Topic: College of Fine Arts

September 9, 2010

Nathan Stark shows some attitude towards David Guiden as both students act out a scene from "Angels in America."
Two couples will find the truth in their relationships — and in themselves — during an intense, complex and controversial night on the University Theatre stage as "Angels in America, Part One: Millennium Approaches" premieres Sept. 23 at 7:30 p.m. The politically entangled, fast-paced play will also be performed Sept. 24-25 and Sept. 29-Oct. 2 at 7:30 p.m. Patrons can catch a matinee showing Sept. 26 at 2:30 p.m.

Jennifer Blackmer, director of "Angels in America," described the play as a "story exploring multiple themes involving identity (personal, sexual, religious, political), history and how we construct it, the AIDS epidemic which still rages, and the nature of love and betrayal—it's all there, and it leaves audiences breathless and

The play focuses on two couples — Harper Pitt, a Valium addict, and her husband Joe, a closeted gay man, and Louis Ironson and Prior Walter, a gay man diagnosed with AIDS. From the beginning, the two troubled couples become intertwined through friendship and romance, which evolves into a story that includes 1980s politics, betrayal and spiritual beings.

Blackmer, an associate professor of theater, recognizes the complexity and controversial storyline but sees no obstacles in her way. "Directing hasn't been difficult in the least," she said. "I wanted to direct this play because of its complex and controversial storyline! I love working with students on complex material that challenges them on all fronts, emotional and intellectual. Theater artists thrive on big ideas, and this play is full of them." 

Audiences won't just be in for a night of intensity and depth; they can anticipate professionals and students bringing to life the characters of "Angels in America." Faculty members from the theater department will work alongside their students. "Whenever a student had the opportunity to act alongside a professional in the same scene, the student's work quickly and noticeably improved," Blackmer said. "I proposed this show because each actor partners with every other actor in the succession of scenes, giving our students a maximum number of opportunities to do scene work with faculty."

When audiences leave University Theatre after watching the performance, Blackmer has one wish. "I want to change minds, and I want people to see this show and learn something about this country and hopefully about their own capacity to think about the other people who share this democracy with us."

"Angels in America" is intended for mature audiences due to intense sexual situations, mature language and brief nudity.

By Samantha Irons