This week on Open Studio, Jared Bowen looks at the enduring power of "Angels in America," the poetry of Martín Espada, and the monumental landscapes of artist Blane de St. Croix.
Tony Kushner wrote the Pulitzer-prize winning play "Angels in America" over 30 years ago in response to the AIDS crisis. Set in 1985 in New York City, it centers on Prior Walter, a gay man living with AIDS, who — amid hiis illness-induced hallucinations — is visited by an angel. The play explores relationships, Reagan-era conservatism and a country that is in the throes of social upheaval.
The play premiered in 1991. The first part, "Millenium Approaches," won the Pulitzer Prize for drama and four Tony Awards, including best play. Then in 2003, the HBO miniseries directed by Mike Nichols helped to make this work a cultural touchstone. A 2018 Broadway revival earned the play three Tony Awards.
Now "Angels in America" is touching down in Cambridge, by way of a new Central Square Theatre production. Bowen recently sat down with actor Zach Fike Hodges and director Eric Tucker — who also performs in the production — to talk about how this play resonates today amid political upheaval, culture wars and another minsmanaged health crisis rife with inequities: COVID-19.
From there, Bowen marks national poetry month with Martín Espada. His most recent book is called "Floaters," the title he gave to a poem he wrote after seeing a devastating photograph of a migrant father and daughter face down in the Rio Grande. He has been praised for observing where others turn away. We revisit a conversation that we had with the National Book Award winner in 2022.
And artist Blane de St. Croix has witnessed first-hand how the Earth is being pushed to the edge. From the glaciers that will be a thing of the past, to the not-so-permanent permafrost, he’s seen the ravages of human-caused climate change up close. But these images aren’t for his eyes only; he's shared these scenes with others by way of his museum installations. Bowen caught up with him in 2020 when his exhibition “How to Move a Landscape” was on view at MASS MoCA. To mark Earth Day, we return to that conversation.