the issue. Roy receives a different kind of surprise: At an appointment with his doctor Henry, he learns that he too has been diagnosed with AIDS. But Roy, who considers gay men weak and ineffectual, thunders that he has nothing in common with them—AIDS is a disease of homosexuals, whereas he has "liver cancer." Henry, disgusted, urges him to use his clout to obtain an experimental AIDS drug. Roberta Alexander as Rabbi Chemelwitz and Daniel Belcher (far right) as Prior Walter in the opening scene

9 Plot Prior's illness and Harper's terrors both grow worse. Louis strays from Prior's bedside to seek anonymous sex in Central Park at night. Fortunately, Prior has a more reliable caretaker in Belize, an ex-drag queen and dear friend. Prior confesses to Belize that he has been hearing a wonderful and mysterious voice; Belize is skeptical, but once he leaves we hear the voice speak to Prior, telling him she is a messenger who will soon arrive for him. As the days pass, Louis and Joe grow closer and the sexual tinge in their banter grows more and more obvious. Finally, Joe drunkenly telephones his mother Hannah in Salt Lake City to tell her that he is a homosexual, but Hannah tells him he is being ridiculous. Nonetheless, she makes plans to sell her house and come to New York to put things right. In a tense and climactic scene, Joe tells Harper about his feelings, and she screams at him to leave, while simultaneously Louis tells Prior he is moving out.

10 Plot The disconsolate Prior is awakened one night by the ghosts of two ancestors who tell him they have come to prepare the way for the unseen messenger. Tormented by such supernatural appearances and by his anguish over Louis, Prior becomes increasingly desperate. Joe, equally distraught in his own way, tells Roy he cannot accept his offer; Roy explodes at him and calls him a "sissy." He then tells Joe about his greatest achievement, illegally intervening in the espionage trial of Ethel Rosenberg in the 1950s and guaranteeing her execution. Joe is shocked by Roy's lack of ethics. When Joe leaves, the ghost of Ethel herself appears, having come to witness Roy's last days on earth. In the climax of Part One, Joe follows Louis to the park, then accompanies him home for sex, while Prior's prophetic visions culminate in the appearance of an imposing and beautiful Angel who crashes through the roof of his apartment and proclaims, "The Great Work begins."

11 Production history The first part, Millennium Approaches, was commissioned and first performed in May 1990 by the Center Theatre Group at the Mark Taper Forum in Los Angeles, as a workshop. Kushner developed the play with the Mark Taper Forum, with which he has a long association. It received its world premiere in May 1991 in a production performed by the Eureka Theatre Company of San Francisco, directed by David Esbjornson. It debuted in London in a Royal National Theatre production directed by Declan Donnellan in January 1992, which ran for a year. Jeff Orton in a revival of Angels in America, Part 1 at the Rep.

12 Production history The second part, Perestroika, was still being developed as Millennium Approaches was being performed. It was performed several times as staged readings by both the Eureka Theatre (during the world premiere of part one), and the Mark Taper Forum (in May 1992). It received its world premiere in November 1992 in a production by the Mark Taper Forum, directed by Oskar Eustis and Tony Taccone. A year later on 20 November 1993, it received its London debut at the National Theatre, again directed by Declan Donnellan, in repertory with a revival of Millennium Approaches. Eureka Theatre

13 Production history The play debuted on Broadway at the Walter Kerr Theatre in 1993, directed by George C. Wolfe, with Millennium Approaches being performed in May and Perestroika joining it in repertory in November. The original cast included Ron Leibman, Stephen Spinella, Kathleen Chalfant, Marcia Gay Harden, Jeffrey Wright, Ellen McLaughlin, David Marshall Grant and Joe Mantello. Among the replacements during the run were F. Murray Abraham (for Ron Leibman), Cherry Jones (for Ellen McLaughlin), Dan Futterman (for Joe Mantello), Cynthia Nixon (for Marcia Gay Harden) and Jay Goede (for David Marshall Grant). Both Millennium Approaches and Perestroika were awarded the Tony Awards for Best Play back to back in 1993 and 1994 respectively. Both parts also won back to back Drama Desk Awards for Outstanding Play.

14 Staging The tone of the play keeps going back and forth between comedy, dark humor and the supernatural. Some special effects may require special machinery (for example, the Angel is supposed to crash through the ceiling of the theater) but Kushner insists on the fact that this machinery is meant to be visible by the spectators. In the "Playwright's Notes" he says: "The play benefits from a pared-down style of presentation, with minimal scenery and scene shifts done rapidly (no blackouts!), employing the cast as well as stagehands — which makes for an actor-driven event, as this must be. The moments of magic [...] are to be fully realized, as bits of wonderful theatrical illusion — which means it's OK if the wires show, and maybe it's good that they do..." It is definitely an instance of what Bertolt Brecht theorized as the Verfremdungseffekt, which can be translated as "alienation effect" or "estrangement effect", whose goal is to constantly remind the spectators that what they are seeing is not taken from the real world but is an art fact created from scratch.

15 Staging One of the many particularities of Angels in America is that each of the eight main actors has one or several other minor roles to play: for example, the actor playing the nurse Emily also embodies the Angel of America. And in this multiple doubling of roles, the gender of each character is deliberately played upon: the actor playing Hannah, Joe's mother, also plays the part of the Rabbi. This is what is referred to as "Genderfuck", which shows a dramatist's deliberate will to throw some light on the arbitrariness and elasticity of the traditional notions of gender categories, thereby proved to be social constructs.

16 Adaptations Film In 2003, HBO Films created a miniseries version of the play. Kushner adapted his original text for the screen, and Mike Nichols directed. HBO broadcast the film in various formats: three-hour segments that correspond to "Millennium Approaches" and "Perestroika," as well as one-hour "chapters" that roughly correspond to an act or two of each of these plays. The first three chapters were initially broadcast on December 7, to international acclaim, with the final three chapters following. "Angels in America" was the most watched made- for-cable movie in 2003 and won both the Golden Globe and Emmy for Best Miniseries."Angels in America"

17 Adaptations Opera Angels in America - The Opera made its world premiere at the Théâtre du Châtelet in Paris, France, on November 23, The opera was based on both parts of the Angels in America Fantasia, however the script was re- worked and condensed to fit both parts into a two and half hour show. Composer Peter Eötvös explains: "In the opera version, I put less emphasis on the political line than Kushner...I rather focus on the passionate relationships, on the highly dramatic suspense of the wonderful text, on the permanently uncertain state of the visions." A German version of the opera followed suit in mid In late 2005, PBS announced that they would air a live filmed version of the opera as a part of its Great Performances lineup. The opera made its U.S. debut in June 2006 at the Stanford Calderwood Pavilion in Boston, Massachusetts. Amanda Forsythe, aloft as the Angel, and Thomas Meglioranza, far right, as Prior Walter in a musical version of "Angels in America" produced by Opera Unlimited and written for the Théâtre du Châtelet.

18 Millennium Approaches, Act One (Act One is subtitled "Bad News“) Scene 1 The play opens with Rabbi Isador Chemelwitz alone onstage with a small wooden coffin. He is preaching the funeral of Sarah Ironson, the grandmother of a large, assimilated Jewish family. Rabbi Chemelwitz admits he did not know Sarah, whose later years in the Bronx Home for Aged Hebrews were sad and quiet, but that he knows her type: the strong, uncomplaining peasant women of Eastern Europe who immigrated to America to build authentic homes for their children. Her kind soon will no longer exist, he says. Scene 2 Meanwhile, Joe Pitt is waiting in Roy Cohn's office while Roy nimbly manipulates several blinking phone lines. Roy switches between arguing with a client whose court date he missed, arranging theater tickets for the wife of a visiting judge, and cursing out an underling. Joe watches him uncomfortably. As Roy uses swear words, Joe asks him not to take the Lord's name in vain, explaining that he is a Mormon. Roy praises Joe's work as a judicial clerk—he writes decisions for his boss to sign— and then offers him a powerful job in the Justice Department.

19 Millennium Approaches, Act One (Act One is subtitled "Bad News“) Scene 3 Joe's wife Harper is sitting alone in their apartment talking to herself and worrying—she imagines the ozone layer disappearing. Mr. Lies, a travel agent who Harper imagines, suddenly appears. Harper asks for a guided tour of Antarctica to see the hole in the ozone layer. She confesses her terrible fears about the world and the state of her marriage. Joe returns home and Mr. Lies vanishes; he asks her if she would like to move to Washington. Scene 4 Louis Ironson and his lover Prior Walter are sitting on a bench outside the funeral home and Louis is about to leave for the cemetery. He remembers his grandmother and apologizes to Prior for not introducing him, saying that family events make him feel closeted. Louis asks why Prior is in a bad mood, assuming it is because their cat, Little Sheba, is missing. Instead, Prior rolls up his sleeve and reveals a Kaposi's sarcoma lesion, an infectious disease that accompanies AIDS. Prior admits he did not tell him earlier because he is afraid Louis will leave him. Louis says he needs to go to the cemetery but promises he will come back afterwards.


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