Life in the Eighties
During the 1980’s, deregulation, expanding competition, and new technologies changed the functioning structure of the working class that received mixed reactions and resulted in a wide variety of societal and workforce altering changes.
The deregulation process removed workforce regulations and bans on production. This was intended to decrease prices and increase employment due to the new competition placed on the production companies. This was done in an attempt to appease the popular opinion that the government excessively governed the economic system in a manner that was wasting billions, penalizing companies, and preventing innovation and competition. In addition to economic regulation, there was a push to lessen the social regulations, including environmental health, personal health, and consumer protection through safety rules and regulations.
The economic shift due to the deregulation of businesses had mixed results. Some suffered greatly due to loss of jobs. In communities with a substantial gap between classes, the gap widened farther. The working class felt greater effects from job displacement than the middle class and the lower class suffered significantly. The middle class did rather well. There was a rise in living standards and an increase in outside spending. Furniture businesses, restaurants, mall strips, and air fare thrived due to the shift in spending. This caused a hypercompetitive, fast paced, technology based economy that could handle the constant use of credit cards and the expansion of affordable technologies. Business rose as did the stock market. Within the workforce there was a decline in discrimination. Women tended to escape the job displacement due to the lower number of women on manufacturing lines.
The AIDS Epidemic
Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome (AIDS) is the physical manifestation of the Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) after the destruction of the immune system. AIDS is exceedingly difficult to treat due to a lack of a temporary cure until 1996 and its unknown origins.
HIV is a virus that attacks white blood vessels in the bloodstream. White blood cells are the disease stoppers of the immune system. They find outside substances in the bloodstream, analyze them for threats, break them down if necessary, and stores the memory as to prevent effects from the return of the foreign substance. HIV latches onto the initial white blood cell and attacks the cell itself. HIV will grow in a parasitic relationship, slowly but surely leaking energy and information from the white blood cell. If draining the cell wasn’t enough, HIV forces itself into the processes of the cells. Cells reproduce by creating exact copies of their DNA and using this DNA to grow exact copies. HIV tricks the cell into reproducing HIV DNA rather than white blood cell DNA. By doing this, the body of the inflicted begins to reproduce and spread the disease rather than recognize and conquer it. Generally with parasitic invasions like HIV, the parasite knocks out the immune system, but a separate disease will kill the person. HIV pairs with outside invaders such as Kaposi’s sarcoma, a rare cancer of the blood vessel walls causing bruises and lesions on the lymph nodes.
There are two ways to go about ending the epidemic: eradicating the disease and stopping duplication to end the growth and spread of the virus. There is still no truly successful cure to eradicate the virus. However, in 1996, science found a solution that would slow the spread and effects of AIDS thus prolonging life and making the condition livable. The symptoms of AIDS includes weight loss, malaise (general discomfort and uneasiness), nausea, fever, night sweats, swollen lymph glands, heavy and persistent dry cough, easy bruising, unexplained bleeding, watery diarrhea, loss of memory, balance problems, mood changes, loss of vision, and oral lesions. The make-up of the virus is the same, but there is a slight variance on how it will affect each individual. The temporary cure found in 1996 slows the progression and reproduction of HIV in the white blood cells thus delaying the destruction of the immune system and lessening the symptoms keeping the condition livable.
The Rosenberg Trial
The Rosenberg Trial of 1951 was the trial and conviction of Ethel Rosenberg, Julius Rosenberg, and Marton Sobell for conspiracy to commit espionage. All three were convicted. Sobell was imprisoned and the Rosenberg’s executed via the electric chair. This case centered on communism, despite the defense’s best efforts, and became a rather controversial case.
The prime witnesses incriminating the Rosenberg’s were Ethel’s brother and sister-in-law, David and Ruth Greenglass. There is controversial evidence both in support of the Rosenberg’s and the Greenglass’s that is still debated today. The current analysis believes Julius was guilty, but that Ethel was innocent and wrongly executed. The Rosenberg’s had a lengthy trial presided over by Judge Kaufman. The prosecuting team was headed by Irving Saypol . On Saypol’s team was 21 year old Roy Cohn. Cohn did much of the questioning of David Greenglass, specifically portions that questioned Ethel’s involvement in the affairs.
The prosecuting team merely needed to prove conspiracy to commit espionage, not the completion of leaking secrets. The evidence against Julius was mostly based in his relationship with David Greennglass. Greenglass worked at Los Alamos doing basic scientific research for the creation of the atomic bomb. He was sworn to secrecy and provided minimal information necessary to be competent at his job, but unknowledgeable about the workings of the bomb itself. Already confessed and sentenced for assisting in espionage, David was placed in an us-against-them scenario. If he spoke out against Ethel and her husband, he could have his sentence decreased significantly. He brought up his work at Los Alamos and Julius’s interest in it and a theft of a reactor. He stated that Julius stole a reactor. In order to do this Julius had to work the garbage shift and have inactive parts thrown away, kept, then slowly replaced by functional pieces before the piece was walked out the door. This action is still debated. Julius did not serve garbage shifts during this time and had not yet spoken with David to acquire the correct knowledge of the assemblage of such a piece.
David also confessed that he and Julius often swapped information, sometimes with each other, sometimes with random strangers. As a form of identification, David displayed the slicing of a gelatin package. David and the stranger he would meet would each secretly have this packaging and would compare the cuts to determine that they were meeting the correct person. This was also displayed in court. Lastly, David described Julius’s fervent effort to have David write out last instructions and take a vacation. David wrote the information, but refused to leave. Ruth later stated that she would not leave because she feared for the safety and well-being of her children. Ethel’s involvement, was merely typing David’s notes.
Ruth, verified the information against Julius and began attacking Ethel. She brought up continual gifts that the couple received from a mysterious benefactor, most concerning being a small table that Ruth believed was hollowed out for film and video storage. She also went in depth about mysterious places Ethel would go during the day to meet and discuss plans with strangers on a periodic basis. These times lined up with her psychotherapy appointments. Ruth described Ethel’s type work, but spoke at great length about Ethel’s interest in Ruth’s children. Ruth expressed her fears that Ethel would take her children if given the chance.
The jury eventually came to the conclusion that all three were guilty of conspiracy. The death sentence was debated after longer imprisonment. Judge Kaufman noted that he agreed with the jury and set the date for the executions. The defense brought up the fact that the Rosenberg’s could not be executed on the set date because it fell of the Sabbath thinking that this would push the date out further and buy time. Instead the date was moved closer. Julius and Ethel were to be executed by 8:00pm on Jun 19. 1953.
Tony Kushner was born in New York City in 1956 but was raised in Lake Charles, Louisiana. In 1974 he attended Colombia College and fed his ambitions. Hot topics and AIDS awareness had attracted Kushner for much of his life. Kushner’s first encounter with AIDS occurred in 1985 when the first person he knew was afflicted had died. He wrote a poem entitled Angels in America in his honor. This poem, combined with a dream he had of an angel crashing through a hospital ceiling, was the inspiration for Angels in America: A Gay Fantasia On National Themes. Due to a NEA directing fellowship at the repertory theatre in St. Louis, Kushner was able to stage the play and finish the final half (initially over seven hundred pages) with great success.
Over the course of his career, Kushner has received several awards including: The Pulitzer Prize for Drama, Emmy Award, two Tony Awards, three Obie Awards, Arts Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, a PENI Laura Pels award, a Spirit of Justice Award from the Gay and Lesbian Advocates and Defenders, the Cultural Achievement Award from the National Foundation for Jewish Culture, The Chicago Tribune Literary Prize for Lifetime Achievement, the 2012 National Medal of Arts, the 2015 Lifetime Achievement in the American Theatre award, and the 2008 Steinberg Distinguished Playwright Award (as the first recipient). Kushner resides in Manhattan with his husband, Mark Harris.
Mormonism, or the Church of the Latter Day Saints, is an American grown taste of Christianity initiated by Joseph Smith (1805-1844). Smith was visited by an angel who claimed Smith would be the new prophet and was instructed to find a gold tablet and translate the words into common tongue. This translation became the Book of Mormon.
The Book of Mormon describes the life of humans as the direct possession by a newly birthed celestial spirit conceived by two heavenly parents. Therefore, living life is displayed through obedience to God through personal agency. These celestially born spirits that possess human bodies are of pre-existing materials and would be in a constant state of changelessness had they not succumb to the temptations of Satan. Christ is a physical model of an obedient life with God. Because Christ gave supreme submission, there is unconditional benefit of resurrection through the opportunity to gain a position in the celestial kingdom from which the spirits came. A place in this celestial kingdom is gained
through marriage, parenthood, perfection and ritual acceptable enough to help the living soul and that of their relatives, and ethical living. Each aspect is tied to the others and is difficult to do independently.
The Mormon church is a process of development and change rather than a particular building or meeting circle. This process is well lived combination of grace, resurrection, repentance, faith, baptism, and salvation. The ideas of doctrinal style and ritual style are kept separate. This idea of church centers on relationships both between numerous humans and between humans and God. In fact, the chapel and temple are centered on the strength of familial relationships. Having strong family relationships inspires individual commitment.
In the Mormon household, there is a gender divide between the labor distributions. Men do manual work while women are in charge of child rearing. As part of a patriarchy system, the husband is head of the household but is also in charge of the well-being of his wife, the children, and the spiritual well-being of his ancestors. In this sense, the husband is responsible for tracing family genealogy as far back as possible in order to connect his line to God and integrate his family into the realm of the celestial beings. If there is disintegration of the family or abuse of any kind, that family is personally responsible for bringing about calamities in the world and will be held accountable in the afterlife by being rejected by God and the other celestial parents. The household is very structured and monitored in a similar manner to religious endeavors.
The Church of the Latter Day Saints maintains many sacraments similar to those in other forms of Christianity such as baptism, as a sign of established authority, and the taking of the Eucharist (the bread taken at communion). Mormons take a more symbolic participation in these acts. For example, the wine for communion is a glass of water emphasizing the need to remember in order to believe. There is also a strict collection of tithes (financial offerings) set in place by the church and the bishop, though a standard tithing precedence is 10% annual earnings. Another form of offering happens
on the first Sunday of every month during a time of fasting. The three uneaten meals are donated to the church to give to those in need on that day. The church is meant to help the community and requires active service from its members through parenthood, tithing, engagement in church events, and fostering spiritual growth in others. This gives examples of the individual’s commitment and care for their family (both local and regional). Mormons stress a moral life guided by wisdom. They have a code for health and well-being that is strictly followed banning alcohol (unless it is taken during a church practice), no tobacco (unless used as a remedy), and absolutely no caffeine of any kind.
The Above Information Gathered and Summarized by Penny Nichols – Dramaturge
Summary of Act 2 Scene 9
On opposite sides of the stage, Harper confronts Joe at home while Louis and Prior argue in Prior’s hospital room. The two fights overlap rapidly and confusingly. Louis tells Prior he is moving out, and Prior berates him, calling him a bastard and a criminal. Louis responds that he needs privacy, that he refuses to be judged, that he is doing the best that he can. Shattered, pleading, Prior tries to reason with him, then screams at him to leave, which Louis does. Meanwhile, Joe tells Harper that he still loves her and that he will not abandon her, but that even when they were first married he knew inside that he was different from other men. She tells him to go to Washington, anywhere, but just to leave her alone. As they argue, they both realize that Joe is the same man who terrifies Harper in her hallucinations. Closing her ears, Harper calls Mr. Lies. He appears and they vanish together.
Summary of Act 3 Scene 2
The scene opens with Louis and Belize debating politics in a coffee shop. Across the stage, Prior lies helpless in his hospital bed. Louis delivers a lengthy monologue on democracy, liberalism and race. It is hilariously wordy, ambivalent and contradictory: he grandly proclaims the success of democracy in America, then immediately spews out a host of exceptions and counter-arguments; a moment later, he insists that the United States has no monolithic, dominant culture, until Belize acidly points out that the monolith of straight white men is “not unimpressive.” Finally Belize cracks, and calls Louis on his passive- aggressive, borderline-racist liberalism. Hurt, Louis claims that Belize hates him because he is Jewish. Their comical bickering continues, but the subject inevitably turns to Prior.
Across the stage, Prior lists the progress of his symptoms for Emily. In the middle of her reply, Prior begins hearing her words in Hebrew, but when he questions her about it, she does not know what he is talking about. Then, in a blaze of light, a flaming book with a Hebrew aleph on its pages rises from the floor. Prior is terrified but Emily cannot see it. Prior flees. Meanwhile, a suddenly serious Louis begs for Belize’s help and asks him to tell Prior he loves him. Belize tries to be sympathetic but tells him he cannot help him. As he leaves, snow begins to fall.
Summary of Act 3 Scene 6
Prior I and Prior II have returned to Prior’s bedroom to tell him that the messenger will arrive tonight. The ancestors chant and insist that Prior join them in a dance. He resists, frightened and in pain, so they conjure Louis’s spectral form to dance with him. As Louis and Prior dance, the ghosts say they have performed their duty and vanish. After a moment, Louis does also. The sound of loudly beating wings fills the room.
Basic Theatre Information
Rehearsal The time when the director can work with the actors. During this time they will work such things as text, blocking (where the actors move), and the interactions between the characters.
Tech When the designers add such elements as lights, sounds, and scenic elements to the play.
Dress When costumes and makeup get added to the production for the final touches.
Performances The amazing moment when we add in our audience.
Understudies Actors who study the roles of the primary actor, they go on if the primary actor becomes sick or is unable to go on.
Off Book When actors no longer have scripts in hand during rehearsal.
Stage Manager A person who organizes, facilitates information, and runs rehearsals with the director.
Dramaturge Research topics to insure validity of historic accuracy of the completed production
Line If an actor loses their place when they are off book they call “line” and a Stage Manager gives the actor the line.