The Legacy of Tony Kushner

Tony Kushner

“I know we all think of Mr. Kushner as a Pulitzer Prize winning playwright. He’s won Tony awards, Olivier awards, Drama Desk awards, Emmy awards, has received the National Medal of Arts from President Barack Obama and has stirred up the political landscape with his opinions.  But what do we feel when we think of Mr. Kushner?” asks Tina Newhauser, a Stage Management Instructor at Michigan State University. For Tina, Tony Kushner’s work recalls memories of her friend Dave, who later starred in Kushner’s award-winning play, “Angels in America: A Gay Fantasia on National Themes,” which had a major influence on both Dave and Tina’s lives. So what does Tina Newhauser feel when she thinks of Tony Kushner? Gratitude. “…gratitude for the spotlight that he turned on in 1991.  Gratitude for friendship that lasts 20 years and gratitude for my friend Dave.”

This kind of emotion is not an uncommon response to Kushner’s work, especially when we’re talking about “Angels in America,” which was a groundbreaking play that shined a light on LGBTQ themes and issues in our society. In 1993, the two-part work won the Pulitzer Prize for Drama, as well as a Tony Award two years in a row, the first for Part I and the following year for Part II.

Kushner’s presence in the theatre world is a major one, and it’s no surprise that it continues to be his favorite format of expression. In a recent article from Lansing City Pulse, he is quoted as saying; “Plays still come first for me…I always like to try and push what I think theater is capable of doing.” It’s this dedication to his work that elicits such moving works, which we can see from Tina Newhauser’s experiences. The article also says that Kushner  “is known for spending years working on his scripts,” and also for tinkering with them even after they are finished. He is quoted in City Pulse as saying, “I’ve made tiny changes in the first part of ‘Angels’ (and) I did much more extensive work on the second part. I’m sure that if in another 20 years if I revisited the second part of ‘Angels,’ I’d still want to play around with it. There’s a great tradition — there are four versions at least of ‘Hamlet.'”

As evidenced by the multitude of awards he’s received, his career is one of dedication, hard work, and the courage to tackle major issues with heartfelt emotion. When he visits the Wharton Center on February 10th for an informal discussion with local actor, director and MSU Professor John Lepard, I hope that you’ll be there to join in his legacy as so many others, like Tina and Dave, have.

If you would like more information about this opportunity to see Tony Kushner, please see the show page here:

(Also–don’t forget that it’s FREE for MSU students, faculty and staff)

If you are interested in reading the Lansing City Pulse article, you can find it here:

Posted in At Wharton Center, Events, Wharton Center News, World View

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