Set aside some emotional energy and a box of tissues for September 29, because Studio 58 is opening its season with Tony Kushner’s iconic play, Angels in America. And even though the play was written in the 90s and had a large budget HBO rendition, it continues to be an incredibly powerful piece of theatre.
Angel in America is centred around the gay community in New York City during the 1980s, and how the AIDS crisis affected this group of people. The play is chock full of incredible roles for actors while also promoting awareness for the oppressed people of this time. Stylish and emotionally charged, everything about Angels could be described as a dream opportunity for theatre makers.
Daily Hive had the opportunity to speak with director Rachel Peake and actor Julien Galipeau on the experience and importance of bringing Angels in America to life.
Peake’s staging is inspired by Kushner’s note at the beginning of the script: “The moments of magic […] are to be fully realized, as bits of wonderful theatrical illusion — which means it’s OK if the wires show, and maybe it’s good that they do.” This note, in Kushner’s words, “makes for an actor-driven event, as this must be.”
“I really took that advice to heart.” Peake mentions when asked about the challenges of the script. “I’ve brought in a concept of ‘other-worldly movers’…they are the wires that are showing. Unseen by the performers, they are able to make magic happen.”
Peake demonstrates a keen awareness of how timely this production is. She highlights that Roy Cohn, a character based on a real lawyer of the same name, was a mentor of Donald Trump. She also points out that an overarching theme in the script is what it means to be an outsider who is being oppressed, an important topic for address in modern politics. Her care for the script and its importance is echoed by the performers.
“I want to do justice to the time period. I really want to get across to people my age, and even people who weren’t paying attention while it was happening, just how serious the AIDS crisis was.” Galipeau voices a clear sense of responsibility in portraying Prior. “I want to accurately portray what it’s like to be a gay man in this time and live with this disease. To find the humanity of what that means and how you continue to live on.”
Peake explains why this play still remains relevant to the people here, nearly two decades after its first showing in New York. “The story of living with AIDS, of partners having AIDS, is something that many Vancouver people know and understand. It’s really important that we keep talking about it. That we don’t let these stories disappear. That we don’t let a generation not know the effect that AIDS had.”
When: September 29 – October 16
Where: Langara College, 100 W 49th Ave