(Princeton, NJ) Beginning April 2, Princeton University’s Program in Theater and Dance presents a senior thesis production of both parts of Tony Kushner’s celebrated theatrical epic, Angels in America, directed by Sara-Ashley Bischoff ’09 and featuring Lovell Holder ’09 in the role of Prior Walter and Jordan Kisner ’09 as Harper Pitt. Millennium Approaches (Part One) and Perestroika (Part Two), the two halves of the famously massive play, will perform in rotating repertory at the Marie and Edward Matthews ’53 Acting Studio at 185 Nassau Street to combine for a six-hour theatrical experience.
Kushner’s Pulitzer Prize-winning work, written in part while he was teaching playwriting at Princeton, details the lives of Americans struggling to survive emotional and social upheaval in the waning days of 1980s New York. Focusing on the AIDS crisis, Kushner uses the health epidemic as a lens through which he explores both literal and figurative diseases which plague American culture – strict definitions of sexuality, race, religion, politics, and family which threaten to destroy the body politic. Angels in America centers on two couples desperately trying to preserve their relationships as the world collapses around them. A Mormon couple, Harper and Joe Pitt (Kisner and Christopher Ghaffari ’12), must address their crumbling marriage when the agoraphobic Harper panics after Joe is offered a job in Washington by his mentor, the infamous Roy Cohn (Peter Ploszek ’09). Meanwhile, a gay couple, Prior Walter (Holder) and Louis Ironson (Glenn Brown ’09), copes with Prior’s diagnosis with AIDS and Louis’ subsequent impulses to abandon his lover in the face of the terrifying disease. Amidst the crushing realities these couples encounter in 1980s Manhattan, Kushner weaves their lives together through a series of magical encounters in which ghosts appear in bedrooms, Valium-induced delusions transport characters to Antarctica, and angels come crashing through ceilings.
When Angels in America opened in 1993, Newsweek proclaimed the work the “most ambitious American play of our time,” and more than fifteen years later, thesis students Bischoff, Holder, and Kisner are ambitiously attempting to mount this massive work while full-time students. Director Bischoff, a Comparative Literature major, has spent six months with her production team and ensemble cast of eight actors – each one playing multiple roles in addition to a central character – in order to bring Kushner’s simultaneously sprawling and devastatingly intimate world to the Princeton stage. Headed by Holder, an English major, and Kisner, a Religion major, the cast also includes senior Christopher Inniss (as the flamboyant and saintly nurse, Belize), junior Becca Foresman (as Joe’s sensible Mormon mother, Hannah), and junior Heather May (as the Angel who delivers a message of things to come).
The performance schedule for Angels in America is as follows: Millennium Approaches (Part One): April 2 at 8:00 pm, April 4 at 2:00 pm, April 9 at 8:00 pm, and April 11 at 2:00 pm; Perestroika (Part Two): April 3, April 4, April 10, and April 11, all at 8:00 pm. The production contains adult themes, strong language, sexual scenes, and nudity; audience discretion is advised. Tickets are $8 for students and seniors and $10 general admission. For advance tickets call University Ticketing at 609.258.9220.
The Lewis Center for the Arts is part of a major initiative announced by President Shirley M. Tilghman in 2006 to fully embrace the arts as an essential part of the educational experience for all who study and teach at Princeton University. The Lewis Center for the Arts will have a significant impact on the University and the larger community it serves. The public is welcomed to a full range of lectures, exhibitions, concerts and performances at the Center. Many of the Center’s events are free or charge a nominal admission fee.