Elegies for Angels, Punks and Raging Queens

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Elegies For Angels, Punks and Raging Queens
Music Janet Hood
Lyrics Bill Russell
Book Bill Russell
Basis Inspired by the NAMES Project AIDS Memorial Quilt and Edgar Lee Masters' Spoon River Anthology
Productions 1989 Ohio Theatre, NYC
1990 Off-off Broadway
1993 West End
2001 New York City Concert
2014 New York City

Elegies For Angels, Punks and Raging Queens is a song cycle with music by Janet Hood and lyrics and additional text by Bill Russell. The work features songs and monologues inspired by the NAMES Project AIDS Memorial Quilt and Edgar Lee Masters' Spoon River Anthology. Each of the monologues is written from the perspective of characters who've died from AIDS and the songs represent the feelings of friends and family members dealing with the loss.

The piece was developed in the late 1980s and was originally titled "The Quilt." It was produced first at the Ohio Theatre in Soho in NYC in 1989, where the new title was adopted, and then again Off-off-Broadway in Manhattan's East Village in February 1990. In 1992, it was produced at the King's Head Theatre in London, where it played for several months. In June 1993, the production was transferred to the Criterion Theatre in London's West End, where it played until July of the same year.[1] The London cast included Miquel Brown, Kim Criswell, Kwame Kwei-Armah, James Dreyfus, Simon Fanshawe and legendary drag queen Regina Fong.

"Elegies" was again performed in New York City on April 2, 2001 in the Haft Theatre at the Fashion Institute of Technology as a benefit for the Momentum AIDS Project. The cast for that performance included numerous well known performers including Alice Ripley, Emily Skinner, Brian d'Arcy James, Christopher Durang, Mario Cantone, Joe Piscopo and Norm Lewis.[2] The concert was recorded, and the soundtrack was released by Fynsworth Alley in 2001.

On December 1, 2008, there was a West End Gala performance of the show at Soho Revue Bar, produced by Rebel Theatre and directed by Simon Pollard. The cast included Anna Chancellor, David Bedella, Leanne Jones, Les Dennis, Adele Anderson and Debbie Chazen. All proceeds from the performance went to the UK charity Terence Higgins Trust.[3]

In addition to the New York and London productions of the piece, there have been professional productions in Australia, Germany and Israel, among other countries.[4]

In Ireland, the premiere production in Northern Ireland was on 30 August 2010 at The Black Box in Belfast. The production featured a cast of 35 actors and singers, including a special video appearance by Graham Norton. A cast recording was released on 14 December 2010.[5] All profits from the production and the recording were donated to the Rainbow Project. The premiere production in the Republic of Ireland was in September 2010 and was produced by Limerick's Bottom Dog Theatre Company.[6]

Elegies for Angels, Punks and Raging Queens was revised and performed at Kansas University in early 2013.

The performance piece was again produced in New York City by Marymount Manhattan College in January of 2014.[7] With a cast consisting of over 40 current students, recent alumni, and distinguished faculty, and helmed by Tony Award-nominated book writer and lyricist Bill Russell and music director Paul Jacobs (composer), the song and poetry cycle played 4 total performances (1 preview and 3 regular performances) at the National Dance Institute in Harlem. This production marks the first time that the show was used as an educational course for students. After auditions were held and the piece was cast, it was announced that students would be able to earn credit towards their degrees provided they followed the course outline in the syllabus, which included daily reflections in the form of journals, analysis of poetry from Edgar Lee Masters' Spoon River Anthology, extensive research on differing topics pertaining to HIV/AIDS, and a small, formal writing assignment at the end of the production process.

In May of 2014, the piece was performed by student actors at the Liverpool Institute for Performing Arts. Each actor played multiple parts and the performance was staged in the round.

It was performed at the Criterion Theatre in London's West End on Sunday 31st May 2015 to raise money for the MAD Trust, with a cast including Joanna Riding.

Songs From The Show[edit]

  1. Angels, Punks And Raging Queens
  2. I'm Holding On To You
  3. And The Rain Keeps Falling Down
  4. I Don't Do That Anymore
  5. I Don't Know How To Help You
  6. Celebrate
  7. Heroes All Around [*]
  8. Spend It While You Can
  9. My Brother Lived In San Francisco
  10. Learning To Let Go
  11. Love You [*]

[*] The 2013 Kansas University revision does not include "Heroes All Around" or "Love You".


See also[edit]