• nyc4change

    An Educated Educator?

    Doug Cooney’s article (Why I Stopped Teaching ‘Angels’ to Undergrads) left me astonished at it’s shortsightedness.

    Some years ago, I also had occasion to ‘teach’ Tony Kushner’s ‘Angels in America’ to undergrads, along with several other required plays, during a fifteen-week semester. Admittedly, I asked myself how I might “unpack”, in the allotted time, all the issues the play contains. The truth is, I couldn’t. But together we began scratching the play’s surface with discussions, research, and scene work, and those students finished the class wide awake to Kushner’s masterpiece.

    Great plays are not meant to be conquered during brief portions of a college semester. Instead of complaining of the task ahead, Mr. Cooney would do well to remember that a theatre educator’s primary obligation is to steward his students’ earliest excavations into the worlds of our greatest plays, and to facilitate the beginnings of their relationships with those texts which will deepen as they mature for the rest of their lives.

  • tuckerprguy

    Well after reading the reasons for his decision, I guess I’m glad that Mr. Cooney is not teaching “Angels in America” to his students, because he obviously does not have the chops to tackle such a monumental work. Kushner’s epic requires more care, insight and research than your average play: It certainly should not be lumped in with “X number of plays over 15 weeks.” To attempt to do so is a disservice to the play, the playwright, and Mr. Cooney’s students. If he’s teaching an “introductory theatre survey course,” I could easily come up with 15+ excellent, essential scripts for Mr. Cooney’s students to be introduced to. Throwing in “Angels in America” is like throwing someone into the deep end of the pool for their introductory swimming lesson.

  • Adam G.

    Great article. The thing about undergraduates (and indeed most people who don’t know what they don’t know) is that they look at something complicated and want to do that right away. I had a teacher that said if you follow all of the rules of great playwriting, you are GUARANTEED to make a mediocre play. But without a solid grounding in the basics and the “well-made” play, you don’t know which rule to break and when. Angels breaks rules, but it does it knowingly and expertly.