Jim Fisher, head of UNCG’s Department of Theatre, admires Tony Kushner’s uncanny ability to “discuss the undiscussable.” That’s part of Kushner’s richness as a playwright, says Fisher, author of the new book “Kushner in an Hour.”

    “Whatever you think his next play is going to be, it’s not,” Fisher says. “He’s going to surprise you. It’s going to be big and challenging, and about things that matter.”

    Fisher, who wrote several earlier books on Kushner, authored the new guide to Kushner’s plays to give theatergoers and theater students a quick overview of Kushner’s works, themes and style. Part of the “In an Hour” series published by Smith and Kraus and introduced by critic Robert Brustein, the book wets the reader’s whistle for Kushner’s plays rather than sum up plots or substitute for the theater experience.

    “It’s something that can add to the experience but not replace it,” Fisher says. “The goal is to enhance the playgoer’s experience, to point them to other works by the writer.”

    Kushner, an openly gay self-described socialist, is best known for his two-part epic “Angels in America.” He engages hard-hitting political and social themes like homosexuality, distribution of wealth in America and gender roles.

    Kushner’s plays include “Caroline, or Change,” “Homebody/Kabul,” and more recently the Arthur Miller-influenced “The Intelligent Homosexual’s Guide to Capitalism and Socialism with a Key to the Scriptures.” He wrote the screenplay for Steven Spielberg’s upcoming film about Abraham Lincoln.

    Kushner has a wealth of knowledge encompassing the classics, history and art, Fisher says. “He’s a playwright who really loves the theater, and he’s something of a lightning rod because he discusses the undiscussable. I think that’s the source of his greatness as an artist — He’s willing to go into those places the rest of us don’t think we want to hear about but need to. I’m lucky to know him.”

    Fisher is the author of numerous books, including “Understanding Tony Kushner,” “We Will be Citizens: New Essays on Gay and Lesbian Theatre,” and “In an Hour” guides to Thornton Wilder, Arthur Miller and Eugene O’Neill.