Signature Theatre Company (Founding Artistic Director James Houghton; Executive Director Erika Mallin) begins its 20th Anniversary season, celebrating the work of Tony Award and Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright, Tony Kushner, with the first New York revival of his landmark work, Angels in America: A Gay Fantasia on National Themes. Performances begin on Tuesday, September 14. Visit www.signaturetheatre.org for details.
OUT TO LUNCH THE PLAYWRIGHT’S THE THING
With a major revival of Angels in America in the works, Tony Kushner talks about gay marriage, procrastination and his pen fetish
By JOHN HEILPERN
My favorite gay Jewish intellectual radical playwright Tony Kushner met me in at Café Luxembourg on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, looking, at 54, like a slightly anxious student. The creator of the galvanizing masterpiece Angels in America: A Gay Fantasia on National Themes lives close by in cozy domesticity with the writer Mark Harris. In 2008, they were legally married in Massachusetts.
They are therefore each other’s husband. “Would it be awfully tactless of me to ask if you see the funny side to that?,” I ventured.
“It’s funny from anyone’s point of view,” Mr. Kushner answered good-naturedly. “It’s new and we don’t have the language for it yet. So everyone has to go through that awkward moment when I say, ‘My husband is here.’”
“You’re happily married?”
“We’ve been together for 12 years, and I hope we’ll be together for as long as we’re alive.”
Tony Kushner’s writing mantra has always been Herman Melville’s “Better to sink in boundless deeps than float on vulgar shoals.” It can propel his swirling, epic family dramas and championing of the damned to the giddy brink of near-feverish chaos. “I think Melville gives writers a certain permission to risk ruination,” he explained – and clearly meant it.
After five years of intense struggle, he had just handed in another draft of Lincoln, his filmscript for Steven Spielberg. (The first draft ran to 500 pages). This month, a three-production Kushner season and celebration opens at the Signature Theatre with the first New York revival of Angels in America since the watershed Broadway premiere, in 1993. (He’s been tinkering with its Part Two.)
And Angels will be followed by a new play that he was still immersed in re-writing when we met. It’s entitled, somewhat lengthily, iHo: The Intelligent Homosexual’s Guide to Capitalism and Socialism with a Key to the Scriptures. The iHo prefix takes the sting out of the title’s tribute to the windbaggy George Bernard Shaw, and Mr. Kushnerexplained that it signifies three elements of the play: I whore, I homosexual; iPhone.
To read the complete interview, purchase the October issue of Vanity Fair, available on newsstands.