Wake Forest University continues the celebration of its 2003-2004 theme “Fostering Dialogue: Civil Discourse in an Academic Community” with a guest lecture by Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Tony Kushner at 7 p.m. Nov. 13 in the university’s Wait Chapel. The free, public event will be followed by a book signing at the College Book Store near the chapel.
Kushner, an openly gay, Jewish socialist, was raised in Louisiana and attended Columbia University and New York University. His work is largely politically motivated and primarily deals with moral responsibility during politically repressive times. He has said that he intends his plays to be part of a greater political movement.
He is the author of several critically acclaimed plays, including “A Bright Room Called Day,” “Slavs,” “Homebody/Kabul,” and the seven-hour, two-part epic “Angels in America: A Gay Fantasia on National Themes.”
“Angels in America” earned Kushner 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. About his work, The New York Times has written: “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.”
Home Box Office Films produced a television version of “Angels in America” this year and it is scheduled to air on the cable network in December. Mike Nichols directed the television version, which features actors Al Pacino, Meryl Streep and Emma Thompson.
Most recently, Kushner published the picture book “Brundibar,” based on the American version of the opera of the same name. The book was crafted with author and illustrator Maurice Sendak, who provides illustrations for “Brundibar.” He also wrote the text for “The Art of Maurice Sendak: 1980 to the Present,” which is a new survey book of Sendak’s illustrations and stage designs. In addition, Kushner edited “Wrestling with Zion: Progressive Jewish-American Responses to the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict,” and he wrote “Save Your Democratic Soul!: Rants, Screeds, and Other Public Utterances.”
During his time at Wake Forest, Kushner will also give a lecture to a class in the theatre department. The department staged a performance of part one of Kushner’s “Angels in America” earlier this academic year.
Kushner’s visit is sponsored by the university’s theme year committee, the theatre department, the journalism program, the Gay-Straight Student Alliance chapter at Wake Forest and the Adam Foundation, a local nonprofit organization dedicated to raising awareness of gay and lesbian issues in Forsyth County and surrounding areas.
The yearlong “Fostering Dialogue” celebration includes several events intended to raise provocative questions about how dialogue is practiced at Wake Forest and within the larger society. Other events scheduled during the year include a special seminar through the university’s communication department focused on dialogue and production of documentaries, a student dialogue program with senior university administrators, a Hyde Park Speakers’ Corner Day and two film series.
Additional information about the theme year’s events is posted on the “Fostering Dialogue” Web site at http://themeyear.wfu.edu. The 2003-2004 theme year is the eighth theme year recognized at Wake Forest. Previously, the university celebrated the Year of Health and Medicine (2002-2003), the Year of Unity and Hope: Pro Humanitate at Work (2001-2002) and the Year of Ethics and Honor (2000-2001).
“Fostering Dialogue: Civil Discourse in an Academic Community” is the first of two theme years to be funded through a $1.9 million grant from the Lilly Endowment of Indianapolis. The grant, awarded to Wake Forest in 2001, is also being used to support a center for vocational exploration for undergraduate students for five years at Wake Forest. The Pro Humanitate Center opened in 2002 and offers programs designed to encourage students to explore the nature of vocation as they consider possible careers, including the ministry.
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