Tony Kushner’s masterpiece Angels in America is probably the best play of the 20th century. Isaac Butler and Dan Kois have expertly assembled an oral history drawn from hundreds of interviews with the playwright, actors, directors, artists, critics and audiences that made it, lived it, and took it from workshops to Broadway to HBO and then back to Broadway. In telling the story of the play, Butler and Kois have crafted both a vital retelling of an important moment in queer history and an engaging exploration of artistic creation and collaboration. Recommended By Keith M., Powells.com
A detailed, engrossing oral history of perhaps the most important play of the last 50 years. Narrated by a cast of hundreds — fabulous creatures, each and every one. Recommended By Adam P., Powells.com
Synopses & Reviews
The oral history of Angels in America, told by artists who created it and audiences forever changed by it — a moving account of the AIDS era, essential queer history, and an exuberant backstage tale
When Tony Kushner's Angels in America hit Broadway in 1993, it won the Pulitzer Prize, swept the Tonys, and changed the way gay lives were represented in popular culture. Mike Nichols' 2003 HBO adaptation starring Meryl Streep, Mary-Louise Parker, and Al Pacino was itself a tour de force, winning 11 Emmys and introducing the play to an even wider public. This generation-defining classic continues to shock, move, and inspire viewers worldwide.
Now, on the 25th anniversary of that Broadway premiere, Isaac Butler and Dan Kois offer the definitive account of Angels in America in the most fitting way possible: through oral history, nearly 200 voices in vibrant conversation and debate. The intimate storytelling of actors (including Streep, Parker, Jeffrey Wright, and Nathan Lane), directors, producers, and Kushner himself reveals the turmoil of the play's birth — a hard-won miracle in the face of artistic roadblocks, technical disasters, and disputes both legal and creative. And historians and critics help to situate the play in the arc of American culture, from the staunch activism of the AIDS crisis through civil-rights triumphs to our current era, whose politics are a dark echo of the Reagan '80s. The World Only Spins Forward is both a rollicking theater saga and an uplifting testament to one of the great works of American art of the past century, from its gritty San Francisco premiere to the starry revival that electrified London in 2017.
"Like Angels in America itself, this oral history of Tony Kushner's two-part, seven-hour theatrical masterwork contains multitudes...capturing the ongoing reverberance and currency of Angels. It also conveys, on a granular level, the determination, heartbreak and competitive fire that go into making great theater...The World Only Spins Forward both celebrates and illuminates a great work." San Francisco Chronicle
"A fascinating, backstage tour...The point is not just to show how this play found its voice, but also to place it in context...Theater magic. You've got to love it. And Dan Kois and Isaac Butler have captured a lot of it in The World Only Spins Forward." Bob Mondello, NPR
"A full-bodied portrait of Angels and the many people who nurtured it...A vivid, intelligently organized oral history...More than just the masterful story of one brilliant play, The World Only Moves Forward demonstrates the essentially collaborative nature of theater as an art form." Wendy Smith, Washington Post
About the Author
Isaac Butler is a writer and theater director, most recently of The Trump Card, a meditation on the peculiar rise of Donald Trump with the solo performer Mike Daisey. Butler also wrote and directed Real Enemies, a collaboration with the composer Darcy James Argue and the video artist Peter Nigrini, which was commissioned by the Brooklyn Academy of Music and named one of the top ten live events of 2015 by the New York Times. He holds an MFA in creative nonfiction from the University of Minnesota, and his writing has appeared in the Guardian, Slate, American Theatre, the Los Angeles Review of Books, and other publications. He lives in Brooklyn.
Dan Kois is an editor and writer for Slate's culture section and a contributing writer for the New York Times Magazine. He's the former culture editor at Slate, where he launched the Slate Book Review. He previously co-hosted the podcast Mom and Dad Are Fighting and is a frequent guest on Slate's Culture Gabfest. His previous book was Facing Future, about the Hawaiian musician Israel Kamakawiwo'ole, for Bloomsbury's 33 1/3 series, and his next book is How to Be a Family, a memoir of parenting around the world.