In a frank interview with The Daily Beast, Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Tony Kushner discussed his plan to write a play about Donald Trump, aging, coming out, the 1980’s and his life in Provincetown with husband Mark Harris.
As a playwright, Tony Kushner is best known for his masterpiece Angels in America: A Gay Fantasia on National Themes, set during the 1980’s as AIDS ravaged the world, New York City in particular. In the play, one dark character causes more anguish than kaposi sarcoma; Roy Cohn. This closeted, Right Wing bigot was the ruthless attorney who had worked with Senator Joseph McCarthy during the anti-Communism witch hunts of the 1950s and later, Donald Trump’s close friend and legal advisor.
As the London National Theatre is set to beam their new production of Angels in America live to select theaters, Kushner is pondering his next play, one that will deal with the monster that Cohn helped create; Trump. As Kushner puts it, “the [Trump] nightmare is in high gear.”
The play will take place two years before the election and Kushner will aim to find the right angle for Trump who is difficult to approach as a character because, “I tend to avoid [him] as I think he is borderline psychotic,” adding, “but he really is very boring.” However, Kushner is most concerned with the key lesson that Trump clearly took from Cohn as, “The art of the big lie. Make it huge and never admit it.” This fake it ‘til you make it method goes hand in hand with Cohn’s other slippery trick that Kushner describes as, “to occupy a grey area of wall,” so that nothing can lead to jail time.
Kushner told The Daily Beast that he doesn’t think that Trump, “has a particular animus to gay and trans people, but he has an appalling indifference. So when it comes to people like Jeff Sessions and Betsy DeVos he doesn’t do anything,” because, “Trump needs their applause, and he is particularly needy for it now.”
However, in discussing LGBTQ+ rights, Kushner believes that gays are stronger now because they are not as available, “as red-meat to their [right wing] base as we were in the past.” To Kushner, in the progress made over the last few decades for gay rights, he believes that, “the LGBT liberation movement is radically socially transformative because it forces society to see that gender is not limited to man/woman and sexual expression is not limited to heterosexuality.”
This social transformation owes much to Tony Kushner’s masterpiece, Angels in America, which was performed in the early 90s when AIDS was still ravaging the gay community. As the British presentation comes to theaters, it will reflect on a potential new threat for the LGBTQ+ rights in America.
Kushner came out at 26 to very conservative parents as AIDS was hitting hard, gave the two young actors in the current London production, Andrew Garfield and Russell Tovey, a lot of personal experience from the dark days of the plague. Kushner also defended Garfield and his recent controversial statement, claiming he was gay except for the physical aspect, by offering that, “One of the things that makes a great actor is being able to empathize and dig deep into a character. Andrew does that magnificently. He’s a really great actor, and he has dug deep into what it means to be the gay man in this play.”
As we await Kushner’s next masterpiece, catch the National Theatre Live presentation of Angels in America Part One: Millennium Approaches July 20 and Part Two: Perestroika July 27.