'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)

Juice Cleanses: The Worst Diet

A doctor tries the ever-popular Master Cleanse. Sort of.


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

Juice Cleanses: The Worst Diet

A doctor tries the ever-popular Master Cleanse. Sort of.

Video

Why Did I Study Physics?

Using hand-drawn cartoons to explain an academic passion

Video

What If Emoji Lived Among Us?

A whimsical ad imagines what life would be like if emoji were real.

Video

Living Alone on a Sailboat

"If you think I'm a dirtbag, then you don't understand the lifestyle."

Feature

The Future of Iced Coffee

Are artisan businesses like Blue Bottle doomed to fail when they go mainstream?

Writers

Up
Down

More in Entertainment

Just In