Monday, August 16, 2010

ANGELS IN AMERICA Thoughts -- Designer Wendall Harrington

We continue our series of posts featuring people's thoughts on the power and impact of Tony Kushner’s Angels in America. Click here and continue checking back for more words from Broadway cast members, our current cast and creative team, Signature’s past Playwrights-in-Residence, and others in the theatre community. We also want to hear from YOU -- click here to find out how you can contribute.

"In the early 80's, I started to lose people to something called "the gay cancer." Mostly there was silence, punctuated by funerals for young formerly vibrant men. No one knew - if they did they weren't talking. In 1986 (in need of a real job) I went to work for a major men's magazine. At many an editorial meeting I'd ask, as we prided ourselves on investigative journalism, ‘where was this story.’ I was told, 'gays did not read this magazine', and ‘it’s not a story for us.’ When Randy Shilts published And the Band Played On, I couldn't get it reviewed in the men’s magazine. I could not get Silence = Death and Act Up into the magazine. More men were dying, and now some of them very dear. Everyone was afraid. Eventually the men's magazine and I had a parting of the ways - it was about 1988. The last thing I did was edit a piece by Randy Shilts that got into the men’s magazine and then into Best American Essays of that year. Still there was more silence than action.

Some time later, I think it was John Conklin who gave me the script to read after he designed it on the west coast. He praised it, and Conklin praises few of this century's writers. Reading it, my ceiling cracked and an angel came in to touch me. I was opened. To this day, I can’t entirely say what it is about, but it is not silent, it is not cracking wise about Rock Hudson; it takes something serious seriously and I am grateful.

It made a stir, it made people confront, it broke the silence. I am forever indebted.

To have the chance to participate in this production is a great gift (no matter what my agent says). I owe this play something - it confuses, confounds, and makes me rich, for I do not believe in silence, I believe in thrashing one’s way forward into illumination, and this play lets me feel not alone."

-Wendall Harrington

Wendall Harrington is the projection designer for Signature Theatre Company's production of Angels in America

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