Angels Among Us

I can use the play Angels in America to practically chart my tenure at this magazine. In 1995, one of the first pieces I had a hand in editing was "Angels in Our Town," by Andrea Cooper. It detailed how the artistic community was confronting the issue of AIDS. The hook for the story was Charlotte Repertory Theatre's upcoming production of Tony Kushner's Pulitzer-winning Angels in America: A Gay Fantasia on National Themes.

It's amazing to think of now, but that one piece of theatre created waves that are still felt today in this community. Perry Tannenbaum's story "Angels and Demons," page 59, recaps the controversy, which included the usual suspects of the religious right, protestors, posturing politicians, and TV cameras.

In 2001, two years after I become editor-in-chief, we put together a package of stories to commemorate this magazine's thirty-fifth anniversary. We chose thirty-five moments in the previous thirty-five years that had changed this city. One of them was the production of Angels in America. We asked Keith Martin, who was producing director of Charlotte Rep (which has since given up the ghost) at the time, to recount the uproar from his perspective. You can read that piece, as well as the other thirty-four moments and Andrea Cooper's story on our Web site.

And now, we've come full circle. This month, Actor's Theatre of Charlotte will produce Southern Rapture, a play it commissioned from nationally renowned playwright Eric Coble. The piece makes a comedy out of the 1996 flap over Angels. The original blowup  was as much about appearances as anything else. It touched off a vigorous debate about arts funding. Charlotte was angry. Not about the play, but about how opposition to the play made us look. Voters turned out four offending county commissioners, effectively ending their political careers. But for years, arts groups, including Actors Theatre, were afraid to produce works that might be deemed incendiary. And now we're prepared to laugh about the whole thing, with a play that itself might include -- the horror! -- male frontal nudity. That's progress.

It might seem counter-intuitive to proclaim "the nonprofits are now in charge," as we do on our cover and 80 of this issue. After all, nonprofits rely on the largesse of donors, and folks aren't feeling particularly generous these days. But that's exactly why we think that Charlotte's nonprofit leaders are playing an extremely important role in the city right now: because no one else is. While we're all discussing the state of affairs over our kitchen tables, the folks at Foundation for the Carolinas and the Charlotte Chamber and other organizations are thinking about getting this city on track.

You can consider the feature "Attention Charlotte: The Nonprofits Are Now in Charge," a two-part challenge. One, to the nonprofits themselves. We need them now. It would easy and tempting to hunker down and wait for donations to start flowing again. Many local groups have had to make the same difficult job cuts that their corporate partners have. But they shouldn't do it. Now is a great opportunity to focus on true needs, whether it is affordable housing, education, inspiration through the arts, or race relations, and deliver.

The second part of the challenge is to you. Yes, times are tough. Yes, now seems like a good time to take care of number one and let your neighbor look out for herself. But our nonprofit community organizations need your support, whether it is your time, your talent, or your money. For a list of ideas of where to volunteer or donate, visit our Web site.

Coming next month: It's time for the BOB Awards! Plus, a coda for NASCAR?

Categories: Editor’s Note, Opinion, The Buzz