Setting the stage for change

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Tony Kushner receives the Activism Jewish Culture Award at The Workmens Circle Winter Benefit. Photos by Alina Oswald.
Tony Kushner receives the Activism Jewish Culture Award at The Workmen's Circle Winter Benefit. Photos by Alina Oswald.
A winter event honoring Tony Kushner

Tony Kushner needs no introduction. He has won many awards, including a Pulitzer Prize, two Tony Awards, three Obie Awards, an Emmy Award, the Steinberg Distinguished Playwright Award, and two Oscar nominations. We can now add the Workmen’s Circle Activism and Jewish Culture Award. In 2012, he was also awarded a National Medal of Arts by President Barack Obama.

Tony Kushner receives the Activism Jewish Culture Award at The Workmens Circle Winter Benefit. Photos by Alina Oswald.
Tony Kushner receives the Activism Jewish Culture Award at The Workmen’s Circle Winter Benefit. Photo by Alina Oswald.

Kushner is known for plays such as A Bright Room Called Day, The Intelligent Homosexual’s Guide To Capitalism And Socialism With A Key To The Scriptures, to mention only a few. Kushner is perhaps best known for Angels in America — the play, its recent revival, and the screenplay for the HBO mini-series.

On December 10, 2018, the last day of Hanukkah, the Workmen’s Circle organization presented Tony Kushner with the Workmen’s Circle Activism and Jewish Culture Award. The benefit event took place at the Prince George Ballroom, in New York City.

The Workmens Circle Winter Benefit. Photos by Alina Oswald.
The Workmen’s Circle Winter Benefit. Photos by Alina Oswald.

“For over a century, Workmen’s Circle members have been standing up and speaking out against injustice, and today, our community continues our tradition of taking our activism to the streets,” said Ann Toback, Executive Director of the Workmen’s Circle, who celebrates her tenth year with the organization. “Our amazing honoree, Tony Kushner, and our Jewish tradition of resistance charge us to never be afraid to stand up for what is right. Tony’s work speaks to activists of all ages. For decades, he has courageously tackled issues that are at the forefront of our national debate. His views inspire others to think about critical issues in new ways and not accept the status quo.”

Some 225 people attended the benefit event, which included performances by Frank London and Lorin Sklamberg of The Klezmatics, a welcome message from Ann Toback herself, and remarks from Workmen’s Circle President Richard Rumelt. Tony and Emmy award winning actor Jeffrey Wright [Angels in America, the HBO mini-series] introduced Kushner who then addressed the audience.

The Workmens Circle Winter Benefit. Photos by Alina Oswald.
The Workmen’s Circle Winter Benefit. Photos by Alina Oswald.

“If I am what passes these days as an award-winning activist, well, that would go a long way to explaining why we’re in the state we’re currently in…,” said Kushner, visibly humbled by receiving the award. […] “I wish good plays could change the world. There are lots of good plays. The theater, it has to be said, is in better shape than the world right now, which tells us how dire the shape of the world must be. But [making] plays and art isn’t the same thing as activism.” He concluded, “I am deeply grateful to you, to all of you, for inviting me here tonight and for this beautifully mortifying award.”

The winter benefit night honoring Kushner was a memorable, inspiring, enlightening event. It was also a humbling event that brought the attendees face to face with art and activism idols such as Tony Kushner and Jeffrey Wright, and familiarized them with Workmen’s Circle ongoing fight for social justice. The experience will be long lived, and it will continue to inspire critical thinking and to empower, in particular the young generation of activists.

Learn more about the Workmen’s Circle organization by visiting online at  circle.org.

Alina Oswald is a writer, photographer, educator and author of Journeys Through Darkness: A Biography of AIDS. Contact her online at alinaoswald.com.

 

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