Tony Kushner, Radical Pragmatist

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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Tony Kushner, Radical Pragmatist

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