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Thursday, October 16, 2014

In Context: Angels in America

Tony Kushner's Angels In America, directed by Ivo Van Hove, runs at BAM October 23—25. Context is everything, so get even closer to the show with this curated selection of original blog pieces, articles, interviews, and videos related to the production. Once you've seen it, help us keep the conversation going by telling us what you thought below.

Program Notes

Angels In America (PDF)

Watch & Listen

"Angels In America, the Spare Dutch Version" (WNYC)
"Why not have total the illusion, the total freedom for the audience to [imagine] where we are and to imagine everything [them]selves," asks the Angels director.

Ivo van Hove and Tony Kushner In Conversation
Watch Kushner and van Hove discuss all things Angels in this video from our Oct 22 talk.

Angels In America, 20 Years Later (NPR)
Tony Kushner discusses the Reagan-era context for his play, its controversial subject matter, and more.

Tony Kushner: Does Theater Still Matter? (YouTube)
The greatest gift of theater’s “poverty of means”? For Kushner, allowing people to “believe and disbelieve at the same time.”


Angels Approaching (Time Out New York)
“Ivo van Hove's astonishing production at the Toneelgroep in Amsterdam was done with no scenery whatsoever," says Tony Kushner. "And it was kind of extraordinary.”

"What attracts me to the homosexual relationship in these plays," says Ivo van Hove, "is that it’s a forbidden thing. It’s not something you can live out in society; it’s hidden and secret."

My Sweet Memories of Angels in America (BAM blog)
A BAM staffer reflects on his experience working on the original Broadway production of "Perestroika."

Ivo van Hove (Exeunt Magazine)
The Dutch director discusses bad-boy avant-gardism and more.

Writing the Playwright (Guernica)
When Angels premiered, “the censorious, ego-anarchist, theocratic, anti-tax, anti-government right-wing madness had had its play,” says Kushner, “and it was time to do something else.”

How I Made It: Tony Kushner on Angels in America (New York Magazine)
Kushner’s play was born partly in dream, partly at a Carroll Gardens subway stop.

Worthwhile Words

Even if the play is more or less done, the theatrical event, the live event is not. [Theater] asks people to engage collectively in a relationship with an event, with an action, with a field of meaning and not with a thing, not with an object—and to engage in an event that will respond and be transformed by the degree of your engagement with it. So it has a fluidity in that sense, and a completely human quality, that I think no recorded event can have—which isn't to say that theater is superior, but it's a different kind of experience, and the difficulties and awkwardnesses and inconveniences and imperfections of theater are all part of the power of theatricality. And maybe now that we're entering into the Avatar age, it's even more true that theater teaches a kind of double consciousness, a critical consciousness: You have to learn, if you're really going to play the game and understand what is going on in front of you, you have to be willing to consider the way in which what you're looking at both is and isn't what it appears to be—what the nature of artifice is, and how it relates to meaning and understanding. You could argue that all art participates in questions of artifice and reality, but I think theater more than any other form is a construct that places that dialectic at the center of an event. And I think what makes theater so essential and irreplaceable is that we desperately need to struggle with those questions. Those are the questions that life presents us with over and over again, and you have to be able to see double to be able to make sense of life. —Tony Kushner

Now your turn...

So how did you enjoy the show? Likes? Dislikes? Surprises? Tell us what's on your mind in the comments below.


  1. Incredible that a 5 hour production in Dutch(!) could be so mesmerizing. Absolutely adored the show--staging, actors. I still haven't figured out why Dutch (other than that was the director's language/company). Not sure that the language element really added to the show, but it certainly did not distract. BUT, the boxed dinner service was a mess. Ill-organized (waited 20 minutes in a mobbed queue for a boxed meal) and clumsy. Why take tickets and names? Why only delivering meals at one small location? Why not have more tables, especially for people who can't sit on the floor. Saw one older gentleman bent almost in half struggling to carry his pizza-sized box up the steep stairs...

  2. I love "Angels in America" and was excited at the prospect of seeing it live. While I enjoyed this production, I couldn't help wishing I was watching it in English. Part of this stemmed from frustration over needing to read the supertitles instead of being able to watch the actors. But more fundamentally, I think "Angels" is just such a quintessentially American play. It deals with a very specific period of U.S. history. Hearing it in Dutch was distracting. When I bought my ticket, I didn't actually notice the tiny asterisk saying the play was in Dutch. In the future, BAM should make that more prominent. It was pretty essential to the ultimate experience.

    1. One of the things I love about BAM is that they bring the rest of the world to you. I could spend the money to fly to Amsterdam or Germany to see a Van Hove play but it would not be in English. BAM finds the plays, brings them to us and gives us subtitles.

  3. It was a spectacular production in every way. I saw the original ages ago, the TV version, the revival at Signature 3 years ago and now this. the play never fails to stimulate , move, provoke and capture your attention. i wouldn't have missed it for the world. Another plus, the easily read subtitles were a blessing. You could read every word of Kushner's brilliant and funny dialogue.No need to strain to hear it.

  4. I had mixed feelings, but essentially I was moved. I don't understand why Tony Kushner was so moved by the first appearance of the angel, who was neither a woman nor seemed anything unusual--more like hospital personnel. And I didn't understand why Ethel Rosenberg was so chic.

  5. My friend gave me and my boyfriend last min tickets to the show Friday night. WOW. I was blown away. I have only seen the movie and did not know what to expect. It was so simple but moving. His tickets came with dinner which we assumed was chips and sandwich. Again, blown away. We both had salmon, salad, and desert. The lady told us we were able to eat at our seat which we did. Perfect Night. I will be back.

  6. The actor playing Roy Cohn was very effective in portraying the long decline into terminal illness.

    The play itself is two hours too long and dated.

    The Dutch production was much more effective than the bloated movie version.

    We could have done without all the very loud music.

  7. Very high quality production with wonderful acting. Unfortunately reading the supertitles did distract from watching the acting itself.

  8. Loved this production! Everything about the evening was magical. I wasn't bothered by it being in Dutch at all as the acting is so good. In fact I found the meaning came through more than the literal sense of the words had it been in English. It brought out a different aspect of the play, it's essence. I was mesmerized.

  9. "Angels in America" Grab my heart and startled me. The empty stage was an authentic metaphor of human nature and life. It was Joyous to be part of such a real theatre experience. A Dionysian theatre.
    I wish I could see Ivo Van Hove with this group exploring on "Oedipus Rex".

    Bilha Birman Rivlin

  10. My a** still hurts from 5 hours in those ancient chairs in the balcony!


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