Department of Theatre



Tony Kushner's Angels in America ranges over vast areas of American history. The following timeline marks important moments in our history, relevant to the play, and details developments in the global course of AIDS since 1985, when the play takes place

1949 The USSR explodes an atom bomb, beginning the Cold War

1950 Sen. Joseph McCarthy, working with aide Roy Cohn, claims he has a list of Communists in the State Department.

Sen. Joe McCarthy and aide Roy Cohn

"How to Spot a Communist":

Julius and Ethel RosenbergExcerpt from a McCarthy speech:

1951 Trial of Julius and Ethel Rosenberg for treason and spying begins. Ethel is convicted on evidence of her brother who later denied the substance of his testimony

Film of A Streetcar Named Desire opens; Marlon Brando breaks a taboo by wearing a T-shirt

1953 Julius and Ethel Rosenberg executed

1954 US Army Counsel Joseph Welch's outburst against Sen. Joseph McCarthy signals the end of McCarthy's power

JFK shot in Dallas

1961 Berlin Wall is constructed

1963 Martin Luther King, Jr. holds March on Washington

President John F. Kennedy assassinated on November 22 in Dallas

The Boys in the Band1964 Civil Rights Act outlaws racial segregation in public places

1968 Martin Luther King, Jr. assassinated

Robert F. Kennedy assassinated

Widespread protests against Vietnam War

The Boys in the Band opens, the first Broadway play to focus exclusively on gay characters

1969 Stonewall Riots: gays and lesbians actively resist when cops roust gay bars in Greenwich Village, New York, marking a signal event in gay liberation

1979 San Francisco doctors note long-term lymphadenopathy (swollen lymph glands) in their patients

1980 Ronald Reagan elected President, with mandate to cut budget and size of US federal government

Ronald Reagan

1981 June 5: report from Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report details deaths of four gay LA men from Pneomocystis Pneumonia, an illness that is rarely if ever fatal; this suggests complete devastation of immune system in patients

This mysterious illness is first called GRID (Gay-Related Immune Disease)

July 3: New York Times runs its first story about AIDS

1982 Centers for Disease Control adopts the acronym AIDS (Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome) for this disease

Gay Men's Health Crisis created to protest government indifference to AIDS

NBC TV first report on AIDS:

1983 La Cage Aux Folles opens 4-year run on Broadway

Discovery that AIDS could be passed through heterosexual sex

Larry Kramer publishes his essay "1112 and Counting", castigating New York City authorities for inaction on AIDS and also suggesting gay men stop having sex

Widespread belief that casual contact can pass the disease

1984 Ronald Reagan re-elected in a landslide

Ryan White1985 In the US, it was feared that drinking communion wine from a common cup could transmit AIDS

Ryan White, a 13-year old hemophiliac with AIDS, was banned from school

September 17: President Reagan publicly mentioned AIDS for the first time, at a press conference. Asked if he would send his child to a school where an AIDS patient was enrolled, he declines to give a positive answer

Rock HudsonRock Hudson appears in public extremely emaciated. He reveals he has AIDS and soon after dies. This marks public awareness of AIDS in the general public

TV obituary of Rock Hudson:

Mikhail Gorbachev becomes leader of USSR, begins to implement policies of Glasnost (openness) and Perestroika (restructuring)

An Early Frost, first TV movie to deal with HIV/AIDS

1986 Roy Cohn dies of AIDS. Obituaries hint broadly at his homosexuality

1987 Reagan gives first speech about AIDS

US bars foreign travelers with AIDS from coming into the country

ACT UP (AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power) formed to protest government inactivity on AIDS, coining the slogan SILENCE = DEATH

AZTAZT (azidothymidine) approved by FDA for treatment of people with HIV/AIDS; suppresses the ability of the virus to replicate itself within the human body

Helms amendment: Angered by an explicit safe-sex brochure developed by Gay Men's Health Crisis, Sen. Jesse Helms (R-N.C.) calls for an amendment banning federal funds for any educational materials that "promote or encourage homosexual sexual activities." The policy is still in effect today

Angels playbillThe AIDS Quilt displayed on the National Mall (the AIDS Quilt will be exhibited on the campus of UNCW November 8-15 as part of this year's Synergy Program)

1988 Tony Kushner begins work on Angels in America, after having been asked by Oskar Eustis to write a play about the impact of AIDS on the gay community in San Francisco

George Herbert Walker Bush elected President

ACT UP (AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power) protests on Wall Street:

Keith Haring

1989 Berlin Wall falls; end of Cold War

A new antiretroviral drug introduced because AZT weakens and sickens many who take it

1990 50,000 people estimated to have died from AIDS in America so far

Reagan apologizes for ignoring the disease when he was President

Ryan White dies

Time magazing coverScope of disease in Africa becomes tragically clear

1991 Angels in America, Part One: Millennium Approaches world premiere in San Francisco

Magic Johnson announced he has the HIV virus

1992 William Jefferson Clinton elected President

Tony KushnerOfficial press opening of Angels at Mark Taper Forum, LA. There is a cast party after the November 1 show, while November 8 is the official press opening. According to scholar David Roman, "In [this] week an estimated 1,000 people in the United States would be diagnosed with AIDS"

1993 Angels in America opens on Broadway

Tony Kushner wins Pulitzer Prize

Tom Hanks wins Oscar for Philadelphia, playing gay lawyer who was victim of job discrimination:

"Don't Ask Don't Tell" instituted as military policy: discrimination against closeted homosexuals, lesbians, and bisexuals was prohibited, while openly non-heterosexual persons were barred from service

1994 AIDS is the leading cause of death in America among people aged 25-44

Pedro Zamora, HIV positive cast member of MTV's The Real World, dies one day after season finale

1996 The so-called "triple cocktail" (Highly Active Antiretroviral Therapy, or HAART) leads to dramatic improvement in AIDS patients in the West, making AIDS less a death sentence and more a chronic illness. The high cost of these drugs leads to controversy and precludes the drugs being available in Africa and other parts of the world where the epidemic is gaining strength

1998 Will and Grace on TV1999 AIDS fourth-leading cause of death worldwide: two characters are homosexualWill and Grace

1999 AIDS fourth-leading cause of death worldwide

2000 Clinton declares AIDS a threat to national security

Pepfar fighting aids2001 George W. Bush appoints a gay man as Director of Office of National AIDS Policy

2003 Bush commits 15 billion dollars to fight AIDS in Africa and Caribbean in a program called PEPFAR; one-third of funds must be spent exclusively on promotion of abstinence

May 4: commitment ceremony of Tony Kushner and Mark Harris becomes the first gay nuptials reported in the New York Times Style pages

HBO film of Angels in America wins multiple Emmy awards

2004 Outbreak of HIV/AIDS in California's porn industry

Same-sex marriages allowed in Massachusetts

Bono singer2005 Citing national autonomy, Brazil turns down $40 million of American money for AIDS prevention because it refused to agree to a declaration condemning prostitution

2006 Bono creates a new commercial brand of clothing designed to help raise money to fight AIDS in Africa

Around 28% of people in developing nations who need treatment for HIV are receiving it

2007 Around 33 million people are living with HIV around the world; 40 million cases of infection are predicted for the future

2008 Barack Obama elected President

2009 The Pope states condoms actually "increase" the problem of HIV/AIDS

2010 US decides not to deny HIV+ individuals entry based on their status

2011 Military rescinds "Don't Ask Don't Tell" policy

2012 Military releases report stating rescinding of "Don't Ask Don't Tell" had no negative effects