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Tony Kushner (born July 16, 1956) is an American playwright and screenwriter. He received the Pulitzer Prize for Drama in 1992 for his play, Angels in America: A Gay Fantasia on National Themes, and co-authored with Eric Roth the screenplay for the 2005 film, Munich.


Early years

Kushner was born in Manhattanmarker, New Yorkmarker to Jewish clarinetist and conductor William Kushner and Sylvia Deutscher, a bassoonist. Shortly after his birth, the family moved to Lake Charles, Louisianamarker, the seat of Calcasieu Parish where he spent his childhood. During high school Kushner had a reputation in policy debate, at one point going to a camp, and making it to the final rounds. Kushner moved to New York in 1974 to begin his undergraduate college education at Columbia University, where he received a Bachelor of Arts degree in Medieval Studies in 1978. He studied directing at New York Universitymarker's Graduate School, from which he was graduated in 1984. During graduate school, he spent the summers of 1978-1981 directing both early original works (Masque of Owls and Incidents and Occurrences During the Travels of the Tailor Max) and Shakespearean plays (A Midsummer Night's Dream and The Tempest) for the children attending the Governor's Program for Gifted Children (GPGC) in Lake Charles. In 2008, he received a Honorary Degree of Doctor of Letters from SUNY Purchase College.

Kushner's best known work is Angels in America (a play in two parts: Millennium Approaches, and Perestroika). Kushner's other plays include Hydriotaphia, Slavs!: Thinking About the Longstanding Problems of Virtue and Happiness, A Bright Room Called Day, Homebody/Kabul, and the book for the musical Caroline, or Change. His new translation of Bertolt Brecht's Mother Courage and Her Children was performed at the Delacorte Theater in the summer of 2006 starring Meryl Streep and directed by George C. Wolfe. Kushner has also adapted S. Ansky's play The Dybbuk.

Kushner has moved into cinema of late. His co-written screenplay Munichmarker was produced and directed by Steve Spielberg in 2005. In January 2006, a documentary feature about Kushner entitled Wrestling With Angels debuted at the Sundance Film Festival. The film was directed by Freida Lee Mock. He is currently working with Spielberg again, writing the screenplay for a new movie about the complex icon Abraham Lincoln.

Kushner's style

Kushner's plays and screenplays are often a departure from typical Realism, experimenting with conventional storytelling by using shorter episodes.For example, the Angels in America plays together contain almost 50 scenes. His condensed, heightened dialogue compacts the action into impacting, concise bursts. He still proves effective in a more traditional, "long form" structure; three of the acts in Perestroika are long, single scenes. He is not afraid of spectacle - extraordinary moments that stay on target, not simply for show. Again in Angels, we witness a midnight appearance from an angel, and a frightening daytime appearance of a Biblical harbinger of revelation. The play A Bright Room Called Day, and The Illusion, his 1990 adaptation of Pierre Corneille's L'illusion Comique, are primarily in verse, showing an almost Shakespearean love of poetry. Still, his subjects remain current, and, like Henrik Ibsen, he creates stories that give rise to social discussion, instead of being simply "issue plays."

Political views

In an interview with the Jewish Independent, Kushner insisted that "I want the state of Israel to continue to exist. I've always said that. I've never said anything else. My positions have been lied about and misrepresented in so many ways. People claim that I'm for a one-state solution, which is not true." However, he later stated that he hopes that "there might be a merging of the two countries because [they're] geographically kind of ridiculous looking on a map," although he acknowledged that political realities make this unlikely in the near future.

Kushner's criticism of Israeli treatment of Palestinians and of the increase in religious extremism within Israeli politics and culture has created some controversy in the Jewish community, including some opposition to his receiving an honorary doctorate at the 2006 commencement of Brandeis University. The Zionist Organization of America unsuccessfully lobbied for the university to rescind its invitation to Kushner. In the course of the controversy, quotes critical of Zionism and Israel made by Kushner were circulated. Kushner said at the time that his quotes were "grossly mischaracterized." Kushner told the Jewish Advocate in an interview "All that anybody seems to be reading is a couple of right-wing Web sites taking things deliberately out of context and excluding anything that would complicate the picture by making me seem like a reasonable person, which I basically think I am."

Personal life

Kushner and long term partner, Mark Harris, an editor of Entertainment Weekly and author of "Pictures at a Revolution - Five Movies and the Birth of the New Hollywood" celebrated their wedding ceremony in April 2003.



  • The Age of Assassins, New York, Newfoundland Theatre, 1982.
  • La Fin de la Baleine: An Opera for the Apocalypse, New York, Ohio Theatre, 1983.
  • The Umbrella Oracle, Martha's Vineyard, The Yard, Inc..
  • Last Gasp at the Cataract, Martha's Vineyard, The Yard, Inc., 1984.
  • Yes, Yes, No, No: The Solace-of-Solstice, Apogee/Perigee, Bestial/Celestial Holiday Show, produced in St. Louis, Missouri, Imaginary Theatre Company, Repertory Theatre of St. Louis, 1985, published in Plays in Process, 1987.
  • Stella (adapted from the play by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe), produced in New York City, 1987.
  • A Bright Room Called Day, produced in New York, Theatre 22, 22 April 1985; San Francisco, Eureka Theatre, October 1987; London, Bush Theatremarker, 1988), Broadway Play Publishing, 1991.
  • The Heavenly Theatre, produced at New York University, Tisch School of the Arts, 1986.
  • In Great Eliza's Golden Time, produced in St. Louis, Missouri, Imaginary Theatre Company, Repertory Theatre of St. Louis, 1986.
  • Hydriotaphia, produced in New York City, 1987 (based on the life on Sir Thomas Browne)
  • The Illusion (adapted from Pierre Corneille's play L'Illusion comique; produced in New York City, 1988, revised version produced in Hartford, CT, 1990), Broadway Play Publishing, 1991.
  • In That Day (Lives of the Prophets), New York University, Tisch School of the Arts, 1989.
  • (With Ariel Dorfman) Widows (adapted from a book by Ariel Dorfman), produced in Los Angeles, CA, 1991.
  • Angels in America: A Gay Fantasia on National Themes, Part One: Millennium Approaches (produced in San Francisco, 1991), Hern, 1992.
  • Angels in America: A Gay Fantasia on National Themes, Part Two: Perestroika, produced in New York City, 1992.
  • Angels in America: A Gay Fantasia on National Themes (includes both parts), Theatre Communications Group (New York, NY), 1995.
  • Slavs! Thinking About the Longstanding Problems of Virtue and Happiness, Theatre Communications Group, 1995.
  • Reverse Transcription: Six Playwrights Bury a Seventh, A Ten-Minute Play That's Nearly Twenty Minutes Long, Louisville, Humana Festival of New American Plays, Actors Theatre of Louisville, March 1996.
  • A Dybbuk, or Between Two Worlds (adapted from Joachim Neugroschel's transation of the original play by S. Ansky; produced in New York City at the Joseph Papp Public Theater, 1997), Theatre Communications Group, 1997.
  • The Good Person of Szechuan (adapted from the original play by Bertolt Brecht), Arcade, 1997.
  • (With Eric Bogosian and others) Love's Fire: Seven New Plays Inspired by Seven Shakespearean Sonnets, Morrow, 1998.
  • Terminating, or Lass Meine Schmerzen Nicht Verloren Sein, or Ambivalence, in Love's Fire, Minneapolis, Guthrie Theater Lab, 7 January 1998; New York: Joseph Papp Public Theater, 19 June 1998.
  • Henry Box Brown, or the Mirror of Slavery, performed at the Royal National Theatre, London, 1998.
  • Homebody/Kabul, first performed in New York City, 19 December 2001.
  • Caroline, or Change (musical), first performed in New York at the Joseph Papp Public Theater, 2002.
  • (Director)Ellen McLaughlin, Helen, produced at the Joseph Papp Public Theater, 2002.
  • Only We Who Guard The Mystery Shall Be Unhappy, 2003.
  • Translation with “liberties”—but purportedly “not an adaptation”—of Bertolt Brecht’s Mother Courage and Her Children (2006)
  • The Intelligent Homosexual's Guide to Capitalism and Socialism with a Key to the Scriptures Minneapolis, Guthrie Theater, 2009.
  • Tiny Kushner, a new play debuting at Berkeley Repertory Theatre October 16th Tiny Kushner


  • A Meditation from Angels in America, HarperSan Francisco, 1994.
  • Thinking about the Longstanding Problems of Virtue and Happiness: Essays, a Play, Two Poems, and a Prayer, Theatre Communications Group (New York, NY), 1995.
  • Howard Cruse, Stuck Rubber Baby, introduction by Kushner (New York: Paradox Press, 1995).
  • David B. Feinberg, Queer and Loathing: Rants and Raves of a Raging AIDS Clone, introduction by Kushner (New York: Penguin, 1995).
  • David Wojnarowicz, The Waterfront Journals, edited by Amy Scholder, introduction by Kushner (New York: Grove, 1996).
  • "Three Screeds from Key West: For Larry Kramer," in We Must Love One Another or Die: The Life and Legacies of Larry Kramer, edited by Lawrence D. Mass (New York: St. Martin's Press, 1997), pp. 191-199.
  • Moises Kaufman, Gross Indecency, afterword by Kushner (New York: Vintage, 1997), pp. 135-143.
  • Plays by Tony Kushner (New York: Broadway Play Publishing, 1999). Includes:
    • A Bright Room called Day
    • The Illusion
    • Slavs! Thinking About the Longstanding Problems of Virtue and Happiness
  • Death & Taxes: Hydrotaphia, and Other Plays, Theatre Communications Group (New York, NY), 2000. Includes:
  • Brundibar, illustrated by Maurice Sendak, Hyperion Books for Children, 2003.
  • Peter's Pixie, by Donn Kushner, illustrated by Sylvie Daigneault, introduction by Tony Kushner, Tundra Books, 2003
  • The Art of Maurice Sendak: 1980 to the Present, 2003
  • Save Your Democratic Citizen Soul!: Rants, Screeds, and Other Public Utterances
  • Wrestling with Zion: Progressive Jewish-American Responses to the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict, with Alisa Solomon, Grove, 2003.


  • "The Secrets of Angels". The New York Times, 27 March 1994, p. H5.
  • "The State of the Theatre". Times Literary Supplement, 28 April 1995, p. 14.
  • "The Theater of Utopia". Theater, 26 (1995): 9-11.
  • "The Art of the Difficult". Civilization, 4 (August/September 1997): 62-67.
  • "Notes About Political Theater," Kenyon Review, 19 (Summer/Fall 1997): 19-34.
  • "Wings of Desire". Premiere, October 1997: 70.
  • "Fo's Last Laugh--I". Nation, 3 November 1997: 4-5.
  • "Matthew's Passion". Nation, 9 November 1998
  • "A Modest Proposal". American Theatre, January 1998: 20-22, 77-89.
  • "A Word to Graduates: Organize!". Nation, 1 July 2002.
  • "Only We Who Guard The Mystery Shall Be Unhappy". Nation, 24 March 2003.

Other works

  • La Fin de la Baleine: An Opera for the Apocalypse, (opera) 1983
  • St. Cecilia or The Power of Music, (opera libretto based on Heinrich von Kleist's eighteenth-century story Die heilige Cäcilie oder Die Gewalt der Musik, Eine Legende)
  • Brundibar, (an opera in collaboration with Maurice Sendak)
  • Munich, a film by Steven Spielberg (2005) - screenplay (co-written by)


  • Gerard Raymond, "Q & A With Tony Kushner," Theatre Week (20-26 December 1993): 14-20.
  • Mark Marvel, "A Conversation with Tony Kushner," Interview, 24 (February 1994): 84.
  • David Savran, "Tony Kushner," in Speaking on Stage: Interviews with Contemporary American Playwrights, edited by Philip C. Kolin and Colby H. Kullman (Tuscaloosa: University of Alabama Press, 1996), pp. 291-313.
  • Robert Vorlicky, ed., Tony Kushner in Conversation (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1998).
  • Victor Wishna, "Tony Kushner," in In Their Company: Portraits of American Playwrights, Photographs by Ken Collins, Interviews by Victor Wishna (New York: Umbrage Editions, 2006).

Awards and nominations

  • 1993 Drama Desk Award Outstanding New Play – Angels in America: Millennium Approaches
  • 1993 Pulitzer Prize for Drama – Angels in America: Millennium Approaches
  • 1993 Tony Award for Best Play – Angels in America: Millennium Approaches
  • 1994 Drama Desk Award Outstanding Play – Angels in America: Perestroika
  • 1994 Tony Award for Best Play – Angels in America: Perestroika
  • 2004 Emmy Award for Outstanding Writing for a Miniseries, Movie or a Dramatic Special, Angels in America
  • 2007 Laurence Olivier Award for Best New Musical – Caroline, or Change
  • 2008 Steinberg Distinguished Playwright Award

  • 2004 Drama Desk Award Outstanding Book of a Musical – Caroline, or Change
  • 2004 Tony Award for Best Book of a Musical – Caroline, or Change
  • 2004 Tony Award for Best Original Score – Caroline, or Change
  • 2005 Academy Award for Best Adapted Screenplay – Munich
  • 2005 Golden Globe Award for Best Screenplay – Munich

  • Evening Standard Award
  • OBIE
  • New York Drama Critics Circle Award
  • American Academy of Arts and Letters Award
  • Whiting Writers Fellowship
  • Lila Wallace/Reader's Digest Fellowship
  • National Foundation of Jewish Culture, Cultural Achievement award


  1. Shayndi Raice. "Brandeis graduation honoree draws fire." The Jewish Advocate. May 4 2006.

Further reading

  • Contemporary Literary Criticism, Gale (Detroit), Volume 81, 1994.
  • Bloom, Harold, ed., Tony Kushner, New York, Chelsea House, 2005.
  • Brask, Anne, ed., "Ride on the Moon", Chicago, Randomhouse, 1990.
  • Brask, Per K., ed., Essays on Kushner’s Angels, Winnipeg, Blizzard Publishing, 1995.
  • Dickinson, Peter, "Travels With Tony Kushner and David Beckham, 2002-2004", in Theatre Journal, 57.3, 2005, pp. 229-50
  • Fisher, James, The Theater of Tony Kushner, London, Routledge, 2002.
  • Fisher, James, ed., Tony Kushner. New Essays on the Art and Politics of His Plays, London, McFarland & Company, 2006.
  • Geis, Deborah R., and Steven F. Kruger, Approaching the Millennium: Essays on Angels in America, University of Michigan Press, 1997.
  • Klüßendorf, Ricarda, "The Great Work Begins". Tony Kushner's Theater for Change in America, Trier, WVT, 2007.
  • Lioi, Anthony, "The Great Work Begins: Theater as Theurgy in Angels in America", in CrossCurrents, Fall 2004, Vol. 54, No 3
  • Solty, Ingar, "Tony Kushners amerikanischer Engel der Geschichte", in Das Argument 265, 2/2006, pp. 209-24 [44577]

External links

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