Angels in America in Seattle, with Marya Sea Kaminski above, Adam Standley below.
  • Angels in America in Seattle, with Marya Sea Kaminski above, Adam Standley below.

Have you read Rebecca Brown's remarkable, arguably heretical essay on Angels in America yet? You really should. The Seattle production continues through September 21—here's information on that. And here are two responses to Brown's piece.

Dear Ms. Brown,

As a gay man in his 60s who has been out since 1973 and lived through the early 1980s in Seattle, I truly appreciate not only your accurate gloss of the early '80s reality, but your accurate reference to Josh Joshua being among the founding members of the Chicken Soup Brigade.

I don't know whether you were an adult in the 1980s, but if you weren't, then you are even more remarkable for having dug up accurate information, and more importantly, correctly glossing the feel of the times. Though gay people were scared and angry, they were also resilient and incredibly resourceful in finding ways to take care of their own. The lesbian contributions were particularly substantial and often under-recognized in hind-site. Your article was the first I've read that identified the missing pieces in plays like Angels or The Normal Heart. All of the large emotions were there and real at the time. But in the midst of all that, people still went about living their lives and figuring out how to help. And there were lots of gay and lesbian people who worked in not-so-public but important ways to leverage what was available to help those in need. As you so clearly describe, it was not just a story of victimhood. It was also lots of other stories of compassion, resourcefulness and activism. Thanks for getting that right.

Tim Burak was also one of those people who "made things work," and was among the group largely from the Seattle Gay Clinic who hatched the idea and founded the Chicken Soup Brigade.

Thanks for getting it right,
Frank Chaffee

After the jump, another perspective.


Rebecca Brown misses the point about "Angels in America." It is not an AIDS play, no less the AIDS play. As the Author Tony Kushner has subtitled it, the play is a "A Gay Fantasia on National Themes."

Kushner is giving us a "midrash" (a Jewish term for a development of a moral principles) concerning right-wing politics, internalized anti-Semitism/homophobia, chemical escapism, America as a non-melting pot, McCarthyite excesses, and a host of other things. AIDS is used as an organizing principle for these ruminations—after all, it is a gay fantasia and AIDS did loom large when he was writing it.

And, sadly, AIDS did drive some folks away from their sick lovers; I saw it in my support group for caregivers.

Phil Bereano
co-founder, ACT/UP Seattle
(The author is a Member, Board of Trustees, Intiman Theatre but is writing solely in his personal capacity)