Tony Kushner, the Pultzer Prize award-winning screenwriter and man behind the script for the critically acclaimed Lincoln seems to have been destined for greatness as a child.
“I can tell you that, from a bystander, Tony Kushner was brilliant as a child,” says Sandy Mugnier, a longtime friend of Kushner’s mother, Sylvia. “We thought he was very precocious — he wasn’t precocious, he was brilliant. When he was 7, 8 years old, he was doing things like making place cards for the dining table when his parents entertained. On one occasion, the place cards were James Thurber drawings — from a child of 8!”
Kushner grew up in Lake Charles in a family that served as the city’s cultural royalty. His mother was a bassoonist and his father a clarinetist; both were music professors at McNeese State University after playing in the New York City Opera orchestra; his father, William, was the director of the Lake Charles Symphony from 1978 to 2008. His brother, Eric, plays French horn in the Vienna Symphony and his sister, Lesley, has also moved to New York. Sylvia died in 1990 and his father in March of this year. Kushner fled Lake Charles in 1974 for Columbia University, where he earned a bachelor of arts degree in medieval studies, and went on to New York University’s Graduate Acting Program, finishing in 1984.
Kushner essentially put Lake Charles, a city where he never quite belonged, on the map when he won a Pulitzer Prize for Drama for his play, Angels in America: A Gay Fantasia on National Themes, in 1993. He won two Tony Awards in a row for Best Play: in 1993 for Angels in America: Millennium Approaches and in ’94 for Angels in America: Perestroika. He was nominated twice in 2004 for Best Book of a Musical and Best Score for Caroline, or Change.
“My husband and I were in Greece, and we were on a tour bus and we were seeing some of the sights,” recalls Mugnier, laughing, “and I picked up a newspaper and I was reading it while the bus was taking us to the next historical monument, and there was this little tiny three-by-five article about Tony Kushner winning the Pulitzer Prize. I thought, ‘Wait a minute, here I am in Greece and I’m reading about Sylvia’s son Tony.’ It just shows you how small the world is.”
Kushner, now 56, is in the spotlight again as Oscar buzz surrounds his screenplay for Lincoln, a collaboration with Steven Spielberg starring Daniel Day-Lewis. Kushner, collaborating with Eric Roth, worked with Spielberg once before on the screenplay for 2005’s Munich, but this time is the sole author of the script based on Doris Kearns Goodwin’s book Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln.
“It was very scary,” Kushner said in a recent interview with Stephen Colbert. “I didn’t want to do it originally because I didn’t know if it was going to be possible. Doris Kearns Goodwin is a very persuasive and lovely person and a really great writer, and she talked me into it. And I loved working with Steven on Munich, so I figured it was a good thing to try.”
The Lincoln screenplay took Kushner six years to complete, mainly because of his apprehension regarding Lincoln’s legacy. “There are some human beings — Shakespeare, Mozart — that do things that defy human comprehension,” Kushner said at the PEN World Voices Festival in April. “They’re just better than us. Lincoln was one of them.” But Kushner’s works are not fluff — they tackle some of the most controversial issues of the day, and Kushner believes there are parallels between today’s political dysfunction and that of Lincoln’s time. But he also believes that theater and democracy are natural partners. “You know, the Athenians invented two things simultaneously: theater, and democracy,” he observed at the same festival. “And the thing that perhaps connects these two things is compassion. It’s the building of community and empathy.”
“I find his work ever-growing and improving on the basic foundation, which is his — in my opinion — commentary on social injustice in our culture,” says Mugnier. “I don’t think you can read anything that Tony Kushner has written and not understand and feel moved by the issue of his writings and the themes, the various themes that he repeats over and over again.
“I think one of the things that amazes me, and I’m a literature person, but one of the things I find so interesting is that Tony’s works are tough to read,” says Mugnier. “You feel like somebody has just hit you in the gut and you can’t ignore the power of his work. Here, I remember him as a talented, precocious, beautiful boy — gentle and loving. To be able to write as passionately as he does about social issues is genius to me.”
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Black Friday shopping begins; Pope visiting Turkey; oil prices decline and more national and international news for Friday, November 28, 2014.
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The fight to clean up Lafayette Parish could get some added ammunition with two ordinances up for votes Tuesday by the City-Parish Council targeting litter-bugs.
A divided 3rd Circuit Court of Appeal reversed a Lafayette district judge’s ruling absolving the co-owner of a New Iberia accounting firm of liability in an embezzlement case.
Our View: It’s reasonable, temporary and invests in Lafayette’s future.
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By striking a deal to lessen the blow of health insurance changes on state workers, school employees and retirees, Gov. Bobby Jindal's administration lowered the volume of criticism but gave itself and local school boards a new budget headache.
With the airport tax coming up for a parishwide vote in about a week, the Broussard City Council and its mayor have come out in support of the proposal.
Protesters rallied peacefully in several Louisiana cities in the wake of the Missouri grand jury decision not to indict a police officer in the fatal shooting of Michal Brown.
Three bedroom in Port Barre or two bedroom in Opelousas
The U.S. rep billed LSU for work allegedly performed on the same days Congress voted on major legislation and held important committee hearings on energy and the ACA.
“I am only getting a little nervous about two projects — the proposed Sasol GTL facility [not the new ethylene plant] and the proposed G2X facility — both in Lake Charles. They need a hefty difference between oil and natural gas prices to make sense.”
Abysmally low participation by the public has prompted the council to scuttle the 2014 survey with plans to simplify it and try again next year.
The village now says the ordinance will likely be overturned and authorities will more vigorously enforce existing leash laws.
Lower oil prices also might slow the growth of oil production in parts of the U.S., Canada and elsewhere because it will no longer be so profitable.
Bill Cassidy cast an early ballot Tuesday, seeking to draw renewed attention to a race that has fallen off newspaper front pages and away from people's minds as they plan holiday meals and shopping schedules.
A Lafayette woman faces up to 20 years in prison for running up more than $1 million in unauthorized charges to her company credit card.
Signs that our state’s banking industry is undergoing a downsizing in 2014 were further confirmed today with the FDIC’s latest figures showing a third straight quarter in which Louisiana lost more banks and earned less money.
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State police say a 47-year-old Lafayette man, who collected more than $83,000 in disability benefits, is accused of operating two businesses out of his home at a time when he claimed he had no income.
Battered all night by Baltimore's relentless pass rush, Drew Brees could feel his protection collapsing and Terrell Suggs getting ahold of him as he urgently unloaded a pass to the right flat toward tight end Jimmy Graham.
After a convincing defeat at the polls on Nov. 4, Earl “Nickey” Picard has decided to let bygones be bygones with his former right-hand man Brian Pope, announcing his support for his former employee’s runoff bid to become Lafayette’s next city marshal.
Saturday the athletic department did everything possible to ensure the 2014 Ragin’ Cajun seniors remembered fondly their last home game. Rain and lightning never arrived but turbulence did in the form of the Appalachian State Mountaineers.
Even stranger than the Republican Party’s decision to hold a “unity rally” earlier this month for Congressman Bill Cassidy in a Baton Rouge bar, Huey’s Bar, was the fact that the establishment was named after Louisiana’s most famous Democrat.
Bar Code is not a gay bar.
After failing to pass a medical marijuana bill last year, state Sen. Fred Mills, R-Parks, is telling supporters he will return in 2015 with legislation that focuses on different applications like oils and pills.
Voters, obviously, are not yet tuned into the 2015 ballot, despite the intriguing races it will host.