Only We Who Guard the Mystery Shall Be Unhappy

by Tony Kushner


Tony Kushner crafted Only We Who Guard the Mystery Shall Be Unhappy as the 2000 US presidential election approached. “I’m writing this play...not to simply say over and over again, [about the Bush administration],‘They’re terrible people, they’re terrible people.’ [Rather,] I’m curious about several things. I’m curious about my own loathing[;] what does that intensity mean?” Seeking a way to examine the question and find some objective distance, Kushner found it in the figure of Laura Bush: “I wanted to pick a figure who could take me to a more equivocal place,” he says—“someone who was easier to like and harder to dismiss. She’s somebody who is literally in bed with the president but is being places that she didn’t imagine.” Kushner was further “intrigued to read…that Dostoyevsky was her favorite writer and ‘The Grand Inquisitor’ was her favorite text.” This gave him his title (taken from Dostoyevsky’s novel), and his way in.

“I love writing characters whose political lives offend me, upset me—it’s a challenge to figure such people out.” —Tony Kushner


BIO One of America’s foremost contemporary playwrights, Tony Kushner (Only We...) composes politically charged plays of near-mythical proportions, fusing anything from tax evasion to obscure historical figures with 17th-century poetry and popular TV shows. Kushner is best known for such plays as the two-part fantasia Angels in America; Homebody/Kabul; and the recent music drama Caroline, or Change (seen at CENTERSTAGE last season). Among his numerous awards stands the Pulitzer Prize for Drama.

Week 2: April 15–18, 2010

Wrestling with Angels
New Perspectives on the Middle East