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LUNCHES starting at
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545 West 9 Mile • Ferndale • 248-547-6699
t was still dark at 6:30 in the
morning on a brisk fall day in
New York City last October.
More than a year before its
debut on HBO, scenes for the cable
channel's film version of the acclaimed
1990s two-part play Angels in America
were about to be shot. Part 1,
Millennium Approaches, makes its TV
debut Sunday, Dec. 7, and Part 2,
Perestroika, debuts Sunday, Dec. 14.
Movie company trailers were lined up
near Washington Square Park in
Greenwich Village, and the crew had
already set up the lighting and props.
Actors Al Pacino, Emma Thompson,
Meryl Streep and Mary-Louise Parker
had completed their New York City on-
location scenes, and Ben Shenkman and
Justin Kirk were working on theirs.
That particular day, 50 or so extras
reported to the holding area at a nearby
building, and I was one of them. Hair
and make-up artists were on hand to
primp the extras.
It didn't take long before a production
assistant came to get us, and one-by-one
we were assigned to various stations
around the park. We were referred to as
"background," walking and quietly talking
behind and around the featured actors.
Shenkman, who plays a Jewish gay
man named Louis Ironson, was dressed
in a dark winter coat, and a frail looking
Kirk, who plays his ex-lover Prior
Walter, was draped in a black cape.
In the story, Louis and Prior have been
involved in a relationship, but when
Louis learns that Prior has AIDS, he
abandons him. A month has passed since
they have seen one another, and they are
about to be reunited in the park.
The scene was an emotional one, and
as Shenkman approached Kirk, I was
one of the few people assigned to walk
between them. Jewish director Mike
Nichols, sporting a cap and sitting on a
chair, was busy giving instructions.
The filming lasted nearly 12 hours,
with an hour off for lunch. Everyone,
including the extras, had to report
back to work the next day to corn-
Alice Burdick Schweiger is a New
York City-based freelance writer:
221 E. Washington Rd. • Ann Arbor • 734-998-4746
Open for Dinner Only • Hours -Sun 3-9, Mon-Thurs 5-9, Fri-Sat 4-11
NI ,.`";.1:1 Crthi:":K! 1::1flit:11,31;=,,,
Director Mike Nichols brings Pulitzer Prize-winning
playwright Tony Kushner's stage epic to HBO.
ALICE BURDICK SCHWEIGER
Special to the Jewish News
Best Middle Eastern Restaurant by the Jewish News Readers!
`Angels In America'
plete the scene.
"It was very emotional playing
Louis," says Shenkman, who originated
the Tony-nominated role of Hal in
Proofon Broadway opposite Mary-
Louise Parker. "Louis is a very high-
strung and conflicted guy and suffers a
lot over what he does. He can't find the
strength to stop what he's doing."
Angels in America, written by Jewish
playwright Tony Kushner, who also
penned the screenplay, was a
Ben Shenkman plays a Jewish gay man
who abandons his AIDS-afflicted lover.
Broadway phenomenon. Millennium
Approaches made its debut in 1993
and won four Tony Awards, including
Best Play. Part 2, Perestroika, debuted
in 1994 and won three Tonys, includ-
ing Best Play. Kushner won a Pulitzer
Prize for his efforts.
Set in the 1980s, Angels in America is
a drama about the AIDs epidemic and
the government indifference to the dis-
ease during the Reagan era. It also con-
fronts the larger sexual, racial, religious,
political and social issues facing America
during the Reagan years, issues of iden-
tity, history and truth, and spirituality.
The story centers on two couples, the
gay Prior and Louis, and lawyer Joe Pitt
(Patrick Wilson), a conservative
Mormon, and his wife Harper (Mary-
Louise Parker), a straight couple trapped
in a web of self-deception.
After he leaves the AIDs-afflicted Prior,
Louis ends up in a homosexual affair
with Joe, whose marriage to his valium-
addicted wife is dissolving. It's Joe's first