Department of Theatre

Introduction to the UNCW THEATRE production of:

Angels in America, Part One: Millenium Approaches

Research by UNCW Theatre dramturg Dr. Charles Grimes & Theatre Major Elizabeth Bernardo.


The year is 1985: Ronald Reagan has just been reelected to a second term, and the deadly AIDS epidemic is at its height in New York City. Tony Kushner's Pulitzer-Prize-winning play captures the lives of the HIV-positive Prior Walter; his lover Louis; Joe Pitt, a closeted gay Mormon; his Valium-addicted wife Harper; Roy Cohn, the notorious lawyer from the McCarthy hearings; Belize, his drag-queen, African American nurse; Hannah Pitt, Joe's mother from Utah; and the Angel, a terrifyingly beautiful herald of the apocalypse. As Prior Walter is attacked by a mysterious disease that destroys his body from within, he is abandoned by his lover Louis, approached by an apocalyptic angel, and faced with a battle to earn his fate as survivor -- and prophet. Kushner's characters endure a time of death, hypocrisy, and cataclysmic change as they battle the defining pandemic and repressive politics of the late 20th century.



  • Roy Cohn: Republican power broker, played by Cullen Moss, Professional Guest Artist
  • Joe Pitt: a Mormon and a Republican law clerk, played by Eddie Ledford '13
  • Harper Pitt: married to Joe and addicted to Valium, played by Kelly Mis '13
  • Louis Ironson: a word processor, initially Prior's boyfriend, played by Phil Antonino '13
  • Prior Walter: a young gay man with AIDS, Louis's boyfriend, played by Zak Thornton
  • Hannah Pitt: Joe's Mormon mother from Salt Lake City, played by Maria Katsadouros '13
  • Belize: a nurse, a drag queen, and former lover of Prior's, played by Ben "Bruno" Rose '15
  • The Angel: a divine messenger, played by Alaina Marie Gillman '15
  • Mr. Lies: Harper's imaginary friend, a travel agent, played by Rickie Smalls Jr. '14
  • Isidor Chemelwitz: an Orthodox Jewish rabbi, played by Maria Katsadouros '13
  • Ethel Rosenberg: a Jewish woman electrocuted in 1953, played by Maria Katsadouros '13
  • Henry: Roy's doctor, played by Nick Kempton '13
  • Emily: a nurse in a New York City hospital, played by Ashley Stowe '14
  • Martin Heller: a bureaucrat in Ronald Reagan's Justice Department, played by Gary Moore '14
  • Sister Ella Chapter: a Salt Lake City real-estate saleswoman, played by Ashley Stowe '14


Tony Kushner's groundbreaking play was a milestone in US culture and history. Hailed as "a vast, miraculous play" by the New York Times, Angels broke through the stigma of representing AIDS on the Broadway stage. Angels in America Part One won the Pulitzer Prize, a New York Drama Critics Circle award, and the Tony award for best play in 1993. The 2003 HBO miniseries based on the play won 5 Golden Globes and 11 Emmys.


UNCW's production of the play features the talents of local professional actor Cullen Moss, who has appeared in One Tree Hill, Army Wives, and The Notebook. Jessica Gaffney, instructor of theatre at Cape Fear Community College, who received her MFA from New York University, is guest designer for costumes. Donald Robert Fox is guest lighting designer, and the set has been designed by UNCW Theatre's Assistant Professor Gregg Buck.

Angels in America is being directed by Ed Wagenseller of the UNCW Department of Theatre. Among Ed's recent productions at UNCW are The Book of Liz and Harold Pinter's The Birthday Party, named best play of the year by the Wilmington Star-News. "This is one of the most perfectly written plays in the American canon," notes Wagenseller. "I am constantly amazed at how beautiful this play is. We are using a style I call 'exposed theatricality,' where we aren't hiding actors, props, set pieces, lights - it's all out there for everyone to see. We are exposing our theatrical world to the audience."

Cullen MossCullen Moss, a local favorite who has appeared on stages all over Wilmington, is extremely excited to be performing this play at UNCW. "I first saw Angels in America: Millennium Approaches about seventeen years ago, when a touring company did it at UNC Greensboro. It had such an impact on me, intellectually and socially, in helping to contextualize a lot of what was going on all around me, as a child of the eighties. Emotionally, and artistically, the writing, the richness of the characters - particularly Roy Cohn - struck me greatly. Needless to say, when Ed invited me to be the guest artist and to play that role, in this play, it was a gift and an honor. Ed has been a wonderful director, and it's been such a great experience to work with the student actors, all of whom have proven their mettle. For this younger generation of students, for whom the era of the 80's -- the newness of the idea of gay pride, the newness of AID -- is rather foreign, this production should be just as enjoyable, compelling, sad, funny, and impactful as it was to me seventeen years ago. It is certainly no less relevant."


UNCW Theatre's production of Angels in America has been scheduled in coordination with the Leadership Lecture Series hosted by UNCW Presents. Cleve Jones: The Power You Have to Make a Difference will be this year's Synergy Common Reading Keynote Address, at 7 p.m. Monday November 12. Cleve Jones will discuss his work as an advocate for HIV/AIDS patients and as the originator of the AIDS Quilt. The AIDS Quilt will be proudly displayed at UNCW November 8-15.

Cleve Jones