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Pulitzer Prize-Winning Playwright to Speak at UToledo Sept. 20

Pulitzer Prize- and Tony-winning playwright and Oscar-nominated screenwriter Tony Kushner is coming to The University of Toledo next month in a free moderated conversation about his life and career followed by an audience Q&A.

Best known for “Angels in America: A Gay Fantasia on National Themes,” his two-part epic about the HIV-AIDS epidemic in the late 1980s which received the Pulitzer Prize for Drama and Tony Awards for Best Play in 1993 and 1994, Kushner will share his story at the annual Edward Shapiro Distinguished Lecture 7 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 20, at Doermann Theatre in University Hall.

Admission to the event is free. Doors open at 6 p.m. with first-come, first-served seating. Parking will be free in Area 1N off of University Hills Boulevard.

“Tony Kushner is one of America’s greatest living playwrights. He is, in many ways, our American Shakespeare — and I say this as a Shakespeare scholar,” said Dr. Joseph Gamble, assistant professor of English at UToledo, who teaches modern drama and LGBTQA+ literature.

“His work is monumental in its scope and profound in its empathy. It is also very, very funny. A Tony Kushner play has a special way of making you cry, and then laugh until you cry and then cry again. His plays are deeply grounded in history, but they are also enduringly relevant.”

“The College of Arts and Letters is so pleased to be able to bring such an important figure to the campus community and the city of Toledo,” said Dr. Melissa Gregory, interim dean of the College of Arts and Letters. “Kushner is not only the most well-recognized playwright in the United States but also a brilliant storyteller who brings a wealth of fascinating experiences to the table. This will be a highly engaging event.”

The annual lecture is made possible by the Shapiro endowment left by Dr. Edward Shapiro, professor emeritus of economics who retired in 1989, to provide opportunities for the University to bring world-renowned speakers to Toledo.

Past Shapiro Distinguished Lecture speakers include Elie Wiesel, Toni Morrison, Audra McDonald and Robert F. Kennedy Jr.

“This is an incredible opportunity for students at The University of Toledo to get to hear from one of our country’s most enduringly important artists,” Gamble said. “And this event isn’t just for theatre and English students. You could be studying nursing or engineering or business or astronomy, but if you care about what it means to be in the world with other people, about how to live a good life, and about the future of democracy both in America and abroad, then Tony Kushner has something to teach you. This event really underscores the vital importance of the arts and humanities to what we all do.”

“This also is a particularly meaningful event for LGBTQA+ students and community members,” he added. “Kushner is not only one of our greatest living playwrights, he is also one of our greatest living gay artists. ‘Angels in America,’ in particular, is the single most canonical piece of LGBTQA+ literature, as it chronicles the resiliency of the gay spirit in the face of unimaginable death during the height of the HIV/AIDS epidemic in this country.”

Born in New York City in 1956 and raised in Lake Charles, Louisiana, Kushner is a celebrated and acclaimed playwright whose works include “A Bright Room Called Day,” “Slavs!”, “Hydrotaphia” and “Homebody/Kabul,” as well as the musical “Caroline, or Change” and the opera “A Blizzard on Marblehead Neck.”

Kushner received an Emmy Award for his adaptation of “Angels in America” to an HBO miniseries directed by Mike Nichols and received a pair of screenwriting Oscar nominations for the Steven Spielberg films “Munich” and “Lincoln.” In 2021, he wrote the screenplay to Spielberg’s critically acclaimed remake of “West Side Story.”

Kushner also received a Spirit of Justice Award from the Gay and Lesbian Advocates and Defenders, and a Cultural Achievement Award from the National Foundation for Jewish Culture.

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