"Angels in America" exhibit opens in SF

November 8, 2010 8:16:34 PM PST
It has been called one of the most important plays of the 20th century. The Pulitzer Prize-winning "Angels In America" got its start in San Francisco 20 years ago. A revival is now showing on Broadway while here at home, there is a new exhibition of its history.

The story is tragic, disturbing, and hilarious. It focuses on aids, community, love, death and politics in New York in the late 1980s, but its start was on a stage in the Bay Area.

"The first reading of it was in San Francisco, and every step of the way its development happened first in San Francisco," says playwright Tony Kushner.

Kushner was back to celebrate its 20th anniversary with a glittering retrospective in the city's Museum Of Performance and Design.

Kushner says the exhibit is "tremendously moving and a slightly strange, out of body experience."

"It works because his theatre instincts are so extraordinary, so you can't put up a couple of photographs and say you're serving 'Angels In America.' You got to have wings, you got to have a show," says curator Brad Rosenstein.

So there are the original angel's wings used in the first production at the Eureka Theatre and other sets of wings as the show just got bigger. The awards it won are also on display.

Kushner wrote the groundbreaking play in long hand and filled books covering 7 hours of material.

"When it arrived there were certain things going on in the country that made a play like this necessary," says Kushner.

Kushner wrote the play in a time where AIDS was an epidemic, there was silence, a counterrevolution to the 1960s and a new awareness of the environment. Kushner says some things have not changed.

"It has a certain resonance to contemporary events," says Kushner.

The exhibition is up through next march, but Rosenstein hopes it will go on tour.


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