Reposted from the Court Theatre Blog. The first part of Angels in America opens March 30, 2012
“The World Only Spins Forward”
by Deborah Blumenthal MAPH ’11
Above: ACT UP New York advertisement, 1969, 1982-1997 (bulk 1987-1995).
I was seventeen when I first saw Angels in America, and it did, as it does, change how I saw the world. It was the magnificent HBO miniseries; I remember two cold, snowy Sunday evenings, tip-toeing around my house, covertly staying up far past my school-night bedtime to see it, and from my naive perch among the couch pillows, watching an entire unfamiliar history unfold from the glow of my Dad’s big-screen TV.
I don’t know that my parents would have let me watch it if they had known what it was, but it was almost by accident, really. I had tuned in just to see one of my favorite then-obscure stage actors on television, none the wiser to what I was about to see, other than that it had been adapted from a play I had never seen.
My most distinct memory from either of those two evenings is that I couldn’t sleep after watching the ending of Millennium Approaches. Not that I was afraid of an angel crashing through my ceiling (though of course you never know), but because Prior was so sick, and I was so scared. Watching it became, very quickly, about much more than just a beloved actor. Recorded VHS tapes were joined immediately by paperback copies and DVDs, a few years later by working copies for thesis notes and a holiday-gifted first edition. There’s a Tony Kushner section on my bookshelf, and each resident is worn with love.
I was born during the period in which Angels in America takes place. Having grown up in a school system that ignored, or at least sugarcoated, the existence of the AIDS crisis (I did have one teacher—elementary school art—who taught second and third graders about Keith Haring, much to the chagrin of some parents), encountering some of the AIDS plays as a teenager—first Angels, and a few months later, Larry Kramer’s The Normal Heart, with Rent sandwiched in between—was like opening a pop-up book. Even in my high school health classes, AIDS was just a bad thing that happened to you if you didn’t use a condom, in no major way separated from other STDs. The curriculum gave some clinical biology, here’s what happens to your cells, but the politics and the details and the terrifying history were left out, and real understanding was foregone.
It’s not uncommon to hear from people my age, or even younger, that Angels in America changed their lives—which might be strange considering that we weren’t there. But for us it’s like a history lesson, live in living color, opening our eyes to a reality that we can only try to imagine. Progressive sex-ed or sugarcoated evasion, the AIDS epidemic has become incorporated into our cultural consciousness. My generation has no idea what it was like for it to barely even have a name. The immersion of the theater may be the closest we’ll ever get to understanding.
More on Angels in America after 20 years after the jump
Dance Films Kino is a three-week project that I am presenting as an artist in residence at Hyde Park Art Center, March 4-25, 2012. Over three weeks, I will present 30 works of dance on film, as well as over a dozen live music, dance, and literary readings. All of the programs will be free to the public.
The seeds of this project were planted ten years ago, back when I was a MAPH student sitting in Yuri Tsivian’s intro to film class, learning about how filmmakers whose works were censored, or considered to be too experimental for mainstream distribution, showed films out of their own homes.
The films and performance I am presenting will be shown in an environment inspired by “kinos”, underground, avant-grade art clubs of the 1920s and 30s. I’m currently getting ready to paint the walls of my residency studio red, put out the caberet tables, and art deco objects I’ve sourced from Etsy. I’m creating artwork inspired by movement to hang on the walls of the space.
My first goal is to show movies in a place that feels like someone’s home, so that people are a little more willing to give something they’ve never seen before a try. My second goal is to bring all kinds of artists, writers, musicians, dance makers and filmmakers together to create a lot of different points of access into the work.
My third goal is to invite people to help create the space by imagining what it would be like to be a part of an underground society, to feel nostalgia for a fictional place situated in the past. I think there is a collective desire to engage in this type of activity. I think it is part of the reason why bars inspired by speakeasies are so popular, and why people like to fantasize about travel, even in tough economic times.
More on how Sarah arrived at this point after the jump
It’s 2010, and the week before graduating from MAPH, I walk into an art gallery with my best friend. We’re intellectual equals, this friend and I, but I’ve studied art history formally and he hasn’t, and he is painfully aware of this fact. He doesn’t form an opinion without immediately turning to me for confirmation, validation, and general assurance that he gets it.
And I try to tell him that’s silly and self-defeating. I try to make my friend understand that he’s free to find a given piece of art life-changing or yawn-inducing or anything in between, and to drive that point home, I try to humanize the sainted artists whose work we’re both trying to get.
Penitent Hour – Ruth Gregory
I joke about Marcel Duchamp being foremost a provocateur and a jerk (which he was), and about how so many pre-Renaissance paintings feature baby Jesuses who look like Mikhail Gorbachev in miniature (which they do). But that just makes things worse. What my friend hears is simply that I know lots of stuff, and that he should shut up because he doesn’t know nearly as much stuff as I do. He stops offering opinions, and so I clam up, too. We walk around in silence for a while.
This time next year, I’ll be the Founding Director of a new, online art gallery. I’ll be clicking that last “OK” button that will peel back the Under Construction page from our website, and I’ll be thinking about my friend, and about how badly I want to help smart-but-intimidated people like him find artwork that they’ll love.
More about Drew’s work running Gray Blush Gallery after the jump. . .
MAPH Alumni Writers during the 2010 Alumni Weekend
Most of you will be getting Tableau (the Humanities Division Magazine) in the mail in the near future. However, it is worth noting now the thoughtful article on the history of MAPH and the first 15 years of the program, by A-J Aronstein (MAPH ’10) featured prominently in this issue. If you don’t want to wait to get your copy you can read the article online now.
The memorable sign at Clark Street Ale House
If you are feeling fond memories of your MAPH years you have the opportunity to catch up with your fellow alumni at next week’s alumni meet up Thursday, October 13 between 5:30-8:30 at Clark Street Ale House.
If you are not in Chicago or haven’t been in touch for a while drop us a line and let us know what you are doing or let us know if you want to set up an alumni get together in another city.
Check out this video featuring Judy Hecker (MAPH 97), Associate Curator in the Prints and Illustrated Books Department at MoMA in New York. She gives an introduction to her most recent curatorial effort, Impressions from South Africa, which runs through August 29. Judy studied art history at the University of Chicago as a MAPHer in the program’s inaugural class. Keep an eye out for her upcoming profile in Tableau. The cover story of the fall issue will be “A Brief History of MAPH” offering some perspective on the successes and challenges that the program has faced since its inception.
Check out Mike Wilson, this summer’s MAPH intern at WBEZ’s Chicago News Magazine 848. He complains about [slash] lovingly describes watching “football” in America….as a foreigner. Listen to Mike’s soothing accent, which fits in perfectly with the NPR set. There are other silly accents in his piece too.
And, when you’re done, imagine yourself working at NPR and figure out your own NPR name.
MAPH Beach, on the northern side of Promontory Point. A popular site for recent-alumni watching, and laying in the sun like an iguana.
The long hangover from Graduation and Reunion is beginning to subside. Thanks to everyone who made our end of the year events such a success. For those of you who couldn’t make it to Reunion, we hope to see you at the upcoming alumni happy hours at what has become the official MAPH Alumni watering hole: Clark Street Ale House. Info on dates to follow.
As far as big days in summer go, today is a big day in MAPHCentral. The class of 2012 is being added to the MAPH and MAPH-etc lists, which means that the latest MAPH alums are being added to IRONY, the alumni list. Big.
To our newly-minted alumni (and any new students who want to get a better idea of who our alumni are), don’t forget to join several of our social networking groups. Rather than spamming alumni on Irony, messages from MAPHCentral about events and alumni news will appear only on Facebook. We will send ONE quarterly Alumni Newsletter to Irony, but if you want regular updates, be sure to do the following:
“Like” the MAPH Facebook Page (and while you’re at it, tell five of your friends about it! We’ll have 1600 alumni by next June, and we’d love to have as many MAPHers on the Facebook page).
Keep reading AfterMAPH for alumni profiles, tips about careers and networking, and other news from campus.
And, as always, if you have any questions or just want to check in, email me at email@example.com. We’re working on developing even more ways for alumni and current students to work together, so stay tuned.
More of the folks who will be presenting at Reunion!
David Alm is a New York City-based journalist and adjunct professor at Hunter College and NYU’s School for Continuing and Professional Studies. He has written for more than a dozen magazines, covering new media business, culture, and art; independent film; and his avocation, competitive distance running, for Runner’s World. He has also ghostwritten two books on new media design and digital filmmaking, respectively, for a world-renowned Web designer. From 2007 to 2010, he was the chief writer for a social issues and political blog sponsored by the fashion company Kenneth Cole Productions, covering a wide range of topics under the rubric of “raising awareness.” For that project, he also covered the Democratic and Republican National Conventions in 2008. As a professor, he has taught reporting, magazine writing, cultural criticism, the business of magazine publishing, and also several courses on film history and analysis, the humanities, and rhetoric. In addition to his writing and teaching work, he has sat on numerous panels and juries, evaluating screenplays, art, web design, and journalism for award and grant purposes. In his spare time, he trains for and travels to road races in the U.S. and abroad.
Andrew Rostan was born in 1984 in Boardman, Ohio, the beginning of a three-hundred-and-sixty degree journey around America with a detour in Amsterdam. After starting his bachelor’s degree in Boston and finishing it in Los Angeles (graduating summa cum laude in film from Emerson College), he worked as a script reader and bookseller before deciding to return to school. He was accepted into the MAPH program after the six other institutions he applied to had turned him down*, and this was the best possible outcome for him, as he met so many wonderful friends and his girlfriend. His body of work includes one filmed short screenplay and five unproduced feature-length ones, a 594-page piece of utter crap which could vaguely be described as a novel, a MAPH thesis, and An Elegy for Amelia Johnson. He does not know what the future holds, except more reading and more graphic novels…he’s presently working on four of them.
*Andrew received his acceptance letter after being awake for 36 hours straight in Las Vegas, not to gamble and party but to see Akron/Family play a 2 a.m. concert.
We’re just about five weeks away from the MAPH Reunion. To help you all get a sense of the great panels that we’re having during the afternoon, we’ll be posting bios of the MAPH alums who will be speaking in the afternoon. Today, it’s two alums on our Writers Panel. Remember that festivities kick off with the Director, Preceptor, and Staff Lunch–open to all alumni–at 11:30, and will continue with the “Alumni in Unexpected Places” and then “MAPH Alumni Writers” panel in the afternoon. In the evening, we’ll be headed to English Pub and Restaurant for a party hosted by the Alumni Relations and Development office.
Early registration has been extended! You can still sign up for all the events for only $10.
Hilary Vaughn Dobel, MAPH '09
Hilary Vaughn Dobel (MAPH 09) is a native of Seattle, Washington. She holds a BA from Princeton University, an MA in Humanities from University of Chicago, and is currently an MFA candidate in poetry and translation from Columbia University. She lives in New York City, where she runs the Writer-Translator reading series and works as an editorial intern at Parnassus: Poetry in Review. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in Contrary, The Spoon River Poetry Review, and Lana Turner. Although she spends most of her time on the coasts these days, she’s thrilled to be back in Hyde Park to talk poems.
Michael Washburn, MAPH '02
Michael Washburn (MAPH ’02) is a Kentucky-born, New York-based writer. In the nearly ten years since his MAPH days, Michael has worked in the public humanities, curating programs designed to facilitate public discourse on politics, history, music, and literature. He most recently served as assistant director of the Center for the Humanities at the Graduate Center, City University of New York. Prior to joining CUNY he was the assistant director of The University of Chicago’s Cultural Policy Center, and before that he was charged with faxing copies and making copies of faxes at the Illinois Humanities Council. He recently gave up all of the wealth, influence, and prestige offered by his humanities career for the greater glory of the freelance life. Michael writes for The New York Times Book Review, The NYT Travel Section, The Washington Post, NPR, Bookforum, The Los Angeles Review of Books, The Guardian, and numerous other publications. He is a frequent contributor to The Boston Globe. Michael is currently a research associate with the Center for Place, Culture, and Politics at the Graduate Center, CUNY, and this fall he will begin teaching on book culture and the future of criticism at NYU. Michael was recently named the 2011-2012 Nonfiction Fellow at the CUNY Writers’ Institute. He’s currently procrastinating – heroically, though, very heroically – on his first book.