Sunday, July 8, 2018

A Unifying Play About A Divisive Time

Yesterday I spent over eight hours immersed in the most powerful, most inspiring, most hopeful theatrical experience of my life witnessing the play Angels In America written by Pulitzer Prize winner and Tony Award winner Tony Kushner.  The play began at 1:00 PM and ended a little after 11:00 PM with four intermissions and a two hour dinner break. I don't think there was an empty seat in the Neil Simon Theatre.  Everyone in attendance came for the long haul. The couple sitting to my left drove down from Boston and intended to drive back afterwards hoping to get home by 5:00 AM Sunday.  During the almost eight hour performance members of the audience developed an unusual camaraderie.  We seemed to support one another believing we could not only get through this very intense experience but also could survive other intense experiences.
In 1981 doctors began to notice clusters of Kaposi's sarcoma and pneumocystis pneumonia in gay men living in Los Angeles, New York City and San Francisco and Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome got its name and its stigma.  To this day the name lives, the stigma lives and so does the epidemic.
Angels In America was commissioned by the Eureka Theatre in San Francisco and was first performed in Los Angeles in May, 1990, as a workshop by the Center Theatre Group at the Mark Taper Forum. It has been performed throughout the world and has made at least two appearances on Broadway. This particular run closes July 15.
In its early years AIDS became a divisive disease breaking up families and destroying relationships and taking so many precious lives.  And then came Angels In America with its unifying power and message of hope.  We always need hope.  Right now, though, hope seems to be the thing with feathers about to fly away.  Last night 1.445 people sitting in the Neil Simon Theatre received a message of hope and the belief that it is here to stay.