Tony Kushner

Definition

Theater

  • (1956 - ) US playwright, best known for his extraordinary two-part epic Angels in America, subtitled "a Gay Fantasia on National Themes". He has commented on his work "I like big, splashy,juicy plays."

    The son of two classical musicians, Kushner was brought up in an artisticJewish household in Lake Charles, Lousiana, where his parents inherited a lumber business. He began to write while taking a graduate course in directing at New York University and a number of his plays were produced off-off-Broadway in the 1980s; these include A Bright Room Called Day(1985), which is set in Germany during the Nazis' rise to power, Hydiotaphia (1987), a fantasy based on the life of Sir Thomas Browne that also examines the historical origins of capitalism, and The Illusion(1988), an adaptation of a comedy by Pierre Corneille.

    Despite the range and ambition of these plays, Kushner remained a little known figure when Millennium Approaches, the first part of Angels in America, was staged in Los Angeles in 1991. The play, which uses a dazzlingmixture of realism, satire, and fantasy to explore the impact of AIDS on the gay community in Reagan-era America, earned rave reviews and proved a massive hit when subsequently seen in London (1992) and on Broadway (1993). A secondpart, the still more audacious Perestroika, followed in 1992, giving audiences and critics the chance to evaluate the work as a whole. Newsweek was typical in hailing "the most ambitious American play of our time" and Kushner was duly awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Drama in 1993.

    Kushner's subsequent plays have included Slavs! (1995), Henry Box Brown, or the Mirror of Slarery (1998), Homebody/Kabul (2001), and Caroline, or Change (2003), a musical about the relationship betweena Jewish family and their Black maid set against the background of the 1960s Civil Rights movement. He has also adapted or translated a number of works fromthe German, including an acclaimed version of Brecht's Mother Courage and Her Children (2006). His screenplays include the Steven Spielberg film Munich (2005). In 2009 Kushner's The Intelligent Homosexual's Guide to Capitalism and Socialism with a Key to the Scriptures was premiered at the Guthrie Theatre in Minneapolis as part of a two-month season of his work.

    My day job is playwright. My citizen job is activist ... I succeed and fail at both my jobs, but I try to do them both.
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