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.
"My father died of AIDS in 1993.
Exploring theater responding to the AIDS epidemic has always been an emotional and sometimes challenging experience, and while I had read the play when I was fifteen, and seen the movie once when it came out, I'd had little experience with the stage play until I auditioned for it in my junior year of college. When I auditioned it was for the role of Harper - as I was a woman I assumed this was the only role I would be cast in. (The Angel never even occurred to me. That much stage presence just isn't in my personality)
When no men at my conservative Catholic university came to audition, I ended up cast in the role of Prior Walker. The director told me she cast me in that role because of my relentless empathy for the character. I felt - in reading for Prior - that I was giving life to my Father's voice one last time.
With sadness, I tell you that the production was never performed. The school's conservatism won over, and not only would no men audition because they were afraid of being perceived as gay, but because of the pro-homosexual themes, the school wouldn't allow it at all.
What I can say is that through performing that play, I was able to find some peace. Bit by bit I come to terms with the disease that killed my father, and piece by piece I make his memory firm in my mind - not in sadness, but as a remembrance of happiness."
-Elsa E. Sjunneson
Elsa E. Sjunneson is a 24 year-old graduate student.