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Angels in America: Fewer awards than predicted at the Tony Awards 2018
(Blogmensgo, gay blog of June 17, 2018) The award ceremony of the 72ndTony Awards on June 10, 2018 in honor of the Broadway theater and music industry had many highlights: Firstly, Tony Kushner’s play Angels in America won only three trophies despite many nominations. On the other hand, Robert De Niro felt he needed to say “Fuck Trump” on stage – which was immediately censored by CBS.
Angels in America, directed by Marianne Elliott, won the Tony Award for the best reopening of a play, even though there were four other good works in this category.
It took the playwright Tony Kushner three years to write his masterpiece over a quarter of a century ago. The two parts of the piece were first performed in 1991 and 1992. Despite some changes by Tony Kushner, the final full version took almost seven and a half hours (or even eight and a half hours including breaks).
The resumption of Angels in America first conquered London’s National Theatre before inspiring New York’s Neil Simon Theatre since mid-March and winning several other awards this year.
In the original play as in the current production, all characters are fictional except for one: Roy M. Cohn, a notorious anti-Communist and homophobic lawyer who was gay himself. He died of AIDS in 1986, but he never admitted it and pretended to have liver cancer. Nathan Lane won the Tony Award for best supporting role for his impersonation as Roy Cohn.
The other big winner in the best actor category is Andrew Garfield. His figure Prior Walter was also a gay man with AIDS, but unlike Roy Cohn, he accepted his homosexuality.
During his acceptance speach, Andrew Garfield honored all LGBTQ people “who fought and lost”.
He also referred to a current debate:
Let’s just bake a cake for everyone who wants a cake to be baked!
With simple words, Garfield takes a stand in the current debate on homophobic merchants and craftsmen. Can we imagine that gays or lesbians absolutely want to order a wedding cake from a confectioner who shows his homophobia in dealing with his customers? It is clear that one cannot convert pastry chefs if they do not want to supply wedding cakes for gays or lesbians.
By the way, the Washington Post recently published a very good commentary on the Tony Award ceremony, more precisely: on the various ways of (not) publicly standing up for or against a cause or ideology.
In an interview behind the scenes and before the winners were announced, Andrew Garfield said that he currently finds Angels in America the best piece in the repertoire, but more about this later. Then he described the director Marianne Elliot as Gaia, the “Mother Earth”. Here is the interview in which Garfield is interviewed together with the British actress Carey Mulligan:
Not all eight nominations were awarded prizes, including the award for best director (Marianne Elliott) and two for best supporting actress (Denise Gough and Susan Brown).
Tony Kushner congratulated a huge gay icon on her birthday: Judy Garland, born on 10 June, and passed away much too early.
Robert De Niro's short speech attracted the special attention of the media and social networks. Twice the actor and director said “Fuck Trump!”, which was beeped over, i.e. censored, during the (time-shifted) transmission.
Besides the censored version of the recording, however, there are also versions with the complete original sound.
This type of censorship at CBS is based on a legal obligation: in the United States, it is forbidden for free and public broadcasters to broadcast abusive language or nude pictures. This is why there is often a delay of seven seconds between the live signal and the actual transmission, as in this case with CBS. This is enough for such “obscene’ remarks by the speakers to be “beeped out”.
We remember that years ago, Janet Jackson’s brief nipple exposure resulted in a huge fine for the TV station. In de Niro’s statement on Trump, CBS certainly risked less financially, but they did it because they had to. YouTube doesn’t censor its videos either, but simply makes any uploaded videos available.
Back to the meaning of the play Angels in America. Tony Kushner’s play is not so well-known in Europe. However, it had a very big influence on the English-speaking world, especially in the United States, both among heterosexuals and gays.
The original version of the play won seven Tony Awards (including the Best Play for both parts), the Pulitzer Prize for Best Play and numerous professional awards in the US and elsewhere.
No wonder the industry's leading magazine, American Theatre, dedicated its cover and a major article to this outstanding play in its March 2018 issue.
It’s interesting how much Angels in America has shaped the entire industry for a quarter of a century, from actors to screenwriters and directors. It's no big surprise that Angels in America is very important for LGBT directors, actors and other theater characters.
Interestingly enough, almost everyone interviewed by “American Theatre” (which is not a gay magazine at all) says that there was a time before and a time after this influential play in their personal development and career path. When “professionals of the industry” say this regardless of their sexual orientation, it is the most beautiful homage to a theater piece we can imagine.