Spotlight Series with Tony Kushner



Tanglewood (297 West St., Lenox, MA 01240)

Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Tony Kushner will join the Tanglewood Learning Institute for a conversation on the arts’ power to illuminate diverse perspectives.

Best known for his contributions to the stage and screen, with works including Angels in America, Caroline or Change and the screenplays for Steven Spielberg’s Lincoln and recent remake of West Side Story, Kushner will explore the role that music and words play in civil society, inspired by the August 20 concert celebrating John Williams’ 90th birthday.

Born in New York City in 1956, and raised in Lake Charles, Louisiana, Kushner is best known for his two-part epic, Angels In America: A Gay Fantasia on National Themes. His other plays include A Bright Room Called Day, Slavs!, Hydrotaphia, Homebody/Kabul, as well as a musical, Caroline, or Change, and opera A Blizzard on Marblehead Neck, both with composer Jeanine Tesori.

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Kushner has translated and adapted Pierre Corneille’s The Illusion, S.Y. Ansky’s The Dybbuk, Bertolt Brecht’s The Good Person of Sezuan and Mother Courage and Her Children, and the English-language libretto for the children’s opera Brundibár by Hans Krasa. He wrote the screenplays for Mike Nichols’ film of Angels In America, and Steven Spielberg’s Munich.

In 2012 he wrote the screenplay for Spielberg’s movie Lincoln. His screenplay was nominated for an Academy Award, and won the New York Film Critics Circle Award, Boston Society of Film Critics Award, Chicago Film Critics Award, and several others. He also wrote the screenplay for Spielberg’s 2021 movie remake of West Side Story.

“Tony Kushner is a dramatist through and through. Even when he is delivering a lecture or writing an essay, other voices break in, all smart, some smart-aleck, in a slaphappy polyphony, as he badgers himself (and others) into shrewd judgments… The results are funny, harsh and wise.”

—Gary Wills

His books include But the Giraffe: A Curtain Raising and Brundibar: the Libretto, with illustrations by Maurice Sendak; The Art of Maurice Sendak: 1980 to the Present; and Wrestling with Zion: Progressive Jewish-American Responses to the Palestinian/Israeli Conflict, co-edited with Alisa Solomon. And his recent work includes a collection of one-act plays entitled Tiny Kushner, The Intelligent Homosexual’s Guide to Capitalism and Socialism with a Key to the Scriptures, and an adaptation of Friedrich Dürrenmatt’s The Visit, or The Old Lady Comes to Call.

A revival of Angels in America ran off-Broadway at the Signature Theater and won the Lucille Lortel Award in 2011 for Outstanding Revival.

“Some playwrights want to change the world. Some want to revolutionize theater. Tony Kushner is that rarity of rarities: a writer who has the promise to do both.”

— New York Times

Kushner has earned a Pulitzer Prize for Drama, an Emmy Award, two Tony Awards, three Obie Awards, two Evening Standard Awards, an Olivier Award, two Oscar nominations, an Arts Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, a PEN/Laura Pels Award, a Spirit of Justice Award from the Gay and Lesbian Advocates and Defenders, a Cultural Achievement Award from The National Foundation for Jewish Culture, a Chicago Tribune Literary Prize for lifetime achievement, the 2012 National Medal.

He gives voice to characters who have been rendered powerless by the forces of circumstances – a drag queen dying of AIDS, an uneducated Southern maid, contemporary Afghans – and his attempt to see all sides of their predicament has a sly subversiveness. He forces the audience to identify with the marginalized – a humanizing act of the imagination. He lives in Manhattan with his husband, Mark Harris.

“Kushner’s use of language and ideas continues to make us think about the deeper questions . . . he makes the political personal . . . a masterful conglomerate of words, ideas and history..”

—The Scotsman