For a play so deeply embedded in the 1980s, Angels in America still feels startlingly fresh and relevant. While often reductively referred to as “the play about AIDS”, Angels addresses far more issues faced by the queer community and humankind as a whole than simply death, disease, and despair. It is radical in every sense of the word: spanning the real and the surreal, up to heaven and down to earth, and characters from every experience within the vibrant city of New York except those of straight white men. Yet within such scope, it maintains a fierce sense of hope even in its darkest moments. Across the two parts you will watch Prior, Louis, Joe, Harper, Belize, Hannah, Roy, and the Angel be tested to the absolute limits of their humanity and find the resolution to go on in spite of everything that is happening, cosmically and personally.
There are surprisingly few well-recognised queer stories actually written by queer people. Knowing that a story of this magnitude comes from someone who has lived these experiences directly pushes back against the number of straight-written AIDS narratives that emerged in the 90s, and lends Angels its power. Prior’s story wouldn’t be what it is without Kushner’s understanding of the queer experience, and as queer directors ourselves, that is what connected us to this beautiful story of ongoing hope.
Nobody claimed that doing this play would be easy, and yet as the directors, we have been the least fazed by the task ahead of us. From the very beginning we wanted to do this miraculous story justice, and we knew that putting together a team with the same enthusiasm for it as we had was the only way to do so. And from the very beginning, we have had that. Sitting in endless meetings debating the use of SFX, stage configurations, the crash-landing of an Angel, and how we handle the emotional welfare of everyone involved really proved to us that we had the right people on board to make Angels happen as it should: imbued with love, dedication, and pride. Thank you to Molly, Chavi, Joyanne, Sam, Aaron, Carrie, Steph, Will, Emily, Gem, and Angelica for making our wildest and weirdest requests a reality.
Directing this play has been a labour of love, and one of the most incredible experiences for the both of us. Although we had a handful of recastings, never have we compromised on the quality of the cast, and we feel truly lucky to have worked with so many brilliant actors. Our eight cast members are all angels in their own right: learning a 300-page script, performing stage directions no human should hear read aloud, and asking such insightful questions about where we wanted their characters to go that proved to us that we have the perfect cast as well as the perfect team. It has been a joy to work with such a talented group over this extended period, and we have become friends as well as colleagues.
Finally, special thanks to the ultimate partner-in-crime, our AD, Orlando. Working with you for the last eight months has proven to us that we couldn’t have done this without you, and we will forever be grateful for your endless supply of Tangfastics and thoughtful, compassionate advice. You’re magic. Thank you.
Angels has taught us both more about writing, directing and staging theatre than we had thought possible. It has been exhausting, exhilarating, heart-breaking and hilarious in equal measure, and we are going to miss it like hell when it’s over.
We can’t wait to share this play in two parts with you. The Great Work Begins!
By Shehrzadae Mooed and Kate Moore
Photo Credits: Pitch Productions