The World Only Spins Forward
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 taleWhen 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.

The World Only Spins Forward Details

TitleThe World Only Spins Forward
Author
LanguageEnglish
ReleaseFeb 13th, 2018
PublisherBloomsbury USA
ISBN-139781635571769
Rating
GenreNonfiction, History, Plays, Theatre, Glbt, Queer, Art

The World Only Spins Forward Review

  • Doug
    January 1, 1970
    4.5, rounded up. Considering I read this over 400 page book in less than 24 hours, it would be disingenuous of me to give it anything less than 5 stars. There are definite problems with both the book AND its subject, but structuring over 250 oral interviews into a consistently informative and entertaining format is a daunting task at which the authors largely succeed. Having taught the first part of the play during an LGBT theatre course at USF nearly twenty years ago - and knowing a few of the 4.5, rounded up. Considering I read this over 400 page book in less than 24 hours, it would be disingenuous of me to give it anything less than 5 stars. There are definite problems with both the book AND its subject, but structuring over 250 oral interviews into a consistently informative and entertaining format is a daunting task at which the authors largely succeed. Having taught the first part of the play during an LGBT theatre course at USF nearly twenty years ago - and knowing a few of the principals quoted - made me appreciate the long and complicated history of the play even more, and I am glad that the prickliness of Kushner was not glossed over (having come under his wrath myself once for asking him an indelicate question at a theatre conference). I only wish I had re-read the play, or at least seen the HBO or NT films of it prior to reading this... it would have made some sections much clearer, but mea culpa.
    more
  • Jill Meyer
    January 1, 1970
    There are very few theatrical productions that both recount the change of history and make that recount a change in itself. "Angels in America: A Gay Fantasia on National Themes" by Tony Kushner is one such production. Appearing in the mid-1980's and continuing to this day, Kushner's play(s) give the AIDS epidemic a "face" by showing different bits of society who were affected by disease. By having a cast which included such characters as Roy Cohn and Ethel Rosenberg being surrounded by unknown There are very few theatrical productions that both recount the change of history and make that recount a change in itself. "Angels in America: A Gay Fantasia on National Themes" by Tony Kushner is one such production. Appearing in the mid-1980's and continuing to this day, Kushner's play(s) give the AIDS epidemic a "face" by showing different bits of society who were affected by disease. By having a cast which included such characters as Roy Cohn and Ethel Rosenberg being surrounded by unknown people who carry the play's plot (to the extent there is a plot.) I never saw the plays at theaters but did see the wonderful HBO production in 2003 and read Tony Kushner's revised edition of the play, published in 2014.Isaac Butler's new book, "The World Only Spins Forward: The Ascent of Angels in America" is the story, basically, of the play's productions going forward from 1985. He interviews many of the cast members, production people, and those involved in the writing, direction, and finances of the play. The author, of course, is Tony Kushner, whose almost feverish writing and rewriting of the play was continuous over the first few years. Kushner combined the politics of AIDS with the personal of gay identity. He includes religious identity; several of the main characters were Mormon. (Hhhm, I wonder if the idea of "The Book of Mormon" came in part from "Angels"?) "Angels in America" was produced on stages from London to Los Angeles and played for many years in New York. The play began in San Francisco, produced at the Eureka Theater, a small local theater. Oskar Eustis was the producer and he and Kushner worked together with their actors and stage crews to put on the first production. But the play, as Kushner kept writing, was so long that it was eventually broken up into two plays. Who had the stamina to star in two plays? The mostly young cast who entertained the rapturous audiences who had the stamina to sit for hours! From San Francisco, the play headed to Los Angeles, and then on into the wider world.Bishop's book is written in chapters which are short interviews with various cast and crew. I really don't care for this form of non-fiction, but the subject was so well covered that the writing style didn't bother me. I mention this only because some readers don't like this style.
    more
  • Jeff
    January 1, 1970
    Oral histories are eminently bingeable. Like binge-until-you're-queasyworthy. But most of the oral histories I've read have been about subjects like Saturday Night Live, full of gossip and anecdots about a subject I know a lot about. Angels in America, on the other hand, I'm only superficially familiar with, and this book makes me almost ashamed I haven't seen it every chance I could. Butler and Kois do a masterful job in telling the complicated, inspiring story of a complicated, inspiring work Oral histories are eminently bingeable. Like binge-until-you're-queasyworthy. But most of the oral histories I've read have been about subjects like Saturday Night Live, full of gossip and anecdots about a subject I know a lot about. Angels in America, on the other hand, I'm only superficially familiar with, and this book makes me almost ashamed I haven't seen it every chance I could. Butler and Kois do a masterful job in telling the complicated, inspiring story of a complicated, inspiring work of art. And it's so much more than anecdotes — it's the actors, directors, and the playwright himself dissecting each character and each moment, offering a critical review more profound than any Norton Critical Edition could ever be. It left me wanting to create more art, to have great ambitions and not worry about whether they're perfectly realized.
    more
  • Lorri Steinbacher
    January 1, 1970
    Compelling oral history that highlights just how strongly this play affected the people involved in the various productions of it, the audiences, and the world at large. Its continuing impact cannot be overstated. The structure of the book is excellent: interviews with the actors, directors, and producers broken up with detailed examinations of each of the main characters of the play by the actors who portrayed them. Also, sidebars with acting students, teachers, critics and a timeline that incl Compelling oral history that highlights just how strongly this play affected the people involved in the various productions of it, the audiences, and the world at large. Its continuing impact cannot be overstated. The structure of the book is excellent: interviews with the actors, directors, and producers broken up with detailed examinations of each of the main characters of the play by the actors who portrayed them. Also, sidebars with acting students, teachers, critics and a timeline that includes key moments in the history of the play and in the political climate for each production. It's an oral history filled with respect and love, but also with heartache. You cannot separate the many, many lives lost to the AIDS epidemic from the force driving the play, and even today its messages resonate (surely more than we ever thought they would).
    more
  • Monica
    January 1, 1970
    A brilliant, sprawling, entertaining oral history of a brilliant, sprawling, entertaining play phenomenon. And I say this not just because I’m quoted in it.
  • Meghan
    January 1, 1970
    I feel like this book would be fascinating even if I wasn’t obsessed with Angels. Great stuff.
Write a review