Playwright-activist Tony Kushner will speak at UMKC Pride

Award-winning writer will share his views during an on-stage Q&A

The sponsors of the fundraiser for University of Missouri-Kansas City LGBTQIA students have “just stepped it up a notch.”

In an effort to engage a broader audience for the UMKC Pride Breakfast, Tony Kushner, nationally-recognized playwright, screenwriter and accomplished author, will serve as the featured speaker at the March 12 breakfast. The event will take place from 7:30 – 9 a.m. at the UMKC Swinney Recreation Center, 5030 Holmes St.

Rather than delivering a keynote address from the podium, Kushner will be interviewed on stage and engaged in an evocative and illuminating Q&A. Topics will range from his social activism and personal experience during the 1980s AIDS crisis to arts and entertainment and the present day LGBT rights movement.

Joan Israelite, a resident of Kansas City and a member of the National Council on the Arts, will interview Kushner.

Kushner has generously agreed to waive his appearance fee in support of the university’s Pride Empowerment Fund and its commitment to ensuring that the student experience at UMKC is both safe and supportive.

“UMKC has sponsored this event for six years, and by engaging a nationally-prominent figure as the speaker for the 7th Annual Pride Breakfast, we reaffirm our support and commitment to our LGBTQIA students,” said Curt Crespino, vice chancellor, University Advancement.

Kushner is best known for his two-part epic play,Angels in America: A Gay Fantasia on National Themes.” He wrote the screenplays for Mike Nichols’ film of “Angels in America,” and Steven Spielberg’s “Munich.”

In 2012, Kushner wrote the screenplay for Spielberg’s movie, “Lincoln.” His screenplay was nominated for an Academy Award and won others, including the New York Film Critics Circle Award, Boston Society of Film Critics Award and the Chicago Film Critics Award.

In “After Angels,” a profile of Tony Kushner published in The New Yorker, John Lahr wrote: “[Kushner] gives voice to characters who have been rendered powerless by the forces of circumstances – a drag queen dying of AIDS, an uneducated Southern maid, contemporary Afghans – and his attempt to see all sides of their predicament has a sly subversiveness. He forces the audience to identify with the marginalized – a humanizing act of the imagination.”

One of the goals of the breakfast, in addition to raising funds for scholarships, is to share information, including life stories, about the LGBTQIA community and provide an opportunity for the audience to identify with those who are marginalized, Crespino added.

Since 2008, the UMKC Pride Breakfast has raised funds to support LGBTQIA students at UMKC. The breakfast benefits the LGBTQIA Leadership Scholarship and the Pride Empowerment Fund, which provides emergency assistance to students who are experiencing financial difficulty due to loss of family support. Over the past six years, nearly $88,000 has been raised at the Pride Breakfast.

UMKC has been ranked as one of the top 5 gay-friendly universities in the U.S. by Newsweek; Campus Pride, which rates universities on gay-friendliness, gives UMKC 4.5 of 5 stars; the Gay and Lesbian Archive of Mid-America is hosted by University Libraries; and UMKC hosted the 2014 Midwest Bisexual Lesbian Gay Transgender Ally College Conference.

The cost of the breakfast is $75 for an individual ticket; tables for the event are $750. To register, visit Pride Breakfast. If you have questions or need additional information, contact Joe Constantino or phone him at 816-235-5201.


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