Tony Kushner thinks America's chief executive is a big fat creep. And he says the Republicans stole the White House in the fateful 2000 general election. The First Lady, on the other hand, does merit a measure of the acclaimed screenwriter-playwright's favor—she's a library scientist by trade, after all, and a manic reader. According to Kushner, the two also share a trait to which they could lay sweeping, undeniable claim and not bat an eye.
“She and I have something in common,” he recently chirped, “because we're both being fucked by George Bush.”Yeah, he and Laura and millions upon millions of Americans. Those numbers translate to a solid following, one Kushner's built throughout a 25-year career studded with two Tony Awards, an Emmy, a Pulitzer Prize for drama, an Oscar nomination for his co-authorship of the Munich screenplay and 43,000 other accolades. On Tuesday, Nov. 6, the New York native shared his insights on theater and politics at La Jolla's David & Dorothea Garfield Theatre as part of the 13th annual San Diego Jewish Book Festival—and he hinted that in these days of polticial urgency, all that notoriety just might be seriously misplaced.
Kushner, 51, is probably best known for his play Angels in America: A Gay Fantasia on National Themes. It's actually two pieces that run more than three hours each and feature a total of 59 scenes—Millennium Approaches, which took the drama Pulitzer and the best-play Tony Award in 1993, and Perestroika, winner of the best-play Tony the following year (Angels later snagged five Golden Globe Awards as an HBO miniseries). The stories center on two couples' stormy relationships during the Reagan presidency, which for Kushner was marked by greed, over-the-top conservatism and neglect amid the nation's AIDS hysteria (Kushner is gay).
Lots of political fodder there; amid the power of the media, some of it likely found its way into our social consciousness, hence the awards. Kushner, in fact, has written 27 plays touching, sometimes gleefully, on everything from the Nazi ascendancy to America's civil rights movement—but he'd rather that those themes, not the plays that reflect them, serve as the catalysts for political change.
“I don't think I can write a play,” he explained, “that will make us all jump up and march on Washington and storm the White House and chase that little creep back to Texas. I say this a lot: There's only one way people can [effect change], and that's through political activism. You can't do it through your day job. You can't do it by writing a play or by writing a song or by being a schoolteacher or by being a doctor or anything else. Being directly involved in politics, which is the job and the responsibility and the privilege of all citizens in a republic, is the only way you can actually have direct influence” on the democratic process.
For Kushner, then, the play is not the thing; it's an instrument of change only if we decide to make it one. That's an inspiring sentiment from somebody with such a great track record and whose best creative years might lie ahead. It was good to have him here—his is an immensely important voice, especially at a time when most of the country (and maybe even Laura) would just as soon George go sleep on the couch.
The Hollywood writers strike might have sent your favorite TV show into reruns. But a labor action on the other coast has brought a halt to a different kind of fare, one that doesn't quite lend itself to the luxury of rebroadcast.On Saturday, Nov. 10, New York's Local 1 stagehands union launched a job walkout as authorized by its parent International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees. The strike has shut down more than 24 Broadway plays and musicals, cutting deep into a month that traditionally marks the onrush of New York holiday theater traffic. Affected shows include such staples as Wicked, Les Misérables, Rent, the La Jolla Playhouse-spawned Jersey Boys and Mamma Mia! (in the case of the last one, the strike is just as well, thanks).
The walkout stems from flaps between the union and the American League of Theatres and Producers on work guidelines and staffing requirements, especially those that govern finances involved in show set-up. The 3,000-member union has been operating without a contract since July.
November had been forecast as a hectic time for Broadway openings, and some theater owners had vaguely anticipated Broadway would mark 2007-08 as its first billion-dollar box office season. Broadway took in more than $930 million, a record, in 2006-2007. Write to email@example.com and firstname.lastname@example.org.