Kushner, Tony

The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.

Kushner, Tony

Tony Kushner (kŏŏsh´nər), 1956–, American playwright, b. New York City. Educated at Columbia and New York Univ., he was a little-known off-Broadway playwright with several interesting works, e.g., Yes, Yes, No, No (1985) and A Bright Room Called Day (1987), to his credit when his Angels in America (1991–92) burst on the theatrical scene. This two-part, seven-hour, Pulitzer Prize– and Tony-winning drama of life in the age of AIDS mingles the political, personal, and universal in its treatment of such apparently disparate elements as gay and straight relationships, the Mormon faith, Roy Cohn, Ethel Rosenberg (see Rosenberg Case), disease, love, and death. The play was adapted into an Emmy-winning television drama (2002), directed by Mike Nichols. Hailed as a major talent, Kushner has been praised for his intelligence, wit, and humanity. Since Angels he has written Slavs! (1994), an ironic political fantasia; Homebody/Kabul (2001), a linguistically rich drama centered about an imaginary and a real Afghanistan; Caroline, or Change (2004), a semiautobiographical musical that focuses on issues of race and class, and The Intelligent Homosexual's Guide to Capitalism and Socialism with a Key to the Scriptures (2011), a family drama that explores, among other things, reactions to the collapse of faith in outdated belief systems and morality codes.

Inspired by a 1942 Czech opera performed by children at the Theresienstadt concentration camp, Kushner supplied the text for the children's book Brundibar and the libretto for the opera (both: 2003) based on it; Maurice Sendak illustrated the book and designed the opera production. The two also collaborated on a version of Martinů's 1937 opera Comedy on the Bridge. Kushner has also made contemporary translations of two plays by Bertolt Brecht, Good Person of Setzuan (1994) and Mother Courage and Her Children (2006).

See R. Vorlicky, ed., Tony Kushner in Conversation (1998); studies by P. Brask, ed. (1995), D. R. Geis and S. F. Kruger, ed. (1997), J. Fisher (2001), and H. Bloom, ed. (2005).

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