Kushner, Tony

born July 16, 1956, New York, N.Y., U.S.

U.S. dramatist.

He grew up in Lake Charles, La., and attended Columbia University and New York University. His early plays include Yes, Yes, No, No (1985). His major work, Angels in America, consists of two lengthy plays that deal with political issues and the AIDS epidemic of the 1980s. The first part, Millennium Approaches (1991), won a Pulitzer Prize and a Tony Award for best play; the second, Perestroika (1992), also won a Tony Award for best play. Later works include Slavs (1995), Henry Box Brown (1997), and the controversial Homebody/Kabul (2001), which addresses the relationship between Afghanistan and the West.

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▪ 1994

      In what might have been an unlikely event during the era in which the critically acclaimed play Angels in America is set, in 1993 Millennium Approaches, the first part of Tony Kushner's epic work, took four Tony awards, a Critics' Circle award, and the Pulitzer Prize for drama. In 1992 it won the London Evening Standard award.

      Subtitled A Gay Fantasia on National Themes, Kushner's Angels in America evolved into two 3 1/2-hour plays from a poem he had written in the mid-1980s. Millennium Approaches opened on Broadway in May 1993 after successful productions in San Francisco, London, and Los Angeles. The second half, Perestroika, opened in October, with the same eight actors in their same roles. The play's controversial theme of homosexuality, AIDS, and politics during the conservative era under U.S. Pres. Ronald Reagan probably would have drawn another reaction had it been produced at that time. However, in 1993 Millennium Approaches was nominated for nine Tonys—more than any other play in the history of the award. Among the four that it did garner were those for best play and best direction.

      The unconventional play focuses on a gay couple, one of whom has AIDS; a Mormon man coming to terms with his sexuality and his marriage; and the infamous lawyer Roy Cohn, who died of AIDS in 1986. In November the two halves of Angels in America were presented together onstage for the first time. In addition, the play was scheduled to be performed in many locales all over the world and was even being translated into Japanese.

      Kushner was born in July 1956 in New York City, the second of three children, to parents who had a background in music. When he was still very young, the family moved to Lake Charles, La., where his father had inherited the family lumber business. He later attended Columbia University, New York City, and then did postgraduate work at New York University. Prior to the epic Angels, Kushner had written A Bright Room Called Day—his first full-length work—which was produced in San Francisco and Chicago. He had also done some directing, as well as adapting Pierre Corneille's play L'Illusion comique.

      The end of 1993 found Kushner very busy with work on two plays, an adaptation of The Dybbuk and Slavs, as well as assisting in plans to bring Angels in America to the big screen in conjunction with director Robert Altman.

      (ANTHONY L. GREEN)

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Universalium. 2010.

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  • KUSHNER, TONY — (1960– ), British historian. Tony Kushner, Marcus Sieff Professor of Jewish history at Southampton University, wrote widely on antisemitism and the immigrant experience, especially in Britain, and on the Holocaust. His very prolific writings… …   Encyclopedia of Judaism

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