Bard News & Events

Press Release


Emily M. Darrow

The evening program will also feature a reading of Kushner’s play Only We Who Guard The Mystery Shall Be Unhappy at the Richard B. Fisher Center for the Performing Arts

"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

ANNANDALE-ON-HUDSON, N.Y.—On Wednesday, April 14, Bard College will celebrate the life and work of Tony Kushner, the Pulitzer Prize–winning playwright of Angels of America, presenting him with the honorary degree of doctor of fine arts. The program, which is free and open to the public, includes a reading of Kushner’s Only We Who Guard the Mystery Shall Be Unhappy. Presented by the Theater Program and Human Rights Project at Bard, the event will begin at 7:00 p.m. in the Sosnoff Theater of the Richard B. Fisher Center for the Performing Arts. Tickets are free; reservations are strongly recommended. Please call the Fisher Center box office at 845-758-7900.

The event will begin with remarks by David E. Schwab II ’52, chairman of the College's Board of Trustees. Leon Botstein, president of the College, will introduce Kushner, who will be presented with the honorary degree by Professor JoAnne Akalaitis and Marcelle Clements ’69, a trustee of the College.

Following the presentation, there will be a reading of Kushner’s play Only We Who Guard the Mystery Shall Be Unhappy, with Kushner reading the part of Laura Bush, and Bard students Naomi Hard ’04 reading the part of The Angel, and Jacob Burstein-Stern ’04 reading the stage directions. Originally published in the March 2003 edition of the Nation, Kushner is expanding this work to be performed during the upcoming election. He draws its title from the Grand Inquisitor scene in Dostoevsky’s novel The Brothers Karamazov, which Laura Bush once told an interviewer was one of her favorite pieces of literature. In Only We Who Guard the Mystery, Kushner explores Bush’s encounter with an angel and three dead Iraqi children, who were victims of American bombings or economic sanctions.

In choosing to honor Kushner, JoAnne Akalaitis, director of the Bard’s Theater Program, notes, "Tony Kushner is one of the most important and influential playwrights of our time, because of his stunning poetry, great wit, erudition, dramatic pulse, wild imagination, and delicious characters. He is a conscience for us all and a fountainhead of topicality."

"Tony Kushner represents a clear and uncompromising voice of the left in this society, which is fast running toward the right," says Chiori Miyagawa, associate professor of theater. "His work is intellectual, yet at the same time entertains and moves the audience emotionally. His premises are often challenging, while his characters are humorous. Kushner achieves comedy and tragedy in the same moment, and the audience leaves the theater thinking." Thomas Keenan, associate professor of comparative literature and director of the Human Rights Project at Bard, notes, "Kushner’s sharp tongue, crisp wit, brilliant analysis, and dogged impatience with everything wrong about our world exemplify what it means to be a committed intellectual today."

For further information about the degree presentation and reading or to make reservations for the program, call 845-758-7900.

About Tony Kushner:

Tony Kushner’s seven-hour, two-part, Broadway production of Angels in America: A Gay Fantasia on National Themes is a masterful epic—it has received a Pulitzer Prize, two Tony Awards, two Drama Desk Awards, the Evening Standard Award, two Olivier Award nominations, the New York Critics Circle Award, the Los Angeles Drama Critics Circle Award, and the LAMBDA Literary Award for Drama. In 1998, London’s National Theatre selected Angels in America as one of the 10 best plays of the 20th century. Newsweek wrote, "The entire work is the broadest, deepest, most searching American play of our time." The 2003 HBO television version of this play was directed by Mike Nichols and featured actors Al Pacino, Meryl Streep, and Emma Thompson.

Kushner’s other plays include Hydrotaphia; A Bright Room Called Day; Slavs!: Thinking About the Longstanding Problems of Virtue and Happiness; and adaptations of Goethe’s Stella, Brecht’s The Good Person of Setzuan, Ansky’s The Dybbuk, and Corneille’s The Illusion. He has received grants from the New York State Council on the Arts, the NEA, the Whiting Foundation, and the American Academy of Arts and Letters; he has also received a Lila Wallace/Reader’s Digest Fellowship and a medal for Cultural Achievement from the National Foundation for Jewish Culture. Kushner’s recent projects include the play Henry Box Brown or the Mirror of Slavery; two musical plays, St. Cecilia or The Power of Music and Caroline or Change; and the incredibly prescient Homebody/Kabul. In late 2003, Kushner published a picture book entitled Brundibar, based on the American version of the opera of the same name, which he crafted with author and illustrator Maurice Sendak. He also wrote the text for a new survey book of Sendak's illustrations and stage designs entitled The Art of Maurice Sendak: 1980 to the Present. Addressing current political topics in his two most recent works, Tony Kushner edited Wrestling with Zion: Progressive Jewish-American Responses to the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict, and wrote Save Your Democratic Soul!: Rants, Screeds, and Other Public Utterances.

He intends his plays to be part of a greater political movement; his work is concerned with moral responsibility during politically repressive times. Kushner, the gay Jewish socialist who was raised in Louisiana and educated at Columbia and NYU, most enjoys addressing audiences that are receptive to ideas for change and progress.

# # #


back to top

This event was last updated on 05-23-2005