Tony Kushner looks back on 20 years of Angels in America

Sound bites taken from From an interview with Neal Conan, NPR’s “Talk of the Nation,” September 12, 2011

“During ... the Reagan years, there was a sort of sea change taking place in American politics — and then, as it turned out, in European politics as well, and ultimately in global politics, that we were entering a new period where old reliables were going to be overthrown, and a new way of looking at the world was at hand. And it wasn’t necessarily an appealing way of looking at the world, at least for me... There was a sense that something was coming and it might be something great, and might be something terrible ...

“I feel, going back now, that the early ‘90s, the late ‘80s, for all the horrors of the AIDS epidemic, were comparatively innocent and carefree times compared to where we are now. In the mid-’80s when I wrote the play, it included things about ‘eco-cide,’ about the collapse of the ozone layer. I really didn’t believe in my heart of hearts that the human race was now threatening the survival of life on the planet. There’s now absolutely no doubt that that’s the case... It’s completely clear that what we were beginning to get worried about in the ‘80s was very serious and very real things ... so the play, and the times, both feel darker to me now than they did back then.”

“There’s been immense progress in terms of [lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender] rights, obviously, and we’re in a very different place now [than] we were in the early ‘90s. And in my lifetime, I’ve seen unbelievable progress. And I have great optimism and absolute certainty that we’re going to become fully enfranchised and protected by the 14th Amendment and so on. But in the meanwhile, we’re not there yet. And there’s still a tremendous amount of homophobia.”

Photograph by Michael Arthur Worden Evans

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