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Campus reacts to disputed play

VanOosterhout, K. Aaron | Friday, November 19, 2004

Despite anticipated controversy, “Angels in America” flew onto campus with virtually no protest.

According to director Steve Hoeplinger, this is perfectly fine.

“It wasn’t really controversy that I wanted,” he said. “I wanted people to talk.”

The performance drew modest crowds, 100 two nights ago on opening night and 139 Thursday, and stage manager Chelsea Mason expects the same tonight.

“That’s pretty typical for a student show like this,” she said.

Not at all disappointed with the turnout, Mason added, “if we’ve touched one person with this show, it’s been a success.”

Playwright Tony Kushner’s most well-known work, “Angels” presents the tale of four men and one woman in 1980s New York City, all battling various inner demons. The four men also happen to be homosexual.

“Coming from a Catholic school background, you don’t ever really know about homosexuality,” said junior Mark Huberty at the intermission of Thursday’s performance. “I think it’s extremely powerful, in that it conveys a message of tolerance.”

In order to convey this message, however, Kushner included some explicit content. In one scene, character Louis Ironson, played by junior Joe Garlock, makes love to another man onstage.

“Personally, I don’t find anything shocking in it,” said Kenneth Cole, professor in the film, television and theatre department and mentor to Hoeplinger. “I would gather that there are more shocking displays on ‘Desperate Housewives.'”

Hoeplinger added he posted a “Mature” warning on the promotional posters, but that students should be able to view the performance with no problem.

“I think any student should be mature enough to handle it,” he said. “It happens in the world whether we endorse it or not.”

Some might argue, however, that many things happen in the world that should not be depicted on stage.

In “Angels'” case, sophomore Chloe Bekavac disagreed.

“It’s controversial, of course, but I think it’s necessary here at Notre Dame,” she said. “Open dialogue is lacking here. It’s productions like these that facilitate dialogue.”

Other audience members were concerned that life-changing dialogue might be difficult, however, if everyone who attends the play already finds homosexuality acceptable.

“If (people) did have a problem with homosexuals, I don’t think they would come [to “Angels”],” said junior Aliya Riddle. “It’s easy to avoid something you don’t agree with.”

Hoeplinger’s advice to those “avoiding” the issues raised by “Angels?”

“It’s foolish to ignore,” he said.