In advance of the December broadcast of HBO’s television miniseries of Angels in America —and more than a decade after the play’s first theatrical presentation—American Theatre set out to interview a wide range of people, inside and outside the theatre, whose lives and careers have been touched by Tony Kushner’s “gay fantasia on national themes.” The magazine’s questions appear in gray type.
ALISA SOLOMON, author and theatre critic, New York City
Was American drama and the discourse surrounding it significantly altered by the arrival of Angels in America?
Like the “very Steven Spielberg” angel that crashes through Prior’s ceiling at the end of Millennium Approaches, Kushner’s epic drama landed on Broadway a decade ago and tore, thrillingly and irreparably, through the limited notions of art and public discourse that had constrained American drama for so long. (Of course, Angels in America is in no other way even a tiny little bit Steven Spielberg; the Hollywood honcho thrives on sentimentality, manipulativeness and transporting special effects, while Kushner’s work is driven by ambivalent empathy, moral complexity and illusion, both spectacular and unmasked.) Revolutionary in its sweep, style and substance, Angels expanded the canvas of our theatre, interconnecting the politics of race, class, gender, sexuality, ethnicity and religion in a deeply literary, highly theatrical, materialist and spiritual critique of America at the turn of the century. Placing even the most domestic of scenes within psycho-sexual-political landscapes, Kushner demonstrated that theatre can trace trajectories far vaster and of far greater, if messier, moment, than the “arc” of a particular character’s journey: Thus he shoved aside that narrow dramaturgical principle that suffocates so many of our plays. Not only did he take on “national themes,” as his subtitle reminds us, but he queered the debate over them in a “gay fantasia.”
Yet let it be said: Angels in America did not rescue the American theatre from its insistent inanity and puny ambitions (habits of mind it shares with—and derives from—America in general). Kushner is brilliant, yes. The messiah he isn’t. Indeed, Kushner’s own work insists that it takes more than a single genius to challenge the narcissistic, narrow-minded triumphalism that suffuses our politics (and, inevitably, infects our drama). That he draws us into imagining the possibility of a collective struggle toward an alternative may be Angels in America‘s most urgent legacy. The Great Work begins.
GEORGE C. WOLFE, artistic director, Joseph Papp Public Theater, and director of the Broadway production of Angels
What is your most indelible memory of working on the play?
I have so many stories about Angels—everything from the first preview, when one of the stage managers, Mary Klinger, yelled out from backstage, “Open the ceiling so the damn angel can come through!” to wrestling a wig from Marcia Gay Harden after it was cut from the show. But the first time I really got a sense of what Angels meant beyond the realm of theatre was during Gay Pride the year the show was on Broadway.
I’d stopped by to take a picture of the cast and Tony on the Angels float for the parade and ended up riding with them. As we traveled along the route down Fifth Avenue, people would run up to us, sometimes crying, sometimes laughing, saying, “Thank you.”
They weren’t saying thank you for a great show or thank you for being part of a brilliant play-they were saying thank you for having an impact on their lives. The play, the production, had entered their lives and they were somehow different because of it.
Angels is everything great theatre should be. It’s romantic, elegant, irreverent, political and very smart. But most of all, Angels proves that theatre truly can be a catalyst for change. Not changing the world by ridding it of homophobia or racism, but changing people-empowering them so that they can go forward, fully, unconditionally living their lives.
WALLACE SHAWN, playwright
How did you respond to Angels as a writer and an audience member?
Out of an almost impossibly passionate love of humanity, Tony Kushner fashioned in Angels in America a mighty work of political optimism. The public was astonished, and fellow theatre workers encountering this Jewish Wagner in their midst felt a special surge of joy at the sheer exuberance of it all, the celebration of the fact that a play can include both anything and everything. Even people of the most tepid disposition were awakened by this play to an intense involvement with actual human feelings—the quintessential theatrical experience, but almost never to be found.
HAROLD BLOOM, literary critic
Where would you place Angels in the 20th-century American dramatic canon?
Angels in America is a two-part dramatic work that, in my judgment, stands with the very best American plays. It is fully of the stature of Long Day’s Journey into Night and The Iceman Cometh, of A Streetcar Named Desire and The Glass Menagerie, of Death of a Salesman, The Skin of Our Teeth and The Zoo Story. Of all these, I must confess to a particular love for Perestroika, which rivals the very best of Tennessee Williams, who is, with Kushner, the only American dramatist whose prose is of the highest literary quality. Socrates, at the close of the Symposium, argues that the same person ought to be able to write both tragedy and comedy. Kushner alone in the United States has shown that he is fully capable of such achievement.
OSKAR EUSTIS, artistic director, Trinity Repertory Company, Providence, R.I.
As one of Kushner’s earliest collaborators on Angels, did you feel from the beginning that you were working on a play that would break new ground?
When it came time for me to leave the Eureka Theatre Company of San Francisco, where I had commissioned and developed Angels, Gordon Davidson asked me to come to the Mark Taper Forum in Los Angeles. I gave him the most recent draft of the first two acts of Millennium Approaches and said, “My company has fallen apart, my father has died, socialism has failed disastrously, I don’t know what I believe in, but I believe in this play. If you love it, I’ll come to your theatre.” Gordon loved it, and I moved to Los Angeles.
Angels redefined the landscape of the possible for the American theatre. Tony’s political courage, emotional honesty and astonishing intellectual ambition, combined with the heart-melting beauty of his writing, set a new standard for what the theatre can accomplish.
JOSHUA FLAUT, executive director, Center for Jewish History, New York City
In what ways is Angels in America a Jewish play?
Aside from being populated with Jews and an angel fashioned on the Torah’s concept of angels, Tony Kushner’s epic examines the notion of the border between community and isolation through characters teetering on the border of life and death. Any time a “Jewish” work of art is a success, community leaders are eager to claim the artist and parade him around as further proof of Jewish excellence. But Angels in America is no Fiddler on the Roof. Jews may be proud of Kushner as a brilliant playwright, but Roy Cohn is no prize. Cohn is not the only Jewish character in the play, nor is he the only character conflicted about his Jewish identity—but he is a powerful example of a man whose need for community stays commensurate to his efforts to “cleanse” himself from the “stains” of Judaism and homosexuality. Cohn’s view of America’s melting pot seems to entail the actual melting away of any non-generic aspects of his identity, and yet he can neither live nor die without them. With biblical references and quotations, recitation of Kaddish and the raising of questions about the relevance of ancient traditions during the modern plague of AIDS, Angels in America is a Jewish play and a Mormon play and a black play and a gay play and a straight play—and, above all and for better and worse, an American play.
What does it say about Jewish identity?
One of the most fascinating themes running throughout Millennium and Perestroika is the idea of what you must be and what you must not be to identify with your community. A Jewish identity affords one instant belonging, which is of particular significance when death is so near. And yet a strong identity posits seemingly taut boundaries beyond which loom shame and ostracism. What better way to explore Judaism’s traditional frowning upon homosexuality than an incarnation of Roy Cohn, the very powerful anti-Semitic, homophobic, gay Jew? Ultimately, I suppose, the play says that a Jew can never stop being Jewish, and that everyone’s identity is a little bit Jewish since the Torah colors so much of the spiritual lore prevalent in America today.
KATHLEEN CHALFANT, actress, New York City
You were involved in Angels from the very beginning. Why did you devote so much of your life to this play?
I was involved off and on with Angels in America for six years. I did the first reading of it in 1988 at New York Theatre Workshop, and Ellen McLaughlin and I were the last members of the original company to leave it in 1994. It was a long time. I got to see it emerge. I got to see it appear. I was also in the San Francisco production of Angels in 1991, directed by David Esbjornson.
Why so long? Because I’ve never ever seen a piece of writing like that. I couldn’t imagine not seeing it through to the end. It was the most extraordinary artistic experience of my life. And it had a personal dimension for me: My older brother and mentor was a gay man. I grew up with his friends. He was 14 years older, like another parent. It was a world that I knew and learned a great deal from.
Hannah, the Mormon mother, was among the roles you played. Did you get a lot of feedback from Mormons in the audience?
When we got to New York, I believe every gay Mormon in the world came to see the play. Lots and lots of Mormons came, and some of them used to stop me and say I was exactly like their mother. Or that they knew the person on whom the character was based. She was amazing, Hannah.
What about Ethel Rosenberg?
People responded a great deal to Ethel. But many of the people who came to see the play were fairly young—they had no connection to the Rosenbergs, really. The old lefties in the world had a connection, and that was important. I loved playing Ethel—she was a remarkable character, but not as accessible or oddly familiar as some of the other characters.
DECLAN DONNELLAN, director of the National Theatre production of Angels, London
Considering that you first directed two of Tony Kushner’s major works before their American premieres (Angels and Homebody/Kabul), how would you characterize your working relationship with Tony?
Tony and I are very different artists, and our working relationship has always been fairly volcanic. Out of that conflict of opposites, our theatre was born. Had we been the same, perhaps the work we produced would have been the less.
There were many memorable moments doing Angels. The play had not been seen in New York when it opened in London, so there was a lot of attention. I personally find an excess of attention unhealthy and do my best not to worry about the notices, but Tony was very nervous, which surprised and touched me, as he had written such a magnificent play. Because there was less at stake for me as a director, perhaps I was able to see more clearly that he had achieved something unique. Strangely enough, I always knew somewhere that Angels would probably become legendary, and felt very privileged to be involved!
Angels is so unsentimental. The characters are not divided into good guys and bad guys. It is possible to interpret Louis and Prior and Harper and Joe in different ways. That is why the play seemed to me to have a lot in common with the classics I normally direct. I was exhilarated to have found a new play that was epic, poetic, dealt with politics on a state and personal level, was about the community, the individual, sex and life and death and the supernatural. It was like being back in my happy hunting ground of early 17th-century European classics.
As I got to know the play, I came to feel that, while gayness and AIDS were important themes, the play (like so many great pieces of writing) was really about love. I always felt that, if anyone, Harper was the central character.
Tony’s vision is epic and Lear-like, and despite the multitude of words, it reminds me of Beckett. In his vision, words tend to kill love, rather than give it voice. Beneath the optimism, there is despair. Beneath the laughter, there is searing pain.
Millennium was a huge success in London. Soon fashionable stars from the U.S. made it a pilgrimage, but I always missed them, dammit. Whenever I came to see a show there would be choruses of “Oh, you should have been in last night, Lauren Bacall was here,” etc. Broadway producers flew in to ask us to give the play its New York debut and Nick and I were so excited we danced round the fountains in Hyde Park like Bialystock and Bloom. But we had unbreakable commitments to our company Cheek by Jowl, and gave the British premiere of On ne badine pas avec l’amour instead, which was also to tour Europe. We were both miffed to miss out on the New York glamour, but figured it was probably better for the soul, if not the bank balance. Tony asked me to do Perestroika in London, however, which I was reluctant to do as our relationship over Millennium had been so boisterous. I had two conditions. One was that Tony would not cross the Atlantic till our second preview, which he would watch without taking notes and then personally congratulate each of the actors, whatever he thought. he accepted.
In the event, he really enjoyed the production, anyway. But by then we were close friends.
NICK ORMEROD, scenic designer, National Theatre production of Angels in America, London
What was most memorable about designing Angels in the 1990s?
My first visit ever to New York City was to prepare for Angels, and Tony Kushner showed us some of the locations in the play: the Bethesda Fountain in Central Park, Brooklyn Heights and a weird and wonderful apartment in Brooklyn painstakingly decorated in a mosaic of lino, with a bedroom entirely painted black, except for a huge clown’s head over the bed—which I took as inspiration for Prior’s bedroom. The spectacular view of Manhattan from Brooklyn is another setting, and I tried to recreate a portion of the railing in the design. The design solution in London was essentially a simple acting space surrounded by the stars and stripes, into which were brought objects, sometimes very simple ones, sometimes more elaborate (like the fountain) to suggest place. It is one of the pieces of work I am most happy with.
MARGO LION, New York City, producer of the Broadway production and tour
What kind of challenges did you face producing Angels on Broadway?
The major challenge coming in was that the show had been heralded before it came to New York. When it was in London, particularly, it was a watershed event in terms of both its topic and point of view. And creatively it was a celebrated play. So if our production didn’t live up to the promise of the material, then that was going to be a very unhappy scenario.
Especially with Millennium Approaches, which was the part of Angels that was basically finished, we had to score a bull’s eye. Perestroika was a different matter—the challenge there was that it wasn’t a finished play when it came in. Tony’s requirement was that we commit to doing both plays, as opposed to doing them sequentially. This provided a special challenge because we were rehearsing Perestroika while we were up on stage with Millennium. We had a truncated schedule.
But all in all, being involved in Angels in America has to be one of the high points in my career. It was an ambitious undertaking, both in its political impact and its emotional power. I think Angels can be done at any time. And as it turns out, it is especially timely now because it talks about one of the dominant themes of our time: responsibility—individual responsibility for one another, and the government’s responsibility for the society. These are issues we are dealing with right now.
DON SHEWEY, critic and gay historian, New York City
What was the impact of Angels on gay culture a decade ago?
I saw both the Los Angeles and the New York premieres of Angels in America, but for me the definitive production will always be the original staging by David Esbjornson at the Eureka Theatre in San Francisco, which I reviewed for the Village Voice in the summer of 1991. The production budget must have been about $150; the white sheet on Prior’s bed served as the landscape of Heaven, and everything in between. No spectacular winged creature descended from the ceiling at the end of Millennium Approaches, just some falling plaster and a beam of light. The unfinished Perestroika was so long that the actors read some scenes and simply paraphrased others, but it still went on for five hours. It immediately struck me as a landmark in gay theatre. Here was a play that dealt with the devastation of AIDS on what felt like the right scale—epic grief and epic rage—and insisted that we couldn’t talk about it separate from the spiritual and political catastrophe that was late 20th-century America. And it unapologetically let six gay characters—a white man with AIDS, his Jewish lover, a bisexual Mormon, a lesbian nurse, a black drag queen and Roy Cohn—tell the most important story of the day with exactly as much complexity and contradiction as it required.
DAVID ESBJORNSON, director of the original production of Angels in America at Eureka Theatre Company, San Francisco
How did your Eureka production set the stage for future mountings of Angels?
What I think the Eureka production did for Angels was to give the play a vocabulary for presenting such an ambitious and demanding work. Limited resources can often create imaginative solutions, but this situation was extreme by any standards. Still, I think this production, with its quirky theatricality and deep passion, may have come closest to Tony’s aesthetic and sensibility. Pop-up traps for Prior’s visions, elastic walls for the ghosts to enter, clowning and magic technique—all these contributed to providing the audience with both the surprise and impact of the initial effect, and also the secondary enjoyment of participating in how it had been achieved. Both the writing and production celebrated the art of theatre as the perfect arena for these large-scale ideas and made no apology for letting the “strings show.”
I presented Part 2 on its own terms, but continued the theatrical deconstruction started in the fully staged Millennium. The audience seemed equally delighted to participate in this event—they were more than willing to settle in and listen, celebrating the ambition and scope of the material and taking pleasure in using their imaginations. The Bolsheviks (later to become the characters in Slavs) performed in front of the house curtain as a vaudeville sketch-five scenes introducing the five acts. Prop elements from Part 1 lay strewn around the stage and were assembled as needed for the presentation. The actors performed with script in hand, with the exception of one key scene from each act, such as Prior’s “visit to heaven.” Tony wrote dramatic bridges that described action not staged. The actors took turns stepping out of character to describe these actions, furthering the sense of deconstruction.
STEPHEN SPINELLA, actor, Los Angeles, for whom Kushner wrote the role of Prior in Angels in America
What is your most indelible memory from the various productions of Angels in which you have appeared?
Perhaps the most powerful moment I ever had on Broadway was during the summer of 1994, which marked the 25th anniversary of Stonewall and was also the time of the Gay Games in New York City. Probably 75 percent of the audience was from out of town—people who had desperately tried to get tickets. With this audience, the play felt like a totally different experience than it did in any other time or place. The moment came in the scene where Prior shows Louis the KS lesion on his arm. This is the fourth scene of the play, and it’s a funny scene—it goes, joke, joke, joke, joke, joke, and then Prior pulls up his sleeve. For that audience, the recognition of the full gravity of that event was instantaneous: It was like dropping a gigantic bomb into the room. It’s the first time I can truly say I experienced deafening silence. Joe Mantello and I had a difficult time getting through the rest of the scene. Of course, some percentage of people in that audience actually had KS lesions, and what they saw on stage had such power and meaning and immediacy. It was an astonishing experience.
Another occasion was the scene with Harper, when she appears in Prior’s dream in the first act. This scene also has a lot of jokes and played very well. Once when I was doing it with Cynthia Nixon, we lost control of the audience—they were going to laugh as long as they wanted to! The scene became distended and unwieldy as we waited for them to finish laughing. Cynthia and I said, “We can’t let this happen again—we have to barrel through and not let them hold up the scene with laughter!” It’s sort of ironic that on the occasion of the arrival of the film, the events I remember most have to do with being in the theatre—times when the audience and the performance were of such a piece, so completely involved with each other. The audience became as much a part of the performance as we were.
ELLEN MCLAUGHLIN, actress, New York City, who played the Angel and other roles in multiple productions
In Perestroika, the part of the Angel really comes into her own. Was that a fuller experience than doing Millennium Approaches?
I fell in love with the play so deeply. There were many years where my life was just that play. Millennium is the play I am most familiar with—it’s a masterpiece. It has a kind of absolute sense of inevitability about it. Perestroika came much later, and it is a masterpiece of a different kind: brilliant and daring and unique in the American theatre. But it had a choppy history—so many rewrites and so many drafts. It was hugely tumultuous in its birthing. I deeply enjoyed doing it—the sense of exhilaration of flying, the beauty of the language and the weirdness of the scenes. It felt like a virtuoso piece. I love the shot-out-of-the-cannon feel that Perestroika gives you as an actor. I spent a lot of time going up and down stairs doing amazingly fast costume changes—sometimes it felt like a technical enterprise as much as it was an acting enterprise. Tony has said that it couldn’t happen again—it was a very specific period in the career of every person involved, and in the history of the country.
ANA OLIVEIRA, executive director, Gay Men’s Health Crisis, New York City
In what ways has Angels in America, the play and now the miniseries, raised awareness about HIV/AIDS?
When Angels in America premiered at the Joseph Papp Public Theater [sic], it was a great and significant moment in the American theatre. Like most great drama, Angels has stood the test of time, and it exists today as the single greatest record of the AIDS epidemic in the U.S. in the early ’90s. Remarkably, the play’s graphic depiction of the way AIDS ravages the body and spirit, its unabashed political rage and its uncanny—startling, even—hopefulness remain as accurate a reflection of the epidemic today as they were then. In 2003, a year when over 40,000 new HIV infections will occur in the U.S., when many life-lengthening drugs are either too physically intolerable or expensive to use, and when the government subverts science to ideology by emphasizing abstinence over condoms in the prevention of HIV, a film version of Angels in America couldn’t be more welcome. The more who see this seminal work, the more who will remember the way it was—and maybe, understand the way it still is. After all, Mr. Kushner’s Millennium has come and gone. But sadly, AIDS remains.
KENNETH L. WOODWARD, contributing editor, Newsweek (where he was religion editor for 38 years)
How do the angels in Kushner’s play relate to the broader tradition of representing angels in American culture?
When Kushner’s play appeared, angel mania was already in full swing in America. I wrote a cover story about this pop phenomenon for Newsweek that included an interview with Kushner, whose play was running on Broadway. To date, there’s been a stream of best-selling books about angels, not to mention the TV show “Touched by an Angel,” and the greeting card industry even introduced a line of angel cards. What I’ve found interesting about all of this is that the angels being invoked and celebrated are not the fearsome, awe-inspiring angels of the Bible—on the contrary, they are all cuddly guardian angels who provide help and therapy to those who experience them. They announce no new revelations, as Biblical figures often do, but go about doing good and shielding people from harm, sometimes by providing miraculous escapes from peril. In this respect, angels represent a kind of benign but faux transcendence for those who can’t or won’t accept a God who judges and sometimes smites the wicked. In short, they are God—substitutes rather than messengers of a God who, as in the Book of Job, cannot be controlled.
Kushner, as an artist, presents angels that contrast with the angel-mania trend. He evokes an older and more robust tradition involving the fearsomeness of these “powers and dominions” from a realm higher than the human. His angel is truly transcendent. Insofar as there are Mormons in Kushner’s play, his angel echoes the revelation to Joseph Smith via the angel Moroni. Angels were very important to the prophet Mohammed, too, incidentally, so there’s almost an Islamic aspect to the play that may go unnoticed. Kushner uses angels to give the action of his play a larger, more cosmic dimension.
FRED C. ADAMS, founder/executive producer, Utah Shakespearean Festival, member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
What impact did the play have on America’s conception of the Mormon Church?
Next to none among the Church’s 11-million membership and only slightly more among the public at large. I think the public perceives it to be the author’s intent to sensationalize an institution that has faced stronger and better-written attacks with the ability to turn the other cheek and go about proving its worth by deeds, not rumors.
Did the play present an accurate or skewed version of Church beliefs?
It is so inaccurate that it smacks of current TV writing. The author has taken isolated elements of the Church and targeted them to an audience that has no personal knowledge of Church members or what the Church truly believes.
What impact will the HBO miniseries have on the public’s conception of the Church?
It’s my assessment that the majority of viewers will watch a few minutes of it and finally flip the dial to something more historically accurate and edifying—like “Buffy the Vampire Slayer.”
DAVID MARSHALL GRANT, actor, New York City, who played the Mormon character Joe Pitt on Broadway
What kind of feedback did you get from playing a closeted Mormon?
I mostly got hostile feedback. I was quite reviled. But I think that served the part, that it was cathartic, perhaps. I got a great many letters from gay men and gay kids who were taken by the whole story of being repressed, being closeted—people shared with me their horrible stories of having to keep their lives secret. And a large portion of those letters were from people who had grown up with religious backgrounds. Some of those were Mormons who were trying to come to terms with the lessons their church had taught them during their childhood. This was very moving, because people were at a place in their lives where they were finally battling that monster.
I never got hate mail, though, and I never felt that I had to refer anybody to a suicide hotline or to the police. I just felt they were sharing with me their journeys. Joe Pitt’s journey in Angels is very torturous one—I think it goes to the heart of trying to be a better person.
KEITH MARTIN, former producer and managing director, Charlotte Repertory Theatre, whose programming of Angels in 1996 resulted in the withdrawal of arts funding (subsequently restored) in Mecklenburg County, N.C.
How have things changed in Charlotte in the five years since the controversy over Angels?
While the Angels legacy includes a lasting mobilization of arts supporters in the political arena, among other positives, it also can claim a lasting timidity at the box office, where established companies too often offer safe fare with little creative risk. The public funding debate helped to re-establish the arts as an appropriate forum for the exchange of ideas among people of good will who happen to disagree. Unfortunately, the shadow of Angels also extends to troubling self-censorship by producing agencies that fear financial and/or political repercussions as a result of their work. (From “Has Charlotte Healed,” The Charlotte Observer, April 14, 2002)
TOM BUSH, former Republican member of the Mecklenburg Board of County Commissioners, who cast the deciding vote to eliminate local funding for the arts
Do you stand by your vote in the Angels controversy?
There has not been a day since that decisive vote in April 1997 that it has not crossed my mind. On the one hand, we had the unmitigated gall of sovereign government mandating to the arts that, as a condition of public funding, they could not portray art that gave the impression of promoting, accepting or telling the story of homosexuality. On the other hand, there was the clear “in your face” statement by members of the arts community that once county government had given money to the arts, the arts would do with it what they wanted, regardless of what their constituents might find offensive. I knew I was the swing vote, and I voted to cut the funding.
Interestingly enough, the arts are now funded once again. Interestingly enough, there is now a very good process in which taxpayer dollars that are going to be expended for the arts are closely examined on how the grants will take place, and there are guidelines to minimize offensive art that uses taxpayer dollars. (From “Has Charlotte Healed,” The Charlotte Observer, April 14, 2002)
JUDY WIEDER, senior vice president and corporate editorial director, LPI Media, publisher of The Advocate and Out magazines, Los Angeles
How has Angels changed the landscape of the American media and society, especially when it comes to the coverage of gay and lesbian issues?
I believe this play altered everyone it came in contact with. The self-loathing of Roy Cohn was a painful portrait of many, many gay men—no one had ever attempted to write such a complex gay person before. President Reagan’s world during the AIDS crisis had never been more savagely displayed to the American media and society. Because Kushner not only wrote with his head (which is a considerable place!) but with his heart, no one who saw Angels in America could leave the theatre unchanged.
Of course, there is still plenty of homophobia at work in America. If that weren’t true, the GLBT community would have equal rights, period. Second, whatever important progress has been made since Kushner wrote Angels should remind queer people of their history—where we have been. If this doesn’t happen, we’ll all be heading back there soon enough.
SCOTT SEOMIN, entertainment media director, GLAAD (Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation), Los Angeles
You have actually seen the HBO film of Angels. Any advance thoughts you can share about it?
We saw the first part of the film here in Los Angeles. My overwhelming thought was that I couldn’t believe three hours had passed—it leaves you wanting more. Of course, Angels is a beloved piece of theatre, and when anything goes from stage to screen, you worry. Will it work on the big screen? In this case, it absolutely does. The stories unfold in a very natural fashion that pulls the viewer in. You get to know these people so quickly, and you care about them. One is left with a sense of dread, as well as a sense of caring for humanity.
The HBO film doesn’t feel dated at all—despite the fact that it’s set in the ’80s, it feels like 2003. But at the same time, it’s a piece of gay history. Gay youth in particular need to seek out their gay history and learn about their roots. And, in this case, they need to learn about the epidemic in order to protect themselves as well.
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