CHARLOTTE — Actor’s Theatre of Charlotte is staging an encore presentation of “Hedwig and the Angry Inch,” a groundbreaking glam-rock musical that has garnered national and international recognition.
Scott Ripley stars as Hedwig in ‘Hedwig and the Angry Inch.’
The powerful show chronicles the tour of an East German rock group and their anatomically challenged lead singer, Hedwig Schmidt, who undergoes a sex-change operation so he can marry his American GI boyfriend and escape to the West.
After Schmidt’s operation is botched and she is left stranded in a trailer park in Kansas, the German rock and roll goddess forms a band, the Angry Inch — read the beginning of this sentence again and think about it — and sets out for fame and retribution.
Critically lauded, “Hedwig and the Angry Inch” won an Obie Award and the NY Outer Critics Circle Award.
“Hedwig” co-author John Cameron Mitchell was born in El Paso, Texas, as the son of a retired U.S. Army Major General and a Scottish mother. He is notable not just for having co-written the smash hit but also for playing the title role of Hedwig in both the off-Broadway and film incarnations.
In an interview with PopMatters, Mitchell expanded on his creation.
“I wanted Hedwig’s world to be one where identification and categories are fluid, changing, and confusing, as they are, really, in life. You know, coming out as a gay man, it was very much about finding my own identity and dealing with labeling,” Mitchell offered. “I quickly found that I didn’t really fit into ‘gay culture,’ as identified by many gay people.
“I’ve learned a lot about definitions. Most post-op transsexuals are straight! And those people who never felt gay, change their sex, and find now that the only people who accept them are maybe a gay community, and they don’t feel gay, and have never gone through the same feelings that a gay kid might have,” he continues. “So, the way I tried to help the piece express some of that fluidity is to have a woman play Hedwig’s husband, the back-up singer. And she doesn’t play a transsexual; she plays a man who wants to dress as a woman, which some people find confusing. They wonder: what’s the point of that? There isn’t a point. It disorients people and allows you to enter a world, where Hedwig is disoriented too.”
“Hedwig” co-author and lyricist Stephan Trask is also recognized as an original member of Squeezebox and has performed with such musicians as Debbie Harry, Lene Lovitch, Hole, Green Day, Joey Ramone and many of New York’s popular drag queens.
Trask talked about his thoughts regarding “Hedwig” in an interview with movieweb.com.
“I think a lot of people identify with [‘Hedwig’]. I think why gay people might identify with it is the notion that four thousand years ago, there were gay people,” Trask offered. “I think that really thrills people. The way it describes how love feels. It’s four thousand years old, and it still feels like this? People are like, ‘Yeah, that’s how it feels when you’re in love, or you have a crush. Or when you’re looking for somebody.’ That’s such a good description. That you’ve been ripped apart from somebody. To know that people have been feeling this way for such a long time. They’re like, ‘Wow.’ It’s not just reading about someone who felt something yesterday, and going, ‘Hmm, yeah, I identify with that person.’ Here, you think, ‘Oh, wow! This is like billions of people for thousands of years that have felt like this.’”
Creative Loafing’s Theatre Person of the Year, Scott Ripley (“I Am My Own Wife”), stars as Hedwig, with newcomer Christy Johnson as the aforementioned crossdressing Yitzak.
Returning in the band are Jeff Lynds on drums, Chip Decker on bass, Jeremy DeCarlos (“Natural Selection,” “Take Me Out”) on guitar, Ryan Stamey (“The Great American Trailer Park Musical”) on keyboard and Troy Conn on lead guitar.
Charlotte theatre mainstay Billy Ensley, who originated the role of Hedwig with Actor’s Theatre, directs the show this go-round.
Times for “Hedwig and the Angry Inch” are Wednesday, Aug. 8 at 8 p.m., and Thursdays through Saturdays, Aug. 9-25 at 8 p.m., with additional 11 p.m. performances on Saturdays. Tickets are $28 and available now by calling the box office at 704-342-2251 or online at www.actorstheatrecharlotte.org. Group, senior and student rates are available.
info: Actor’s Theatre of Charlotte, 650 E. Stonewall St.