From: Former Stake President Stan Taylor
Subject: The Angels in America exhibit
Angels in America exhibit at the Museum of Performance and Design. I got off at the Civic Center BART station and walked past San Francisco's magnificent City Hall, the place where Marilyn Monroe and Joe DiMaggio were famously wed, and George Moscone and Harvey Milk were notoriously murdered. On this particular Saturday, Egyptians were protesting Mubarak. But a howling wind dulled the sound of their chants, and gunmetal grey clouds curtained the afternoon in a macabre gloom.
I climbed the steps of the old Veteran's and War Memorial. On an occasion when the Herbst Theater is holding an event, the War Memorial is teeming with people. But on this day the cavernous lobby was empty, save for a mirthless security guard who eyed me from behind his circular desk. My footsteps echoed as I crossed the marble lobby. I stepped inside the elevator and pushed "two." The doors slid shut, but the lift stayed still. I pushed "two" again. Nothing happened. I pushed the "open" button. Nothing happened. Again. Nothing happened. I rang the alarm.
The doors opened and I was met by the startled security guard.
"What are you doing in here?" he asked.
"Trying to go to the second floor."
"Nobody ever uses this elevator."
I muttered "sorry," followed him to an adjacent lift, and looked up to watch the antique brass arrow travel from "four" to "one." This time when I pushed "two" the car engaged. I chuckled to myself as I rode. It's no wonder that San Francisco has been the chosen setting for the noir works of great artists like Hammett and Hitchcock.
|Sketch of "heaven" for the HBO|
movie. (Sorry for poor quality)
Kushner was inspired to write Angels in America: a Gay Fantasia on National Themes after he was approached by Mormon missionaries on a NYC subway. He was taken with the missionaries' sincerity and devotion to the faith, and also fascinated by the notion of an American religion.
He began by composing long-hand notes in a series of lined journals with one of his many fountain pens (for which he had an admitted fetish.)
The journals evolved into a seven hour play in two parts, Millennium Approaches and Perestroika. Angels in America, Part One: Millennium Approaches received its world premiere in 1991 in San Francisco. From there it went to London, then to Broadway. Part Two: Perestroika followed in 1992. In 2003, the two parts were adapted as the HBO mini-series, Angels in America. The work received the Pulitzer Prize and numerous other awards, including the Tony, Golden Globe, and Emmy.
As I toured the exhibit with the ex-Mormons, I couldn't help but feel sad that so few believing Mormons have seen the plays. Three of the main characters are LDS: Joe Pitt, a closeted gay man, Harper Pitt, his mentally fragile wife, and Hannah Pitt, his stoical, pioneer-stock mother. They are well-drawn and accurate reflections of real Mormons, and Kushner treats them with the compassion and dignity they deserve. However, because the play pokes a little fun at Mormonism, and depicts its followers as imperfect, it was deemed inappropriate by the authorities in Salt Lake.
For the life of me, I can not understand why The Brethren are not thrilled that our church inspired one of the greatest works of American theater.
Ironically, the play's central premise is that God abandoned His angels for the more interesting company of His less perfect human creations who are capable of change. The angels become jealous of mankind, and try to halt our progress, much like the current LDS authorities.
But old-school Mormon that I am, I still consider "eternal progression" and "free agency" to be primary elements of my faith. And as a retired Institute Director, I am no longer bound by The Brethen's opinions. In other words, I do what I damn well please.
After the exhibit I climbed into the back of Steve and Sarah's Prius, and was chauffered downtown to a lovely meal at Le Central on Bush Street. We enjoyed great food, lively conversation, and, of course, loud laughter. And I personally savored another rare opportunity to discuss science, art, and ancient American history.
After dinner I walked alone down Powell past packed restaurants, bars, and clanging cable cars. What started as a drizzle turned quickly to a downpour. But the weather did not dampen spirits. It takes more than a little rain to keep San Franciscans from enjoying their free agency.
This month a new musical is opening on Broadway entitled, The Book of Mormon. In a recent interview in Vogue, Trey Parker (the show's co-creator with Matt Stone) said the following:
We love musicals, and we love Mormons. I think if any Mormons come and stay all the way through, they'll end up liking the show. I mean, it rips on them a lot, but in the end their spirit of wanting to help wins the day.
The production may attempt to entertain audiences for an evening, but the Book of Mormon as a volume of scripture will change people's lives forever by bringing them closer to Christ.Beneath the statement is a link to a March 2009 article entitled The Publicity Dilemma, a tiresome screed that denigrates any person, film, or TV show that has recently criticized the Mormons, then goes on to boast of the LDS Church's powerful influence (with the use of inflated numbers.)
Again I am saddened that many of my fellow believers will miss out on another celebration of their faith. But I am glad that as an old school Mormon, and retired LDS Institute Director, I am at liberty to do as I please.
. . . and have already bought my ticket to New York.