On Aug. 2, excerpts of the play Only We Who Guard the Mystery Shall Be Unhappy were read by Kristen Johnston, John Cameron Mitchell and Patricia Clarkson at a benefit for the political action group MoveOn.org at the American Airlines Theatre. A Q&A with the actors and Kushner followed.
At 7 PM Aug. 30-Sept. 1, New York Theatre Workshop, "in an effort to foster community dialogue," will present a double bill of pieces of the Kushner play plus an encore presentation of Mark Crispin Miller's Patriot Act: a Public Meditation.
The performances are part of the Imagine Festival of Arts, Issues & Ideas, representing more than 100 events at venues around New York City Aug. 28-Sept. 2 (which coincides with the Republican National Convention).
According to the NYTW website, "With intelligence and flair, in Only We Who Guard the Mystery Shall Be Unhappy, Tony Kushner takes on the issues of political morality and moral relativity. As the First Lady, Laura Bush, reads Dostoevsky to the ghosts of Iraqi children, Kushner questions U.S. foreign policy and grapples with universal themes of suffering and responsibility." Casting will be announced.
Patriot Act: a Public Meditation is "a provocative, funny, and scary exposé of threats to our American democracy and freedom," according to NYTW.org. "Media critic and political commentator Mark Crispin Miller (the author of books including 'The Bush Dyslexicon: Observations on a National Disorder' and the upcoming 'Cruel and Unusual: Bush/Cheney's New World Order') documents the powerful forces at work in our country, including the Republican Party, Democratic Party, Christian reconstructionists, and the federal government, that are undermining and erasing our fundamental liberties by their relentless contempt for democratic practice and free speech." In Patriot Act, Miller "diagrams, pulls apart, and talks audiences [through] a wealth of material drawn from official government reports, press conference transcripts, and news service material to evidence his case. Political prestidigitator Steve Cuiffo joins Mark Crispin Miller to provide an entertaining blend of political observations and good, old-fashioned sleight-of-hand magic."
The three performances play 7 PM Aug. 30, Aug. 31 and Sept. 1.
The events are free. Tickets will be available at the NYTW box office beginning at 1 PM each performance day for that evening's performance, continuing until all tickets are distributed.
The Imagine Festival of Arts, Issues & Ideas is "designed to inspire, instigate and support civic engagement through the arts."
For more information, visit www.imagine04.org .
According to Variety, the Aug. 2 presentation at the American Airlines Theater included a performance of the announced first scene of the play, as well as a "freshly written second scene."
"I wrote it that day," Kushner told Variety. "It was a venting exercise."
There is no timetable for completion of the work. "I probably will continue dueling with it," the Pulitzer Prize winner told the trade paper.
Mitchell (Hedwig and the Angry Inch) and Clarkson ("The Station Agent") played Bush; Clarkson was also an Angel. Johnston ("Third Rock From the Sun," Central Park's Much Ado About Nothing) narrated. Variety reported that Kushner said he has talked to Marcia Gay Harden about playing the First Lady for the NYTW readings.