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Apr. 14th, 2005 @ 10:11 pm tony kushner, great american playleft
There are people who would accuse Tony Kushner, phenomenally successful playwright and author of the Tony and Pulitzer-winning Angels in America, among other things, of being a scheming, vengeful, left-wing Jew pinko homosexual. Comb through the frothing heap of glowing praise and five-star reviews and you will find the occasional OMFG DEMOCRAT FAG PLAYZ SUXX0R REAGAN RULZ FUX j00. Had I seen these reviews yesterday, when I saw Angels in America for the first time, I could have prepared a lengthy and thorough response. It's so easy to paint him as a secular Hollywood commie liberal and intentionally overlook the genius of his play as a play and a political statement, admirable by anyone intelligent and open-minded enough to accept the strength of a good argument opposite her own. (Failing that, anyone who can appreciate witty but realistic dialogue, memorable characters, and masterful handling of difficult and complex themes.)

Then Kushner came to Oberlin today to speak at convocation, and I found out he really is a scheming, vengeful, left-wing secular Hollywood Jew pinko homosexual what have you. And he's damn proud of it. Doesn't quite look like it--he's small and bookish, with a shock of curly hair, sitting in a posture so forcedly relaxed you can almost see him twitch. He speaks endlessly, loquaciously, in a nasally Brooklyn Jew accent, about things most Americans would not talk about to to a crowd of potentially offendable strangers. About the demons of the Republican party and the witchhunt they have against homosexuals like him, and the avoidant, irresponsible writing process that results in garbage from poor writers and genius from him. He talks about the role of the play in America and the necessity and inevitability of change, of AIDS and art and the power of activism. He may not look like one of the proverbial Great People Of Our Time, but listen to him talk and he eliminates all doubt.

Those of you who are familiar with my political views may be apalled. "But Kevin!" you may exclaim, "you're a political neutralist! Close-minded extremism of any political affilation is the very opposite of nearly everything you stand for!" That may be true, but I also admire anyone with the balls to be so overtly, one-sidedly political in this politically sensitive day and age, especially when being political is irrelevant and detrimental to his material success. Especially when he has the brains to back up his opinions, and Kushner is possibly the first of this category I have ever known. We threw questions at him that sounded like entire chapters of politics and theater textbooks--questions about money as an instrument of change and the role of theater in activism and the status of Angels in America as an irrealist play--and he answered with incredible eloquence and intelligence. He is the gayest, Jewest, most un-American American I have ever laid eyes on, and the best damn playwright in America. He may be the epitome of everything the right hates about the arts, but it's a title he has earned with creativity and intellect and strength of character. Which is a lot more than I can say for most other hardcore left-wingers.

I feel strangely inspired. Move forward, Angels exclaims, into destruction and fear, but ever forward. Not against God, as Angels suggests, but in an endless dance of conflict and peace, of harmony and chaos.
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