Monday, July 16, 2018

Happy Birthday to Pulitzer-Winning Playwright Tony Kushner


Tony Kushner was born today, July 16, in 1956. He is an American playwright and screenwriter. He received the Pulitzer Prize for Drama in 1993 for his play Angels in America: A Gay Fantasia on National Themes. He co-authored with Eric Roth the screenplay for the 2005 film Munich, and he wrote the screenplay for the 2012 film Lincoln. Both movies were critically acclaimed, and he received Academy Award nominations for Best Adapted Screenplay. He received a National Medal of Arts from President Barack Obama in 2013.

Kushner was born in Manhattan. Shortly after his birth, Kushner's parents moved to Lake Charles, Louisiana, where he spent his childhood. In 1974, Kushner moved back to New York to begin his undergraduate college education at Columbia University, where he received a Bachelor of Arts degree in Medieval Studies in 1978. He attended the Tisch School of the Arts at NYU, graduating in 1984.


Kushner's best known work is Angels in America (a play in two parts: Millennium Approaches and Perestroika), a seven-hour epic about the AIDS epidemic in Reagan-era New York. A Tony-winning revival of the play just ended on Broadway. It was also adapted into an HBO miniseries for which Kushner wrote the screenplay. His 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 Brecht's The Good Person of Szechwan, Corneille's The Illusion, and S. Ansky's play The Dybbuk.

In the early 2000s, Kushner began writing for film. His co-written screenplay Munich was produced and directed by Steven 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. In April 2011 it was announced that he was working with Spielberg again, writing the screenplay for an adaptation of historian Doris Kearns Goodwin's book Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln. The screenplay for Lincoln would go on to receive multiple awards, in addition to nominations for Best Adapted Screenplay at the Golden Globes and The Oscars.

In a 2015 interview actress/producer Viola Davis revealed she had hired Kushner to write an as yet untitled biopic about the life of Barbara Jordan that she planned to star in.

In 2016, Kushner worked on a screenplay version of August Wilson's play Fences; the resulting film Fences, directed by Denzel Washington, was released in December 2016.

Kushner is famous for frequent revisions and years-long gestations of his plays. Both Angels in America: Perestroika and Homebody/Kabul were significantly revised even after they were first published. Kushner has admitted that the original script version of Angels in America: Perestroika is nearly double the length of the theatrical version. His newest completed work, the play The Intelligent Homosexual's Guide to Capitalism and Socialism with a Key to the Scriptures, began as a novel more than a decade ago.

In 2018 it was announced that Kushner was working on a script of a remake of West Side Story for Spielberg to direct.

Kushner and his spouse Mark Harris (right) held a commitment ceremony in April 2003, the first same-sex commitment ceremony to be featured in the Vows column of The New York Times. Harris is an editor of Entertainment Weekly and author of Pictures at a Revolution – Five Movies and the Birth of the New Hollywood.

In summer 2008, Kushner and Harris were legally married at the city hall in Provincetown, Massachusetts.

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