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Angels in America - Love and Friendship in Times of AIDS

by our Editors in Media & entertainment , 15 maart 2015

Dit artikel is ook in het Nederlands beschikbaar

Toneelgroep Oostpool will perform the world famous “Angels in America” by Tony Kushner in Dutch theaters from March 10 until June 6, 2015. A production about love and friendship beyond the boundaries of race, religion and ideology. “Angels in America” is about the difficult process of adaptation and the importance of compassion in a powerful plea for humanity.

“Angels in America” is set in the turbulent USA of the 1980s, the Reagan period in which fear reigned supreme. Fear of politics, society and each other, but also for the relatively new AIDS virus. All characters have to deal with disease and misfortune, but the leads are extreme opposites in the way they are dealing with this.

Those who know the piece are aware of the fact that there can be no greater opposites than the characters Roy Cohn and Prior Walter. Remarkably, they never meet on stage. That is why we brought actors Jacob Derwig (Roy Cohn) and Roy Baltus (Prior Walter) together at the beginning of the rehearsal period for a talk about “Angels in America.”

Roy, you have played the Prior role before when you were at the Toneelschool in Arnhem. Why did you accept this part again?

Roy: “I think that Prior is one of the best parts there are. He goes through so much during the play, and so do you as an actor. From the start of his illness to fighting for his life. When I played the part a few years ago, it felt like a roller-coaster of emotions and events. Everything is happening to him. Now I’m presented with another opportunity to make the character even more layered. For instance, by focusing more on his sense of humor. And of course I’m very proud that I can start this quest with a group of such strong actors.”

And Jacob, you’re playing Roy Cohn, who’s described in the play as the worst person ever. Do you like playing the bad guy? How do you keep a bad man human?

Jacob: “If I succeed in creating a sort of demonic presence for Cohn, while the spectator does feel for him, I would be very proud. The part must still open itself up to me, but I can imagine that you should not play him as the bad guy, he should not become one-dimensional. Marcus and I have prioritized the most important character traits and build from there. Kushner has done a good job, so we should be able to come a long way.”

The story is set in the winter of 1985/1986 in New York. Jacob, what were you doing at the time? Was AIDS something that was a topic?

Jacob: “I was sixteen, attended secondary school in a boring town, and I kissed my first girlfriend. I was listening to music by Japan and David Sylvian, The Cure and The Simple Minds. I was a little bit ‘alternative,’ black clothes, long coat. At school dances, everyone was dancing ‘in themselves’ so to speak. AIDS did not exist, and there were no gays in town. At least, I did not know them. Homosexuality was still a taboo.”

For Prior Walter, his homosexuality is completely normal and natural. Can you imagine what it means to still be “in the closet”?

Roy: “No, I felt so lonely and unattractive! When I went to a gay bar for the first time and people were paying attention to me, it meant so much. I was seen for the first time. But I literally had to be pulled out of the closet. Even though I was in an optimal environment at the academy of dramatic art, I found it extremely difficult. You keep telling yourself that people will start treating you differently when you would tell, but in the end it is a great relief. That you don’t have to feel the loneliness you felt. I still do not dare to walk hand in hand with my boyfriend. So as normal and natural as Prior’s homosexuality is, it still does not feel like that to me. In public, I am perhaps still a bit in the closet.”

Tony Kushner was very surprised that his “American” play became such a success worldwide. What is the universal appeal?

Jacob: “Universal is the theme of man trying to live with himself, with his sexuality and his mortality. They are all wonderful characters, and I noticed that the one thing they all have is courage. They are brave. Each character confronts life with a kind of nerve and their own sense of humor.”

“Angels in America” by Toneelgroep Oostpool is in Dutch theaters from March 10 to June 6, 2015. Besides Roy Baltus and Jacob Derwig, the cast includes Mary Kraakman, Teun Luijkx, Kirsten Mulder, Rick Paul Mulligen, Bianca van der Schoot and Vincent van der Valk.
See for more information and ticket sales.



In the New Issue of Gay News, 321, May 2018

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