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University of Iowa News Release

Jan. 23, 2004

'Angels In America' Is Epic Of Love, Betrayal, Meaning And Hope

University Theatres Mainstage series will present "Angels in America: Millennium Approaches," Tony Kushner's Tony Award- and Pulitzer Prize-winning epic of love, betrayal, meaning and hope in the Reagan Era, opening at 8 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 5 in E.C. Mabie Theatre of the University of Iowa Theatre Building.

Additional performances will be at 8 p.m. Feb. 6-7 and 12-14, and at 3 p.m. Sundays, Feb. 8 and 15.

When Kushner was a guest artist in the UI Department of Theatre Arts in the early 1990s, he offered a free reading from the script he had in development -- an opus prompted by President Reagan's disregard for the plague that was devastating America's gay community in the '80s and the resulting disconnect between "official" reality and the immediate horror experienced by an American subculture -- enabling an Iowa audience to be among the first to experience part of what would become the theatrical event of the '90s.

In 1998, London's National Theater selected "Angels in America" as one of the 10 best plays of the 20th century. And in 2003 an HBO film starring Al Pacino, Emma Thompson and Meryl Streep became one of the most talked-about television events of the season.

"Millennium Approaches" -- the first of the two "Angels in America" plays -- opened on Broadway in 1993, winning immediate praise for its courageous and epic vision, but also stirring controversy with its frank focus on homosexuality and the burgeoning AIDS epidemic.

The AIDS epidemic -- and the president's refusal to acknowledge it as an issue worthy of concern -- became a dramatic backdrop against which Kushner addressed the sexual, racial, religious, political and social issues confronting the country during the Reagan Era. The Broadway and film versions featured technical spectacle, but the UI production will be more intimate in scale, to focus on the characters and issues.

James Poniewozik wrote in Time magazine, "'Angels' asks a lot of big questions: What is the law -- literal, moral and spiritual? What unites a country with no common ancient history? But perhaps the most timely is: In a mongrel, divided country, how can you stand your ground and yet make peace?"

Although "Angels in America" might now sound like a period piece, Sarah D. Bunting of MSNBC asserted, "It's about love, family, secrets, the meaning we take from death -- universal artistic themes that keep the play firmly up to date."

Director John Cameron, a faculty member in the UI Department of Theatre Arts, comments, "I don't profess to understand everything about this play. In my opinion no one does. But I also think that is its strength. It is so many things and holds so much for so many people.

"I will say this: I don't think it's dated in the slightest. When you look at what is happening in this country politically, and how the AIDS epidemic is spiraling out of control on this planet, it seems to me that 'Angels in America' is just short of prophetic."

"Angels in America" depicts a diverse group of '80s New Yorkers, including a young Mormon lawyer beginning to accept that he is gay; a compassionate, ex-drag-queen African-American nurse, a liberal Jew wracked with guilt for leaving his AIDS-infected lover and the HIV-infected closet case Roy Cohn, the Jewish anti-Semite and homophobic homosexual infamous as the rabid anti-Communist attorney of Sen. Joseph McCarthy.

A sexless marriage has pushed the lawyer's wife into Valium addiction, and his mother arrives from Salt Lake City hoping to rescue the marriage. Meanwhile, AIDS-stricken and abandoned, Prior Walton is visited by an angel who invites him to become a prophet.

An article in USA Today explained that "Angels in America" "is much more than a tale about AIDS. Interweaving the stories of a diverse group of characters, from real-life power attorney Roy Cohn to a Mormon mother from Salt Lake City, it addresses the potential for diversity and freedom in the USA and how that potential can be thwarted."

Set design for the UI production is by Robert A. Hamel, costume design is by Loyce L. Arthur, lighting design is by Bryon Winn, sound design is by William Barbour, and the dramaturg is Janet Bentley.

Tickets for "Angels in America" are $17 (UI student, senior citizen & youth $8). Tickets may be purchased in advance from the Hancher Auditorium box office. Any remaining tickets for each performance will be one sale one hour before curtain time at the Theatre Building box office.

Hancher Auditorium box office business hours are 10 a.m.-5:30 p.m. weekdays and 11 a.m.-3 p.m. Saturdays. From the local calling area, dial 319-335-1160. Long distance is toll-free, 1-800-HANCHER. Fax to 319-353-2284. People with special needs for access, seating and auxiliary services should dial 319-335-1158, which is equipped with TDD for people with hearing impairment who use that technology.

Tickets may be ordered on-line 24 hours a day, seven days a week through Hancher's website: http://www.uiowa.edu/hancher .

Orders may be charged to VISA, MasterCard or American Express. UI students may charge their purchases to their university bills, and UI faculty and staff may select the option of payroll deduction. Information and brochures may be requested by e-mail: hancher-box-office@uiowa.edu.

For UI arts information and calendar updates, visit http://www.uiowa.edu/artsiowa. To receive UI arts news by e-mail, ur-acr@uiowa.edu.

STORY SOURCE: University of Iowa Arts Center Relations, 300 Plaza Centre One, Suite 351, Iowa City, IA 52242-2500.

MEDIA CONTACT: Winston Barclay, 319-384-0073, winston-barclay@uiowa.edu

PHOTOS are available at http://www.uiowa.edu/artsiowa/photos.html .