After our multiple discussions of this play, we can see how this literary work impressively addresses serious social and political issues, the politics of a homosexual identity in the era of the AIDS epidemic in particular, in an artistic, entertaining and humorous way. While I was reading around different responses on the book I found myself reading Kushner’s biography, which helped me make sense of the real purpose of this well-recognized play. We did not talk about the possibility that Kushner’s personal life has influenced the production of this play as well as its specifics so I will try to make a simple connection.
Kushner was born in New York City on July 16, 1956, and grew up in Louisiana. He is originally of Jewish descent, which explains the constant references to Judaism and his choice of Mormon characters. Kushner was also a homosexual; he became aware of his homosexuality at an early age but he did not come out easily. He tried to change his sexual preferences during his college years with psychotherapy but he eventually accepted who he was. This is interesting because what Kushner went through resembles what some of his characters experienced. There is no doubt that at the time when Kushner realized his sexuality, homosexuality was not the norm. People did not accept this difference, in fact some feared homosexuals, and those who declared their preferences were attacked and criticized. It was also shameful to be a homosexual, as you were considered abnormal and sometimes mentally disrupted. Therefore, just like his own characters, like Joe and Roy, he was also pressured because of what he was.
Roughly, maybe at the time of this struggle and realization, the Reagan era had begun. Reagan was a Republican and as the previous conveners mentioned, “20th century Republicanism generally is conservative, which means it wants to retain old ideals/methods and is usually against change.” This made the lives of homosexuals even harder as they are now even more unaccepted than before. Reagan was known to be a strong conservative and extremely anti-gay. The play includes various critiques of Republican ideals and also various scathing references to Reagan (the jokes). Kushner’s exploration of the relationship between the political circumstances and the personal lives of his characters might also resemble his own personal struggle as a homosexual at the time. In addition, the failure to act upon the AIDS epidemic during the Reagan era was a bold manipulation of the AIDS crisis into a way to halt the acceptance of homosexuality in America. Therefore, it is clear how Kushner’s play was influenced by what was going on at the time and that might have been his motivation for writing it. His personal experience and how it has been mapped in the play could have added to the play’s success and strength.