“Angels in America is one of the finest plays written in the last half of the 20th century,” says Director Lindsay Reading-Korth. “Like all important scripts, it transcends its contemporary period. On the other hand, it does speak to contemporary issues” — issues such as sexuality and HIV/AIDS, which the play is well known for tackling.
As Korth explains, “No, we are not still in the first horrific throes of the AIDS epidemic, though AIDS is frighteningly still more present and more dangerous than we our complacency as a culture would indicate, but we are still desperately at odds as a nation with regard to homosexuality. If anything, the gap between the perspectives of the right and the left in this country have widened in the past 13 years. Kushner’s play focuses on and gives character to this divide, making the complexity of our American identity come alive.”
With the strides made in the fight against the disease in the last decade, some wonder if a play like Angels is still relevant to today’s generation. Korth thinks so. “AIDS hasn’t gone away. Not only is it destroying Africa, it hasn’t gone away in this country either. And because people living with HIV can, with proper medication, lead relatively normal lives, we’ve let our guard down.”
To sophomore Matthew Wegman, who plays the character of Prior, Angels is also a play about basic humanity. “Of course AIDS is a major aspect of the show, but there are also so many more themes in the piece,” he says. “Love, betrayal, sexuality, sex in general, drug abuse, religion, the human will… the list continues. That’s the beauty of this show. The audience can find different underlying themes in every scene.”
Though written more than a decade ago, the value of Angels In America is clear to the production team as well. “I believe that, while it is somewhat dated by its references and content,” explains Set Designer Scott Dahl, “it is one of the few modern plays which will become part of the dramatic canon of acceptable classics among scholars and historians of the Theatre.”
Costume Designer Katherine Columbine, a senior, feels there is much to be learned from this production and its take on human survival “Whether we like it or not, we’re all in this together and there is no excuse for a lack of compassion in this world.” She goes on to explain, “I am comforted in the fact that there are some who will leave with an exposure to homosexuality and AIDS that will make them more well-rounded, open-minded and accepting human beings.”
Technical Director/Lighting Designer Beth LaJoie sums up the play’s relevance in one statement. “Education… plain and simple.” She also feels that this play does much in the way of representing everyday life. “Kushner has given us an important and powerfully written work of art with which to reflect our life, the events we experience in life, and sadly, the tragedies we experience.”
“I hope the audience will take away acceptance and tolerance,” says senior Kara Addington. Addington, who plays the titular Angel, also feels strongly about the other humanistic qualities this play has to offer. “I hope they (the audience) will see that they have commonalities with each and every character. They might not be drag queens or Jewish or Valium addicts, but they are mothers and wives and sons and lovers and friends. Maybe this could be their eye-opener.”
Korth adds, “I want the audience to recognize the tensions that flow through every individual and certainly through this country of ours can produce disaster, but that they can also provoke us to grow and to change, as individuals and as a nation.” She continues, “I want the audience to feel more alive, more awake and full of wonder after they (leave) the theatre than when they came in.
Essential Download: "Angels"
Artisit: Robbie Williams
Available On: The Ego Has Landed
Originally published in the October 2005 issue of The Empty Closet, New York State’s Oldest Continuously-Published GLBT Newspaper, published since 1973 by the Gay Alliance of Genesee Valley.