Tony Kushner

I put this up on another site a couple of years ago, but I liked it then and I like it now. Kushner is one of my favorite writers and I sort of figured I’d never get a chance to pick his brain again, so I kind of asked him something mildly inflammatory in the two minutes I had with him on the red carpet and made sure he was talking into the tape recorder. He is awesome and I have nothing but admiration for his body of work and his personal eloquence.

Me: Is it mostly liberals who go to the American theater?

Tony Kushner: Probably, yes. I mean, I never wrote the [“Angels in America”] to teach anybody anything. When I teach playwriting, I tell my students, “Preach to the converted"—I mean, who else do preachers preach to? Not everybody has to be an evangelist. John Donne and Martin Luther King, Jr. didn’t go out and preach to Buddhists or Jews, they preached to Protestants and Southern Baptists. A good preacher isn’t just telling the congregation what it already knows—that would be boring. A good preacher addresses the most difficult thing about faith, which is doubt, and questions that are hard to answer, and goes forward into the darkness with his congregation. If I have to write a play for right-wing people who think that gay people are terrible, it’s going to be a boring play. I’m going to be bored writing it and most intelligent people who know that gay people are NOT terrible are going to be bored watching it. They’d rather sit and home and watch television than go to the theater and get lectured. So if I write a play about gay people for gay people and for people who like gay people, I can say things that are really interesting and confusing and challenging to me, and I can hope that the audience will find the questions interesting and confusing, too, and it will give them something to think about.

Me: It feels like liberals and conservatives don’t even share a language any more.

TK: That’s too evenhanded for me. I think we’re sharing a language. It’s a language of one group of people who want to talk about what’s happening on the ground and what they want to do to address it—"Is there global warming? Are hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of people losing their homes? Do we need more regulation? How are we going to address the problems in Afghanistan?"—and then there are other people who want to run the same old tape they’ve run for the last thirty years: government is bad, taxes are bad, Jesus is coming to lift us all up to heaven and people should have concealed weapons in elementary school. I know what they’re saying. I think they’re nuts. And I think they’re wrong, and for the most part, I think they’re enslaved to a perfidious and malevolent ideology that is not only threatening our democracy but our continued survival as a species. The Tea Party—those people who get up and talk about how global warming is not happening—are actively helping to commit ecocide. So you know, I don’t think the problem is that we’re not talking to each other. Fuck talk. People who are progressive and have brains: go and vote on Tuesday and make sure that these demented people, these bad people don’t get ahold of Congress again, because we can’t afford it. We don’t have the time to waste anymore.

Author: samthielman

Sam Thielman is a reporter and critic based in Brooklyn, New York. His blog is, his twitter handle is @samthielman, and if you can't find him you should check The Strand.

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