The Academy was founded in 1898 to "foster, assist, and sustain an interest in literature, music, and the fine arts." Kushner, one of the most prominent American playwrights of his generation, is most famously the author of the epic Angels in America. His other plays include A Bright Room Called Day, Slavs, Homebody/Kabul and the musical Caroline, or Change. He is also well known as a liberal firebrand and a frequent orator at college commencements and other official gatherings.
As previously reported by Playbill.com, playwrights Donald Margulies and Charles L. Mee are 2005 recipients of honors from the Academy.
Margulies, author of Sight Unseen and Brooklyn Boy, is one of eight writers given $7,500 in recognition of "exceptional accomplishment in any genre." The others were Jim Grimsley, Joseph Harrison, Edward P. Jones, Charles Martin, Jeffrey Meyers, Stephen Orgel and Burton Watson.
Winning the Award of Merit for Drama, meanwhile, is playwright Charles L. Mee, author of Big Love, Wintertime and other works. The prize includes a medal and $10,000.
Each year, the Academy honors over 50 artists, architects, writers, and composers (who are not members) with cash awards. The amounts of these prizes range from $2,500 to $75,000.
Other activities of the Academy are exhibitions of art, architecture, and manuscripts; publications on the Academy’s history and events; and readings and performances of new musicals. The American Academy of Arts and Letters is located in two landmark buildings, designed by McKim, Mead & White and by Cass Gilbert, on Audubon Terrace at 155th Street and Broadway.