Tony Kushner's Angels In America

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Angels in America, Part One: Millennium Approaches, by Tony Kushner, fits into Bert States’ three stages of theatre as a “naïve” play, or at the very least a post-decadent play, one breaking down the walls of a decadent play. Angels in America is extremely emotional and raw, expressing social and political agendas in a new way. Written in the early 1990s, the play came out during a time of social turmoil. With minorities isolated in often segregated communities and by lower paying jobs, an increase in criminal violence, widespread poverty, and increasing government regulations of the emerging illegal drug market, the late ‘80s and early 90’s marked a post-Cold War era where international tensions reverted back to domestic tensions. Only adding…show more content…
With a production posting AIDS stats on the walls of the theatre, forcing viewers to confront the disease, many viewers were uncomfortable with the content precisely because they didn’t have complete and accurate knowledge of it. Angels in America was revolutionary because it set the record straight, exposing AIDS for what it really was – just a disease. It was neither a form of “providential punishment” nor a purely “gay” epidemic, but something that had the potential to affect the entire population of the world, not by stating that AIDS was horribly contagious, but by explaining the true methods of acquiring it (by sharing needles, or by the exchange of blood, semen, vaginal fluids, or breast milk with someone who has HIV/AIDS or has shared needles, NOT by everyday bodily contact as most people feared.) Theatre at the time was experiencing growth in the areas of self-expression and minority theatre, aesthetics that provide a stronger context for Tony Kushner’s…show more content…
The struggle for personal truth and identity, seen in all stages of theatre developed over the centuries, is especially evident in the minorities featured in Angels. But not only are the lives of minority groups discussed; the lives of the average and upper class Americans are as well. Joe and his wife Harper are Mormon, but Joe is struggling with his identity as a gay man. Prior is a gay man struggling in his fight for his dignity and his fight against aids; Louis is struggling with his relationships with others and his ability to support Prior. Meanwhile, Roy Cohn is a prominent, rich, white New York lawyer denying the fact that he has AIDS – he sees AIDS, like most of the public did at the time, as a “gay” disease. In a twisted view of gay culture and his personal identity, Roy views himself as a man who has sex with men, but does not consider himself gay because to him, being gay is something separate from his physical desires. Despite rights movements in the 70’s started by prominent activists such as Harvey Milk, the public had the same general views on gay culture that Roy does. By showcasing the struggles of a wide variety of people from society, Kushner presents the statement that AIDS is not isolating, but a universal truth that required acknowledgement and justified action. Presenting the story of one individual may be intriguing, but a

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