Day 30

“Musicals — the great ones — are rarely about ordinary life plodding by, They’re about the outsize romance that can’t be controlled, the special world we’d love to live in for a while, the faraway time and place we’re waiting to be seduced by, the larger-than-life force of nature we so rarely encounter in real life.”

Jack Viertel
The Secret Life of the American Musical: How Broadway Shows Are Built (2016)


"We're in previews for Perestroika. It's roller-coaster time: nights when the audience loves it, nights when they love it too much, nights when they don't love it at all; nights when I'm exhilarated and nights when, during the intermissions, I crouch in outer stairwells and spin fantasies of vanishing from the face of the earth. There's no time more difficult for a playwright, at least not professionally, at least not for me. Narcissistic investment in every moment onstage occasions a crisis of over- identification. Each line that doesn't detonate with the force it possessed when I first heard it in the theatre-inside-my-head feels to me like a humiliation, a violation, a cause for wrath and despair. A life spent looking forward to repeated experiences of this undignified agony ceases, in previews, to have any appeal whatsoever."

"The fiction that artistic labor happens in isolation, and that individual talents are the sole provenance of artistic accomplishment, is politically, ideologically charged and, in my case at least, repudiated by the facts. ... We pay high prices for the maintenance of the myth of the Individual: we have no system of universal health care, we don't educate our children, we can't pass sane gun control laws, we elect presidents like Reagan, we hate and fear inevitable processes like aging and death, and on and on. Way down close to the bottom of the list of the evils Individualism visits on our culture are previewing playwrights suffering paroxysms of mortification and rage, caught up myopically, claustrophobically, sometimes catastrophically, in the dramas of their selves."

"In the modern era, it isn't enough to write; you must also be a Writer, and play your part as the agonist in a cautionary narrative in which you will fail or triumph, be in or out, hot or cold, ride the Wheel of Fortune (the medieval one, not the one with Vanna White). You become a character in a metadrama into which your own dramatizing has pitched you."

"The success of Millennium made the rewrites of Perestroika excruciating. All summer I carried around Gore Vidal's wise words, written on the flyleaf of my journal: "What matters finally is not the world's judgment of oneself but one's own judgment of the world." This sentence had a talismanic power, though I knew that for me, finally, the world's judgment mattered mightily and I shuddered to read Vidal's conclusion: "Any writer who lacks this final arrogance will not survive very long in America." There are many kinds of arrogance I don't lack, but that final one..."

Tony Kushner
Afterword: "With a Little Help From My Friends"
in Angels in America: A Gay Fantasia on National Themes - Part Two: Perestroika (1994)