Magazine article The Advocate (The national gay & lesbian newsmagazine)

Chicago's Brilliant Son: In His New Production of Tony Kushner's Homebody/Kabul, Director Frank Galati Conjures Afghanistan from His Longtime Home in the Windy City

Magazine article The Advocate (The national gay & lesbian newsmagazine)

Chicago's Brilliant Son: In His New Production of Tony Kushner's Homebody/Kabul, Director Frank Galati Conjures Afghanistan from His Longtime Home in the Windy City

Article excerpt

When it comes to conveying what major political events cost ordinary people, few theatrical talents can top Frank Galati. Despite his longtime residence in Chicago, Galati may be best known for his work on Broadway, where in the 1990s he steered Ragtime and his own adaptation of The Grapes of Wrath to lasting acclaim.

"The theater," Galati says, "always has been deeply social and political." Certainly that's true of the newly updated version of 2001's Homebody/Kabul that Galati is now directing at Chicago's Steppenwolf Theatre. The production, which opened Jiffy 10, gave Galati the chance to collaborate for the first time with another great gay political voice of the theater. Pulitzer Prize--winning playwright Tony Kushner.

Galati sees a parallel between this play and Tony award-winners Grapes and Ragtime, which were "monumental experiences" about American families torn apart by turbulent forces of history. "Homebody/Kabul," he says, "has a similar kind of dynamic: a family--this time, a British family--working out its own sorrows and griefs and problems against a historical background of enormous, panoramic proportions."

Homebody, however, carries a unique cultural weight because of its setting in Afghanistan and the inadvertently eerie timing of its debut in December 2001. Kushner's first major work since Angels in America, Homebody took shape in the late '90s--but its off-Broadway premiere drew the astonished attention of a post-9/11 nation. Playing in a city still reeling from terrorist attacks, Homebody both impressed and unnerved people with its prescient statement that the Taliban would come to New York.

"If you write about current events, your writing will at some point probably be current, quips Kushner, who's weary of the notion that he predicted a threat where others couldn't. "I don't understand the notion that I had ESP. That's people reassuring themselves that the problem was that they don't have ESP and not just that they weren't reading the newspaper closely enough."

Since that initial run, Kushner has continued to revise the play, as he often does with his work. After talking to Galati--"He was on a short list of directors I admired enormously," Kushner says--the playwright visited Chicago earlier this year to reshape the script with the Steppenwolf team. Though they initially made radical changes, cutting entire scenes and characters, Kushner and Galati eventually restored Homebody to its original length of 3 1/2 hours.

"The play isn't really shorter than it was, but it is reshaped," Galati says. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.