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Epic Journey: 'Angels in America' Comes to Juniata Theatre Stage

(Posted October 6, 2008)

HUNTINGDON, Pa. -- "Angels in America: Millennium Approaches," the first part of the Tony Award-winning epic play that combines illness, faith and redemption into a shattering portrait of America, will be staged by the Juniata Theatre department from Oct. 16-18, Thursday through Saturday, and from Oct. 23-25, Thursday through Saturday, at the Suzanne von Liebig Theatre in the Halbritter Center for the Performing Arts on the Juniata campus.


Show times for all performances are 7:30 p.m., except for the 2 p.m. matinee Saturday, Oct. 25.

Juniata's production is directed by Kate Clarke, an adjunct faculty member and a member of the Gravity Project. She has been a member of the Gravity Project since 2007 and directed the college's production of "Pippin" in October 2007.


Tickets for the production are $3 for students with I.D and $7 for adults. Tickets are available at the box office on the day of the performance, or at Juniata's information desk at Ellis Hall one week before opening night. Tickets also can be ordered by calling (814) 641-3771.

"Angels in America" (in total) is a seven-hour play, divided into two separate parts: "Millennium Approaches" and "Perestroika." The play, written by Tony Kushner, made its Broadway debut with "Millennium Approaches" in 1993, with "Perestroika" coming to Broadway the following year. Both received the Tony Award for Best Play.

At its heart, "Angels in America" is a domestic drama telling an intersecting story of two couples, one gay, the other seemingly heterosexual. The story focuses first on Prior Walter, a young man who tells his companion he has been stricken with AIDS and is ultimately abandoned by his lover. The plays focus also shifts to Joe and Harper Pitt, a Mormon couple enmeshed in Republican politics. Joe Pitt is an ambitious lawyer hiding a dark secret.

The play eventually reveals through its characters two Americas: one a Potemkin village of lies, cover-ups and cowardice, the other the land of promise seen by the characters' forebears. The third thread within the play reveals two visions of America's future embodied by two men stricken with AIDS: a hopeful vision, delivered by the ill Prior Walter, that the devastating illness and prejudice toward homosexuality will be conquered, and a cynical vision, delivered by the historical figure and right-wing icon Roy Cohn, that AIDS has doomed the gay rights movement.

"Angels in America" finds redemption within almost all the characters in this complicated play. The theatricality of the production, which features a redeeming Angel who appears to Prior Walter, is given an extra twist by having members of the cast play more than one part.

In the end, the play, through its prophet figure Prior Walter, offers hope in within a morass of crumbling marriages, disintegrating relationships, betrayals and the specter of the AIDS pandemic.

Juniata's production is directed by Kate Clarke, an adjunct faculty member and a member of the Gravity Project, Juniata's professional theatre company. She has been a member of the Gravity Project since 2007 and directed the college's production of "Pippin" in October 2007.

She earned a bachelor's degree in 1990 at Oberlin College and went on to earn a master's of fine arts degree in 2000 from the University of Washington. She has taught acting and other theatre classes at Tulane University in New Orleans, La. and at CUNY Hunter College. As an actress, she has appeared in such plays as "But I'm a Cheerleader," "Bitter Suite" and "Stop." She also has acted in several television series, including "Third Watch," "Northern Exposure" and "Medicine Ball."

The cast of "Angels in America" is as follows: Skye Hatton-Hopkins, a senior from Bellefonte, Pa.; Quintin Hess, a freshman from Princeton, N.J.; Allison Strausberg, a junior from Bel Air, Md.; Andrew Orsie, a freshman from Summit Point, W.Va.; Josh Beckel, a senior from Hollidaysburg, Pa.; Emily Stockbridge, a sophomore from Belmont, N.H.; Kevin Whitmire, a freshman from Enola, Pa.; Nate Frieswyk, a freshman from Bel Air, Md.; Megan Monahan, a senior from Pottstown, Pa.; and Marci Chamberlain, a senior from Williamsburg, Pa.



Contact John Wall at wallj@juniata.edu or (814) 641-3132 for more information.