Elegies for Angels, Punks, and Raging Queens


book and lyrics by Bill Russell
music by Janet Hood


Elegies For Angels Punks and Raging Queens is a dramatic and musical theater piece composed of free verse poems and songs reflecting the lives of people who have lived with and died from AIDS. There are over 30 poems… touching, dramatic, humorous. Each poem represents a character who has died from AIDS. The songs reflect the feeling of the living… the people who have felt the loss of so many friends and loved ones. Elegies… can be performed with a small group of actors playing several roles each or with one actor for each character, as has been done in the majority or stagings.


Elegies for Angels, Punks and Raging Queens had two primary sources of inspiration. When the Names Project Quilt was first unveiled on the Washington Mall in October of 1987, I was overwhelmed by its power and presence. I was also very familiar with Edgar Lee Masters’ Spoon River Anthology, the collection of free verse epitaphs of deceased characters speaking from a cemetery in the fictional town of Spoon River, Illinois. Having written poetry for a number of years, primarily in my own style of free verse, I had the idea to attempt a Spoon River of AIDS with the Quilt replacing Masters’ cemetery as the cohesive metaphor. So I started writing monologues in the voices of characters who had died from AIDS, based on friends and acquaintances and stories I’d heard. I thought there were theatrical possibilities in the material and asked Janet Hood if she would be interested in collaborating on songs to accompany the monologues, in the way that Charles Aidman incorporated classic American folk songs into Spoon River when he adapted that piece for the stage in the 60’s.As the piece developed over a number of productions in New York and then London, we tried to broaden its scope to reflect the wide variety of people AIDS has affected. Because the piece is modular, rather than linear, I still continue to update it occasionally. But I don’t see Elegies… as a literal history of the epidemic — rather a more personal response to the incalculable loss so many have endured.

To my knowledge, the benefit we did on April 2, 2001, in New York had the largest cast ever assembled for this piece. That was most gratifying, as the amount of loss due to this plague is, after all, part of the point. Over the years, Elegies… has afforded Janet and me the opportunity to work with many extraordinary performers and the production represented by the New York benefit recording gave us the gift of 52 amazing people inhabiting our characters and songs – the memories of which we will cherish forever.



posted by admin on December 20, 2007, at 3:00 pm | 52 Comments »

52 Responses

  1. Derek Crawford Munn

    Hello Bill, you probably don’t remember me, but i was lucky enough, to be part of Elegies, in two Glasgow productions, in the 90’s
    This year sees the begining, of a somewhat new career for myself and my business partners, as we launch, our new production company, INcorporatedmedia. (web site up and running by the end of this month). I would very much like to get in touch with you again, regarding the possibilty of producing the show, for the Glasgow Gay theatre/film festival, which runs every october here in Scotland’s capitol city. I have always felt that Elegies needed to be restaged periodically, as a reminder to young men and women, both gay and straight, of the Huge impact the epedemic has made, and continues to make to all our lives, both in western society, and also more threateningly nowadays, in the third world. I hope you are well, and busy, and happy, and i look forward to hearing from you sometime in the future, even just to say hello? and to keep open an intercontinental theatrical highway open! Much Love from Scotland. Derek C Munn. “i went STRAIGHT to Christopher st, tucked my suitcase at my feet” (I WAS that cowboy!) D.x

  2. Vanessa Szilagyi

    Could you PLEASE PLEASE send me the lyrics to one of the songs in the show, i was hoping to use it for a school project about poetic form and while i was looking up elegies i found this and it meant a lot to me but i can’t find the lyrics anywhere and i don’t have time to order the play off the internet if you could that would be great but if not i totally understand

  3. michael mcdougall

    Whereas RENT was brash, obvious, musically dull and theatrically boring , “ELEGIES… ” was its’ anthitesis -poignant, incredibly moving and musically thrilling. The kind of theatre that, in its’ very simplicity, rocked its’ audience to their core.
    One of the most moving evenings of theatre I have experienced.

  4. Tash Holway

    Hi there,
    What a great musical; really touching and what a truly unique outlook on life.
    I recently sang My Brother Lived in San Francisco in a small concert and I just wondered if there is anyway you could give me any background information to the song. Who’s story it was and her character, it would help me add some depth to it and hopefully more of it’s originaly intended character to the next performance.

    This would be much appreciated,


  5. Matthew Meigs

    Hello, Mr. Russell!

    I have been listening to “And the Rain Keeps Falling Down” on youtube for the past six months, and I have been wanting to sing it. However, I cannot find the sheet music anywhere! If at all possible, could I buy the score or just the sheet music for this song from you? I would be forever in your debt.


  6. simone

    hi everybody! does some of you know what the”and the rain keeps falling down”‘s lyric says at “heaven seems to weep…….reason”.. I can’t undertand that word and I can’t find the lyric anywhere. thanx

  7. Jobe

    Hello, I have listened to the song LEARNING TO LET GO. I really like the song.. i wanted to sing it but, i cannot find the lyrics in the web… could you pls. send it to me… THANKS A LOT!!!

  8. Holly

    Hi, just discovered elegies and have fallen in love with the songs.
    Please could you send me the lyrics for learning to let go, as this is my favourite song at the moment!!!
    Thank you.

  9. Nicola


    Please could you send me the lyrics for ‘Angels, Punks and Raging Queens’ ? It’s urgent! I can’t find them anywhere! Thank You!

  10. Keven Renken

    How can one get the rights to do “Elegies for Angels, Punks and Raging Queens”? I am interested in directing it if possible. I can also be reached at my work email – renken@pcsb.org. Thanks!

  11. Eva


    Could you please send me the lyrics for “And the rain keeps falling down”, of “Angels, Punks and Raging Queens”?
    I can’t find them anywhere!!
    Thanks in advance.

  12. Lily

    I’m really interested in getting a hold of the score and scripted monolgues for ‘elegies for angels, punks and raging queens’. How do I??
    I’ve got the CD on order on amazon but can’t find anything else!
    Thanks. :)

  13. Sophie

    Hey, I’m singing My Brother Lived in San Francisco and after looking everywhere i can’t find any background information so please could you give me some :)

    thank you

  14. Amarra Smith

    Hi i really like the song ‘I Don’t Know How To Help You’ and i would love to sing it for one of my Drama School auditions. May i have the lyrics?

  15. rebecca lawrence

    i just want to say that elegies is my favourite musical, it was very poignant and touched me deeply, especially seen as i saw it witha friend who had lost his partner of 12 years through aids. I saw omars production at the bridewell london for the terrance higgins trust in about 2002. As an actress i thought it was a fantastic well written production. i bought the bridewell soundtrack including monologues/poems on the cd but i lost it so i bought the original but it didnt have the poems on and i want to get hold of them and the sheet music if possible. Does dress circle in covent garden sell it? I want to thank you for inspiring my days by writing elegies, i play it in the car on ,y way to work to put me in a good mood and so i can enjoy being thoughtful and reflective. If you could point me in the right direction re purchasing the poems on cd or buying them and sheet music in a book i’d be eternally greatful, thanks again and janet’s input is equally incredible x rebecca lawrence.

  16. Erika

    Hi Mr. Russell,

    I would love love loooove to sing “I Don’t Know How To Help You” in a cabaret this week at Carnegie Mellon University. How can I buy the sheet music ASAP? I appreciate your help, and I really enjoy this show and all the poetry on this site. Thanks again!

  17. Efty

    My partner is a keen singer and has fallen in love with your Elegies play. Where can I find or purchase the lyrics for the song ‘My brother lived in San Francisco’?

    It’s her birthday soon and I would love to try to sing it to her.

    Best wishes

  18. Alice

    My daughter has fallen in love with “I Don’t Know How To Help You”, watching a Carnegie Mellon student on youtube. We ordered the play from Samuel French, and the original cast recording from Amazon, but have not had luck finding the sheet music. Please let me know if it is available, and where to purchase. She is a student at High School for the Performing and Visual Arts in Houston, collects very seriously, and is anxious to add this to her repertoire. Thank you for your help.

  19. aimee.

    I was just wondering if there was anyway possible that the sheet music for this show could be bought anywhere. I would love the whole score but if not then ‘Celebrate’ and ‘I don’t know how to help you’ are favourites of mine. I was going to attempt to sing those songs for my GCSE music performances as i have been told they would get really good marks.

  20. Ellen Broughtworth

    Hi there,
    Having heard the song ‘I don’t know how to help you’ on youtube last year, I have spent countless hours searching websites and stores for the sheet music. I sang ‘my brother lived in san francisco’ in a recent production and found the lyrics were beautiful and worked wonderfully to move the audience. However, I have still had no luck in finding the initial song that sparked my interest into ‘elegies..’ and I am writing to ask if there is any way I can get hold of the sheet music for this piece. I would really appriciate a responce, as i wish so much to be able to sing it. Thankyou

  21. Kathy

    Hi – just like everyone else, I’m looking for sheet music from Elegies for Angels Punks and Raging Queens. I love this show! I first heard of it years ago, when I was looking into making a panel for my cousin for the Quilt. Then, I recently heard it again from a random YT search. I’d really like to find a couple of songs. Specifically, I need “I Don’t Know How to Help You” , “Celebrate”, and “My Brother Lived in San Francisco”. Can you tell me where I can find, purchase, borrow, beg, or plead a copy of the sheet music?

  22. Jessica Pardoe

    Hi, I was wondering if there is anyway I can get hold of the sheet music for ‘My brother lived in San Francisco’ and ‘I dont know how to help you’ because i would really love to sing them for a concert? thank you, Jessica

  23. Drew Brady

    I saw an amateur production of ‘Elegies’ last night and have never been so touched by a ‘musical’ in my life.

    I was only a child when AIDS first surfaced and have grown up with all the warnings etc but it’s become almost accepted as just a part of life. ‘Elegies’ really brings home how frightening and world changing this period of history was.

    Thank you for opening my mind and making me a better, more understanding person. Some of the stories and songs will stay with me for life.

  24. Amy

    Hey Bill,
    im in my final year of studying musical theatre and have to do a 5 minute performance based on a musical. I would LOVE to base it on Elegies as it feels very personal and have had to deal with such issues but cant seem to find any of the scripted monologues anywhere and was wondering how to go about it. It would be great if you could point me in the right direction.
    Thank you

  25. emily

    hey… was just wondering where i could get the lyrics for ” i dont know how to help you” is a lovely song and would like to use it in my auditions for uni (musical theatre) thankies :)

  26. Sarah!


    I saw a video of “learning to let go” that was sung by a group of scouts from Cardiff and i’ve absoloutly fallen in love with it!
    Please would you be kind enough to send me the lyrics of the song and maybe even an instrumental version of the song.
    I wish i could see the whole peice :(

    its amazing, thankyou!

  27. blair bowman

    hey bill!

    i’m gearing up for musical theatre college auditions this spring, and would REALLY like to use “and the rain keeps falling down” as one of my pieces.
    i’d be totally willing to pay for it via paypal, should you request. it just feels like the right piece for me, you know?

    thanks so much! i loove forward to hearing back from you.

  28. Drew James

    Hi All,

    I really love the song ” And the rain keeps falling down” it would be so good to have a little bit more of an understanding of who this is written about, when i sing it i want it to really mean something to me and to the audience.

    Thank you for such a fab musical! I love the song “My bother lived in San Francisco”


  29. Stephan Puterbaugh


    I have fallen in love with the song “And the Rain Keeps Falling Down” from the show Elegies. I am sure you get this all the time but I am looking for the sheet music…if possible…so I can sing it. I hope to hear from you soon. Thank you for your time.
    Stephan Puterbaugh

  30. Kayleigh Knox

    I performed this for my end of year production when I left College last year! I love it!The songs are out of this world, and the monolougues are so varied! You spill your guts laughing one minute, then you’re trying to hold in your tears the next! It is really well written! Without a doubt, one fo the best performances I have ever had the honour of taking part in! A real Jewel of a piece! :)

  31. John

    Mr. Russell,

    I must first say how deeply touched I am by this show. It is powerful, moving, and emotionally evocative. The raw and vulnerable human soul that you are able to beautifully uncover in each poem and song is most remarkable. Thank you for such a creation.

    I am interested in collaborating with a friend to put on a cabaret-like event with HIV and AIDS as the core theme/focus. I was wondering if you could point me in the right direction to order the sheet music for this show, as I think a couple of the songs would be completely perfect for it.

    Thank you again,

  32. andrea kane

    Hi Bill-I was in Elegies in Provincetown,Ma in the early 90s, and it was a wonderful, touching experience. Where can I get a copy of the script? I’d love to share it with some of my positive friends here in Kansas City, MO. Thank you for such beauty. XO Andrea

  33. Allison Newsom

    Hi, Mr. Russell –

    I am also interested in finding out how one would obtain the rights for Elegies. We are wanting to do a concert-version of the show as a one-night only fundraiser for the AIDS foundation where I live. All proceeds will go to the foundation, so we are limited on what we could pay. What would you recommend?

    Thank you,


  34. Amy Poole

    Hey, I love these songs so much, i really want to sing Angels punks and raging queens for my Performing arts A Level Exam but I can’t find the lyrics anywhere, i would really appreciate it if you could send me a copy or just point me in the right direction.

  35. Cécile

    Hey everyone!

    Has anybody got a Playback, Karaoke Version of Angels Punks and Raging Queens?

    Can’t finde it anywhere!

    I would be so happy, if you could send it to me!


  36. Scott

    Dear Mr. Russell~
    Have you ever thought about providing free rights to this show, say on national AIDS remembrence/awareness day, much the way Eve Ensler does for Vagina Monologues for VDay? Just a thought as it would really get this wonderful show out to more folks. Thank you!

  37. We’re on Xmas break « GOSSIP Galway

    […] song, “Angels, Punks and Raging Queens”, from the wonderful theatre piece “Elegies For Angels Punks and Raging Queens” which is about the lives of people who have lived with and died from […]

  38. rita king

    I am doing an audition and have been asked to get the music sheet for the song And the Rain keeps falling down from Elegies for Angels, punks. I cant seem to find it anywhere. Can you please help.

  39. Meg

    Hi, I recently was in a production of Elegies.
    It was done through the local Youth Centre of my town, and was open for anyone between 13-17.
    We got brilliant press, and whilst watching my fellow actors I was moved by the simple and yet clear message that this show portrayed.
    I played the part of the drug addict and sung Angels Punks and Raging Queens. I got a resounding applause because of the amazing song and beautiful lyrics.
    I just want to thank you for creating such a wonderful show to perform in and to watch.

  40. Stephen Craig

    Dear Mr Russell.
    I love the piece And the Rain Keeps Falling Down from Elegies. Is there anyway you could email my new address and let me know how I can purchase the sheet music from you. My other account is down and not working and I know you contacted me and let me know how to on that one but I no longer have the email. I look forward to hearing from you soon.
    Stephan Craig Puterbaugh.

  41. john katon(James Hardinge-Cornwall

    Hi Bill am hoping to perform “Laerning” at an open mic next week, Finger Legs and everything else crossed, LOL Hope all is well with you and Bruce? John K )0(

  42. Tori Brown

    How could I obtain the sheet music for “Celebrate”? I’ve been searching high and low with absolutely no luck at all.

  43. Julia

    I want to sing “I don’t know how to help you” in my auditions and I can’t find the sheet music anywhere! Do you have it? Many thanks

  44. Paul Griffiths

    Hi Bill,
    I am a Theatre Manager from England and I’d just like to say how much I enjoy Elegies For Angels Punks and Raging Queens.

    What a fantastic creation. I can’t stop listening to it, so emotional and so powerful.

    Thank you so much!

  45. Katie

    Hello Mr Russell,

    I am a student performing Elegies in my college performance in two month. I absolutely love the play it is very moving and the songs are fantastic. While we are not performing all of the songs in Elegies, my class really want to perform ‘Learning to Let Go’ would you please send me a copy of the sheet music as we need the score in order to perform the song we would all really appreciate it.

    Thank you


  46. Jim Mura

    Hi Bill, I am a big fan of your work and am really excited to see The Last Smoker in America. Anyway, I was wondering how to go about getting royalties for “Elegies.” I would really love to perform it with my theater company and I can’t seem to find a way to produce it.
    Thank you,

  47. dave morrison

    Mr. Russell;

    Tried to email to you via the website, but received an “error” message.

    Skagit Valley College in Mt. Vernon, WA will be taking ELEGIES to the Edinburgh Fringe in 2014. We just saw a production of it in Edinburgh last month. I noticed the script we saw is different from the script Samuel French sold the college. Is there any way we can get the updated script? Or at least a couple of the updated monologues?

    In addition, we would love to get some autographed material from the creators of the show that we could use for fundraising (scripts, headshots, PR material). These would be used by the college ONLY and used to help fund the trip. Is this something you would be interested in helping with?

    Thanks for a great show. (I have performed in this show twice, so when we needed a “minimalistic” show to travel with, I jumped at the chance to direct it.)

    I appreciate your time. Be safe. Have a good one.

    Dave Morrison
    actor/director/adjunct faculty at Skagit Valley College: dave.morrison@skagit.edu

  48. Rachael Bird

    Hi Bill,
    After recently discovering Elegies and purchasing the Album, i simply cannot get those songs out of my head! What a beautiful score!!
    I particularly love “My Brother Lived In San Fransisco” and would love to get hold of the sheet music to use for upcoming drama school auditions. Is there any chance you could let me know how I might go about doing this?

    Many thanks, Rachael

  49. Elegies For Angels, Punks and Raging Queens | Medizinportal

    […] Elegies auf Bill Russells Webseite […]

  50. Hannah

    Hi Bill

    I know this is a long shot, but we are producing your fabulous show Elegies for Angels Punks and Raging Queens as part of the Manchester Gay Pride event this year and wanted to invite you to watch our show if you were by any chance in the country. The show plays 20th-24th August and is produced by Side by Side Productions- a theatre company set up to produce fringe theatre and bring gems such as this show to Manchester, with some of the best talent in the North West.

    Anyway, we would be delighted to offer you complimentary tickets for a performance of your choice; please let me know if we can arrange some tickets for you- it really would be our honour.

    Best wishes,

    Side by Side Productions
    Manchester, UK

  51. Amber


    I have been searching the internet for it but am struggling to find the piano/vocal score for ‘I don’t know to help you’ and would love to sing it!

    I would really appriciate it if I could purchase the sheet music?

    Thanks so much!

  52. bill

    Hi amber,
    I’d be happy to send the music for “I don’t know how to help you” … If you send $8.00 US to my paypal account: billboyruss@aol.com I’ll email you a PDF of the music … If you’d like a hard copy by mail I have to charge $10.00 US …



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