'Angels In America,' 20 Years Later Twenty years ago, Angels in America made its world premiere on a stage in San Francisco. In the years since, the groundbreaking set of plays has been performed all over the world. They've been adapted for opera and television, and they've racked up numerous awards, including a Pulitzer Prize.

'Angels In America,' 20 Years Later

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NEAL CONAN, host: This is TALK OF THE NATION. I'm Neal Conan, in Washington. Twenty years ago, a brave, utterly new work of theater took the stage in San Francisco, "Millennium Approaches," the first part of Tony Kushner's magnum opus "Angels in America," two plays about AIDS in the age of Ronald Reagan, but also a story of how we change, how we react to that change and how to recognize the angel with awe and with humor.

When the show went to Broadway in 1993, New York Times critic Frank Rich wrote: Some visionary playwrights want to change the world. Some want to revolutionize the theater. Tony Kushner, the remarkably gifted 36-year-old author of "Angels in America" is that rarity of rarities, a writer who has the promise to do both.

Since then, it's become everything from an opera to an HBO miniseries, and it's been performed all over the world. Tony Kushner joins us this hour to talk about his plays and how far we've come in 20 years. If you have a question for Tony Kushner about "Angels in America," give us a call: 800-989-8255. Email us: talk@npr.org. You can join the conversation at our website, as well. Go to npr.org. Click on TALK OF THE NATION.

Later in the program, drug companies, your doctor and disclosure. But first, Tony Kushner. His many works include "Angels in America: Millennium Approaches" and "Perestroika," for which he won the Pulitzer Prize. He joins us from our bureau in New York. And nice to have you back on TALK OF THE NATION.

TONY KUSHNER: Nice to be back.

CONAN: I just watched some of the HBO film again last night, and I couldn't help be struck by the ways in which this is so specific to its time and place, and so not a period piece.

KUSHNER: Well, thanks. I'm happy to hear you felt that way. We just did a revival of it in New York this past year, and it didn't - I was relieved to find that 20 years later, it didn't feel dated. It seemed like it still spoke to the moment, and that's an exciting thing.

CONAN: It spoke to that moment and to this moment, though the moments are pretty different.

KUSHNER: In some ways yes, and in some ways not as different as one would like them to be.


CONAN: There was an air of apocalypse about the plays. Yes, the terrible problems with AIDS, which seemed insoluble, AZT had just begun, but we did not have the cocktail then. And there was also - you wrote this - in the Reagan administration, you said with some perception, some fear of nuclear war against the Soviet Union, obviously an apocalypse on even a vaster scale.

KUSHNER: Yeah. I mean, I think that, you know, the sense of the world in the late '80s when I started thinking about the play, and in the very early '90s when I wrote it, there was a lot - kind of a more of a millennial consciousness than an apocalyptic consciousness. I mean, there was a strong, you know, anticipation.

I was a medieval studies major when I was at Columbia, and, you know, I was sort of trained to think a lot about millennia. And everybody on the planet, of course, in the late '80s, early '90s, was waiting for the year 2000 to arrive, you know, the Y2K virus and all that.

There was a certain amount of sort of post-modern version of old medieval tropes regarding millennia and a sense ,that, you know, when this sort of auspicious or forbidding date arrived that there would be some kind of transformation, something big was about to happen.

And, you know, it's a - I'm not mystic enough to believe that these are anything more than coincidences, but it was certainly a sense in the late - in the '80s, during the Reagan years, of sort of a sea change taking place in American politics - and then, as it turned out, in Eastern European politics, as well, and ultimately in global politics - that we were entering a new period where old reliables were going to be overthrown, and a new way of looking at the world was at hand.

And it wasn't necessarily a particularly appealing way of looking at the world - I mean, at least not for me. I find mine - so it was - you know, there was a sense that something was coming, and it might be something great or something terrible. And usually in the Western consciousness, the day of judgment is figured as both a great and a terrible day.

I feel, looking back now, that the early '90s, the late '80s were, you know, for all of the horrors of the AIDS epidemic, comparatively innocent and carefree times compares to where we are now. And, you know, I mean, in the mid-'80s when I wrote the play and included things about ecocide, about the collapse of the ozone layer, I really didn't believe in my heart of hearts that the human race was now threatening the survival of life on the planet.

There's now absolutely no doubt that that's the case, unless you belong to the Tea Party. It's completely clear that what we were beginning to get worried about in the '80s was, you know, a very serious and very real thing. So the play and the times both feel darker to me now than they did back then.

CONAN: So the sunny uplands of the Cold War is what we're nostalgic for. And, in part, might that be because you remember that younger man who wrote this play?

KUSHNER: Well, I - you know, possibly. There was a certain sense of optimism, although, you know, I guess I would have to say that I'm sort of grateful to have been, you know, a sort of late child of the '60s. I was not part of the baby boom generation. I was 12 - 11 years old, I think, in 1967, '68.

But I was a member of a generation that I think was allowed to come of age during a time of a kind of, you know, enormously exciting social ferment and cultural revolution, the civil rights movement. There was a great deal in my formative years that I could look to as sources of inspiration for a conviction that the world could be improved upon, that people working in concert could make the world better, that there was a reason for political struggle.

I actually feel sort of sorry for people who are coming of age right now, when I think the situation, while not in any way hopeless, is a great deal grimmer than it used to be. And it's been a long time since there's been anything resembling a kind of a large-scale, you know, I mean, a truly national or globally successful political movement that really convinces people that hope is not simply, you know, a pipe dream and that there's the possibility of - that the possibility of change exists.

So I feel kind of glad to have been young at the time that I was young, but I don't look back at that with any particular nostalgia. We live in very different times. It's a nice thing to feel that I wrote a play 20 years ago that has enough room in it so that it can change with the times. I mean, as I said, the ecocidal apocalypse of the play is kind of hinting at, which felt even to me, in the early '90s, slightly hyperbolic, now feels like, you know, yesterday's news, almost.

I mean, it's - we - there's no doubt that we're in a great deal of trouble, and that the parts of the play that address that seem to address it well and seem to have stayed up to date with it. So, I mean, I feel good about that.

CONAN: We're talking with Tony Kushner, 20 years after "Angels in America" first opened in San Francisco. Here's an email from Michael in Sacramento: Has the successful revival of "The Normal Heart" changed your expectations of the eventual place of "Angels" in various academic canons?

KUSHNER: Hmm. No. I mean, I'm really happy that "The Normal Heart" had an enormously successful revival. I knew a lot of people - Joe Mantello, who played Ned Weeks in this revival, was Louis Ironson in "Angels in America" on Broadway, and George C. Wolfe, who directed this revival of "Normal Heart," directed "Angels in America" on Broadway.

So I - you know, and I wrote the introduction to the published version of "The Normal Heart." I think it's a great American play. And I'm hugely moved every time I see it. I think it does some things that very, very few works of literature in our country's canon have done.

It's one of those plays, one of those works of art that seems to have been produced in the heat of the moment, sort of like "Uncle Tom's Cabin," something that does what very few works of art do, I think, which is actually sort of quantitatively, sort of provably alters the landscape of reality, I mean, changes the world in its reception.

I think "The Normal Heart" did that. I think it was a signal event in the shaping of AIDS consciousness. And, you know, I think Larry is a difficult man, but a very great writer and an important figure. And, you know, I felt that "Angels," which came a bit after "Normal Heart," is a very different kind of animal.

And both plays seem to have lasted. You know, a lot of plays, 20 years - 25 years in the case of "The Normal Heart" - is not a very long time, but many plays don't last that long. And, you know, I would imagine that things look pretty good for both plays continuing to receive attention. "Angels in America" is taught in colleges and high schools now all over the country.

CONAN: And it's performed in colleges and high schools around the country. I mean, it's a daunting prospect.

KUSHNER: Well, the college stuff is - I've made my - you know, yeah. It's great that it's taught and performed in colleges. I still have to admit, I mean, I'm 55 years old now. It's a little shocking. I grew up in Lake Charles, Louisiana and went to public high school where, you know, I can't even remember. I mean, Shakespeare was considered okay, but not "Romeo and Juliet," because that was kind of naughty.

And, you know, we read, I think, a little bit of Carson McCullers. But we were certainly protected from anything that was too overtly sexual. And the play is, you know, is fairly blunt about how it deals with issues of sexuality. So every once in a while, you know, I express concern when I hear from a high school teacher who says that they're teaching it. But the high school teacher usually sort of rolls his or her eyes and says, you know, you really have not - I don't have kids myself. So I clearly have not been spending enough time around teenagers to realize that things have changed in the last, you know, 40 years or whenever it was I was a teenager.

I mean, I think people are a little less impressionable and a little harder to shock. I'm - it makes me enormously happy that I think one of the largest constituencies for the play at this point are members of a younger generation. I feel like I don't know how that happened, but if the play appeals to young people, that makes me very proud.

CONAN: We're talking with Tony Kushner, Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright of "Angels in America," and we'll take your calls and more about Ethel Rosenberg, Roy Cohn and other historical angels and devils that appear in the play when we return.

800-989-8255 if you'd like to join the conversation. Email us: talk@npr.org. Stay with us. I'm Neal Conan. It's the TALK OF THE NATION, from NPR News.


CONAN: This is TALK OF THE NATION from NPR News. I'm Neal Conan. It's the 20th anniversary of the world premier of the epic two-part play "Angels in America." We're speaking with Tony Kushner, who won the Pulitzer Prize for the play. If you'd like to speak with him about it, or any of his other work, our phone number is 800-989-8255. Email us, talk@npr.org. You can also join the conversation on our website. That's at npr.org. Click on TALK OF THE NATION.

One of the characters who emerges from the eruption of history that suffuses the plays is Roy Cohn, the real-life American attorney who first became known as an acolyte of Senator Joseph McCarthy but now may be better remembered as a character in "Angels in America." Here's Ray Cohn, played by Al Pacino, challenging his doctor to label him as a homosexual after he's received his diagnosis of AIDS.


AL PACINO: (as Roy Cohn) Homosexuals are not men who sleep with other men. Homosexuals are men who in 15 years of trying cannot pass a pissant anti-discrimination bill from city council. Homosexuals are men who know who know nobody and who nobody knows, who have zero clout. Does this sound like me, Henry?

DUSTY ST. AMAND: (as Henry) No.

PACINO: No. I have clout, lots.

CONAN: And Tony Kushner, you made a sympathetic character out of Roy Cohn. You've immortalized him.

KUSHNER: Well, I think Roy will last with or without the play, although I've heard from - years ago got a letter from a professor, I think at Stanford, who said that he was teaching a class, sort of a general introductory class in American history and asked a series of questions on the first day of class.

You know, who was General Cornwallis? Who was, you know, Teddy Roosevelt? And who was Roy Cohn? And only one person in the class raised their hand when he asked who Roy Cohn was, and the professor called on this person, this freshman, and the freshman said he's a character in "Angels in America."

So, you know, I feel like he may at this point be better known for being in the play than - because of a great familiarity with the McCarthy era. I think it's an era that Americans ought to revisit often. Some of us are still interested in it and caught up in it and thinking about it. It doesn't seem irrelevant.

It's really remarkable sort of political phenomenon and one that I think ought to be remembered and ought to be held up as a kind of a parable about certain forms of political evil and how even in a vigorous democracy certain tools of fascism are, you know, waiting ready to be picked up by unscrupulous people and used.

And I - it worries me that the Rosenberg trial. I mean, you know, there are still books being written, and there is still controversy, and there are still, you know, letters to the editors and book reviews by the dozens every time anybody changes their mind or, you know, refuses to change their mind about whether the Rosenbergs were innocent or guilty.

But what happened to America in the '50s is really very, very frightening, and as I said, it's a kind of a template for ways in which otherwise completely beneficent institutions and forms of governmental organization can be used for really genuinely nefarious purposes.

And, you know, I hope that it's a period, since it's not all that far in the past, I hope it's a period that people in subsequent generations will return to and spend time thinking about. It's - you know, I was born in 1956, and it wasn't distant.

I mean, we were sort of in a sense at the very end of it, in other ways sort of in the middle of it. So it has a proximity to me, and I think that's one of the reasons that I chose - that I was obsessed about Roy Cohn from the time that I was a little kid and chose to write about him.

CONAN: You also wrote that after his death from AIDS that he was vilified by some of his old enemies, and that made you think a little bit more kindly of him.

KUSHNER: Well, it wasn't so much that he was vilified because very few people deserve vilification more than Roy. I mean, there were some things about him that were clearly attractive, but for the most part, he was a terrible person and did terrible things.

But when he died, I mean, one of the inspirations for the play was an obituary, I believe in The Nation magazine that I have great admiration for and have actually served on the board of, and - but there was an obituary that appeared, I think when Roy died in 1986, written by a great lion of the left sort of gloating about his death from AIDS, that it outed him, describing in rather hideous detail what his body had looked like at the end, how tortured.

And there was a sense, I think even in an explicit sense, I haven't read that obituary in a long time, but I think it was sort of made explicit that, you know, homosexuality and political reaction and even fascism sort of have some kind of consonance. It was an old left trope that was then thankfully abandoned.

But you find it everywhere, that there was a form of - that homosexuality was a form of decadence. And that made me angry. And I found it odd to feel angry. I think it's Gregg Bordowitz or one of the people who wrote - maybe Doug Stoski - I think it might have been Gregg Bordowitz who wrote, you know, considering two people who died of AIDS close to the same time, Roy Cohn and Rock Hudson.

And one person died reviled and mocked and sort of jeered at in the press after his death for being gay. And the other one was mourned by the entire country. And the question is, you know, which AIDS death was more typical of AIDS deaths during this period, when - and of course you'd have to say that it was Roy.

So there's a panel in the AIDS quilt that just says Roy Cohn, coward, bully, victim. And that kind of sums it up.


CONAN: Let's see if we can get some callers in on the conversation. Let's go to Karen(ph), Karen with us from Grand Rapids.

KAREN: Hi, thanks very much for taking my call. I admire your work very, very much. I'm a college professor of theater. And I wanted to ask you a question about what you had to say about the sort - oh, I can't hear. OK. OK. I wanted to ask you a question about what you had to say about the colleges and universities, as opposed to high schools, teaching your play or directing your play.

I've taught your play for many years, and I also directed it here in Grand Rapids in 2001, and we were very concerned because West Michigan is conservative about it being, you know, controversial. And it went very smoothly.

But two years ago, at Saginaw Valley State University, someone directed your show and got into all kinds of trouble with the regents, and, you know, the director called me and asked me, you know, how did you pull this off at Grand Valley.

And having gotten into lots of trouble directing a Brad Fraser play two years before that in Nebraska, I'm not sure that the time - that time is here yet. I mean, what do you hear about the play?

KUSHNER: Well, you know, when the play was first done, there were a number of controversies at college campuses. American University in Washington, which is a Catholic school, pulled - a graduate student wanted to do "Millennium Approaches" as a thesis project, and it was sort of banned. And I think Arena Stage in Washington offered the actors in exile a place to perform it.

And in various places around the country, there have been, you know, fairly serious attempts to stop the play. In its initial phase when it was being done, after it had been on Broadway, when it was being done in repertory theaters and regional - in repertory theaters, not in colleges - there were a few places where - Charlotte, North Carolina, for instance - where there was an attempt to stop it from being done.

I think in Bucharest, Romania, they actually burned a theater down because the actors were - because it was about to be done.

KAREN: Oh dear.

KUSHNER: I mean, but, you know, I think that for the most part, that stopped. I've been involved in a couple of instances recently where high school teachers have gotten into trouble. I think I heard about Saginaw Valley. I don't usually hear much now about...

KAREN: It was really incredibly distressing. You know, one of the regents I guess got a hold of it, and, you know, the president ended up having to make a comment, and it just was - they wanted to pull funding from the theater program.

And I guess my experiences at working in, you know, a lesser-known state university that's not a research university is that time may or may not be over with, and I think we always have to be vigilant, and it's really important to make sure that we teach great works. And it'll be around in the next 20 and in the next 200, I hope.

KUSHNER: Well, thanks for saying that. I mean, I think that - I can just tell you one other thing that I think what you're saying is absolutely true and very important. I mean, I think there's been immense progress in terms of LGBT rights. Obviously, we're in a very different place now than we were in the early '90s. And, you know, in my lifetime, I've seen, you know, unbelievable progress. And I have great optimism and absolute certainty that we're going to become fully enfranchised and protected by the 14th Amendment and so on.

I - but in the meanwhile, we're not there yet, and there's still a tremendous amount of homophobia. The play is a really good target if - I shouldn't say this maybe on radio.


KUSHNER: But really, it is a good target for people who, you know, because you can pull quotes out of it that sound, you know, make it sound like it's just a piece of pornography and get kind of, you know, unenlightened people really freaked out about it. And I...

KAREN: Yeah.

KUSHNER: ...think it's, you know, always going to have its uses for these kind of people. But I think that - one thing that's enormously important is that the - when the administration in these universities stands up to the regents or whatever bully alumni or whatever kind of bully happens to come along, if the administration doesn't stampede, if it doesn't get scared, if it stands up for academic freedom, the other side caves fairly quickly. And the places where the controversy has really gotten nuts have often been places where the administration was somewhat quisling and afraid of controversy and sort of didn't defend its faculty and students and sort of caved in.

And I think the instances that I've seen was a college, Kilgore College in Texas, where the president absolutely stood up to these bullies and said, you know, my faculty in whom I have complete faith chose this play to be done. And we're going to do it and, you know, go away. You have no business. And he won finally. So...

KAREN: And he - while he lost donors, but he also gained many, many donors. Well, I hope that college administrators are listening because they're not all as righteous as one would hope. But thank you very much for taking my call.

CONAN: Karen, thanks very much for calling. We're going to read this email. Holly(ph) in Mission, Kansas, will stand in for many people who've written: In 1994, I had the wonderful opportunity to see "Angels in America" at the Unicorn Theatre in Kansas City, Missouri, and I loved it. Seeing plays like yours in my teens and twenties helped transport me from a generally close-minded conservative community to another world full of creativity and possibilities. Your play enriched my life. Thank you, Mr. Kushner. Tony Kushner.

KUSHNER: Well, that's very nice. I think Kansas City, Missouri, is also the home of the first shopping mall in America, if I'm not mistaken. I think I learned that when I went to see the - I had a show in production at the Unicorn or I went to give a speech shortly thereafter, and I was taken to what I think is - I was told was the first mall, shopping mall in the country. So...

CONAN: Learn every day here on TALK OF THE NATION.

KUSHNER: Yeah. Right.

CONAN: Tony Kushner is our guest. This is TALK OF THE NATION from NPR News. And let's see if we can go next to - this is Michael, Michael with us from Houston.

MICHAEL: Hi, thanks for taking my call.

CONAN: Sure.

MICHAEL: It's a pleasure to get to speak with you, Tony. My question is I recently saw an interview with J.K. Rowling, the author, in which she talked about how very difficult it is to let go of a character once you've spent so much time in developing their stories and bringing them to life. Every time I read, I'm an actor, and every time I read or see a production of "Angels in America," I myself just become obsessed with these characters and really walk away from the theater or walk away from the book wondering, you know, what happened to them. What did they go on to do? And I'm wondering if you just have any sort of, you know, sort of ongoing connection or wonderment yourself or if in your mind you sort of decided, you know, what happened to Prior Walter or Harper or any of the other characters in the play.

KUSHNER: I have my own theories about some of them, and some of the theories are fairly specific. But I have never really talked about them. I mean, there was a moment - I think it's very funny that J.K. Rowling would have trouble with giving up those characters after, you know, writing 750,000 pages about them.


KUSHNER: And, you know, she's responsible for children of the world having incredibly massively developed forearms from carrying those books around. I sympathize, though, I know what she means. It's - I spent eight years working on "Angels in America" from the time I first started writing it until the last rewrite I did, before the national tour in around '95. And I still did rewrites when we did the signature production this time around, less because I couldn't give up working on the characters than that there are things that I suddenly heard in the second part of the play that I now felt I knew how to fix.

For a while, I had a fantasy that I would only ever write "Angels in America," that I would now do another - I would wait about a few years and then make the characters about 10 years older and then - and do it like a series of installments. And I would do eight, two-part - anyway. I think...

CONAN: "Angels in America: The Days of Our Lives."

KUSHNER: Well, yeah. Yeah. But sort of like - well, exactly. I mean, I love series or anything that's long-running, and the play is seven hours long. I thought, well, wouldn't be that interesting if that was the only thing I ever wrote. It would sort of be my version of what August Wilson did with his plays, you know, sort of a cycle that's connected, in his case, chronologically. O'Neill thought about doing a similar cycle. He really didn't have the physical health to finish it, so he gave it up and wrote "Long Day's Journey Into Night" instead.

I had a fantasy for a while that I could just keep working on these characters, that may be these were the eight - there are eight major characters in "Angels." And I thought (unintelligible) this is it. This is the crowd inside of me. And I should just keep bringing them along.

I have a very specific sense of what happened to Joe Pitt, the Mormon lawyer who's gay, who's Republican. I have some sense of maybe what happens to Harper. I don't really believe that Prior probably lives much longer past the end of the play. I think that, you know, the play ends. There's an epilogue that takes place in 1990, and I - you know, it says in the script that when you see him, he's really quite weak.

And there were people around that time who began to - I mean, I think it's still two years away from when the cocktail really became available and you would sort of get these cases of people who you had assumed would perish, who suddenly sort of came back to life. But I don't think that Prior is one of them. It was an interesting thing in the revival. There's music playing. Should I stop?

CONAN: Well, we have to wrap it up, I'm afraid.


KUSHNER: I'll save that story for you.

CONAN: Well, can you stay with us just briefly?

KUSHNER: Sure. Yes, absolutely.

CONAN: Let's finish this question after a short break. Michael, we'll let you go, but you'll hear your answer after a break. So stay with us. Tony Kushner is going to stay with us too. We're also going to talk about how about your doctor has prescribed you a drug for a high blood pressure and you found out your doctor had been paid from the company that makes the drug? We'll talk about that as well. Stay with us. I'm Neal Conan. It's the TALK OF THE NATION from NPR News.


CONAN: This is TALK OF THE NATION from NPR News. I'm Neal Conan in Washington.

Tony Kushner such a professional guest that when he heard the music swelling up underneath, he knew he had to end his comments about what happened to some of the characters, he thinks, after the end of part two, "Perestroika," the second part of "Angels in America." We have the opportunity, so what happened?

KUSHNER: Oh, well, I don't - I'm sorry. I didn't know you're extending the segment just so that I would say that. I actually won't tell you.

CONAN: Oh, no.

KUSHNER: I mean, you know, I have a feeling - as I said, I think that Prior doesn't survive very much longer after the end of the play. I have a feeling that Joe's politics change, although maybe not as much as people assumed they would. Marcia Gay Harden, who played Harper on Broadway, said that she was worried about Harper's future because she - in the play, she's a woman married to a gay man. And at the end of the play, she gets on a plane and flies to San Francisco. She - so she may still have problems when - facing her. But I have a feeling that she becomes a writer, and I always sort of knew that about her. I think that's why I called her Harper.

CONAN: As in Harper Lee.

KUSHNER: Well, as in Harper, as in playing the harp, although I love - I mean, who doesn't love Harper Lee? Everybody loves Harper Lee.

CONAN: There is a - let me ask one more email question then: Mr. Kushner has a large body of work. "Homebody/Kabul" has a high profile due to current events in Afghanistan. I'd be interested in hearing Mr. Kushner speak about his other works. Which ones he feels are overlooked, and which ones are dear to his heart?

KUSHNER: Oh, I think the play that - the thing that I've written that I'm proudest of is the musical that I wrote with Jeanine Tesori called "Caroline, or Change," which was in New York and on Broadway and has been done all over the country and very successfully. It was in London, won the Olivier Award for best musical at the National Theatre in London. And I think "Caroline" is maybe - I feel proudest of that, of anything I've written.

My new play, "The Intelligent Homosexual's Guide to Capitalism and Socialism with a Key to the Scriptures," had a very successful run at the Public Theater this past year, and I'm working on new - a couple of new productions of that play. And I think it's a - it's sort of a big and dark and interesting new thing.

And so, you know, I don't feel that I've been particularly overlooked. I think that, you know, here I am 20 years later and I'm talking about "Angels in America." I think that my obituary will read, author of "Angels in America" died. But, you know, I'm not going to argue with that. I think it's the thing that I'll be best known for. And I hope that my other work has entertained people and given people pleasure. I think it has. And I feel that each time I write something, I'm doing something I hadn't done before, and that's the most important thing to me, is that I'm not getting stale, so...

CONAN: We do know what happens to one of the central characters in "Caroline, or Change." He grows up to be a playwright.

KUSHNER: Well, in a certain sense, yes. It's the closest thing to an autobiography I've written for the stage, and I think that that's probably who he is.

CONAN: Tony Kushner, thank you very much for your time today...

KUSHNER: Thanks.

CONAN: ...and congratulations on the anniversary.

KUSHNER: Well, thanks very much.

CONAN: Tony Kushner, the recipient of a Pulitzer Prize, two Tony Awards, three Obies, two Evening Standard Awards, an Olivier Award, as he mentioned, an Emmy Award and an Oscar nomination, among many, many other honors, and he joined us today from our bureau in New York.

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