'Angels in America' and 8 Other Classic Plays That Were Once Controversial

More

When Angels in America—Tony Kushner's play about AIDS and the gay experience in the U.S.—was first staged nearly 20 years ago, it inspired a wave of protests across the country. Attempts to put on Angels in Florida, Texas, Michigan, and—most dramatically—North Carolina sparked outrage because of the play's frank depiction of a host of hot-button issues: homosexuality, drug use, racism, religious intolerance, and more.

Last week, New York City hosted its first Angels revival since the play debuted there in 1993, and the new production highlights how much has changed in the past two decades. As the New York Times points out in an article about the revival, AIDS is now "chronic, not fatal" and television's Modern Family has a gay couple with an adopted baby as two of its main characters. And as society's attitude toward gay people has evolved, so has its view of Angels in America. The play is now studied in college courses and is as much of the American dramatic canon as Death of a Salesman and A Streetcar Named Desire.

Angels in America isn't the first play to inspire criticism at first only to be canonized later. Here, a look at controversial plays that are now read in literature classes and performed across the country without incident.

Jump to comments
Presented by

Eleanor Barkhorn and Kevin Fallon

Eleanor Barkhorn is editor of The Atlantic's Entertainment channel. Kevin Fallon writes for and produces the channel.

Get Today's Top Stories in Your Inbox (preview)

Why Are Americans So Bad at Saving Money?

The US is particularly miserable at putting aside money for the future. Should we blame our paychecks or our psychology?


Elsewhere on the web

Join the Discussion

After you comment, click Post. If you’re not already logged in you will be asked to log in or register. blog comments powered by Disqus

Video

The Death of Film

You'll never hear the whirring sound of a projector again.

Video

How to Hunt With Poison Darts

A Borneo hunter explains one of his tribe's oldest customs: the art of the blowpipe

Video

A Delightful, Pixar-Inspired Cartoon

An action figure and his reluctant sidekick trek across a kitchen in search of treasure.

Video

I Am an Undocumented Immigrant

"I look like a typical young American."

Video

Why Did I Study Physics?

Using hand-drawn cartoons to explain an academic passion

Writers

Up
Down

More in Entertainment

Just In