Tony Kushner, Radical Pragmatist

The author of 'Angels in America' waxes poetic on TV and politics

| December 11, 2003

Amid the hubbub surrounding the television debut of Angels in America, Tony Kushner took time out with Mother Jones's Ben Greenman to discuss topics ranging from gay TV to the state of American politics. In the interview, Pulitzer Prize-winning Kushner says he is happy the play ended up on TV, 'I've felt for a long time that TV was the right home. I'm kind of a TV junkie, and I felt much less intimidated writing for the smaller-size picture.'

The interview also ranges over other topics. Kushner talks about some of his earlier plays and a book targeted at young activists: Save Your Democratic Citizen Soul! Rants, Screeds and Other Public Utterances for Midnight in the Republic. One good exchange, when discussing the book, comes when Kushner denounces the left for losing sight in the social progress of constitutional democracy. Greenman asks, 'When was the last time that a belief in the system paid off?'

'It was the day they got that fucking Ten Commandments monument out of Alabama,' responds Kushner. 'I found that thrilling. With all the blows that the Bush administration has delivered to the separation of church and state -- we have a president who can't stop talking about his relationship to Jesus while he gleefully murders thousands of people -- it turns out that we still kind of get it.'

It seems Kushner, however, has gotten it for a long time. Many say it is high time such a powerful and emotional play is receiving even broader publicity. The play, originally written in 1990, is a sweeping indictment of the Reagan era that follows the story of Prior, an AIDS sufferer caught between an ex-boyfriend and a married lover with a mentally disabled wife. Kushner's play debuts in a two-part series on HBO this month.
-- Joel Stonington

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