‘Hedwig’ headlines the Egyptian Theatre
June 5, 2012
The film "Hedwig and the Angry Inch" screened at the Egyptian Theatre during the 2001 Sundance Film Festival.
The flick, directed by John Cameron Mitchell, won the festival’s best director and audience awards that year.
"Hedwig" will return to the Egyptian Theatre to begin run on Friday, June 8, but not in film form. Instead, the Plan-B Theatre Company will present the glam-rock musical, written by Mitchell and Stephen Trask, which served as the basis for the film.
The story follows Hedwig Schmidt, a transsexual who has suffered a botched sex-change operation, as she stalks a former protégé named Tommy Gnosis on his rock tour.
Plan-B director Jerry Rapier said he is looking forward to the Egyptian Theatre’s performances.
"It’s kismet that we get to perform the play here because I saw the film here, so it’s kind of fun to be doing the musical play," Rapier said during an interview with The Park Record. "The Egyptian’s manager Randy (Barton) wanted us to bring the show up last year and it didn’t work out."
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Presenting the show this year also feels more organic it marks the 10th anniversary since it made its Plan-B debut in Salt Lake City.
"We had one of the biggest auditions we had ever had and the play was the most successful show in our history," Rapier said. "There is something universal about this crass, strangely complicated glam-rock musical. Who would think that one of the most universal characters that we would have on stage in one of our productions is this genderless mess?
"I think everybody, like these characters, want to find their soul mates," Rapier said. "They want to find those people they feel completes them. I think it’s hard to see the show and not see some of yourself in Hedwig."
Actor Aaron Swenson saw himself in the title role of Hedwig.
"Everyone who comes to the show has felt in one way or another that some of their choices has been taken from them in a real way, like some of the choices in Hedwig’s life," Swenson said.
Even at the auditions, it was obvious how much Swenson wanted the role, Rapier said.
"His audition was on a different level than the others," Rapier said. "He came in and sang ‘The Origin of Love’ and even after all the years I had known him, I had never seen Aaron in a dress."
The main difference between the film and the live show is the production’s perspective.
"The musical is basically Hedwig’s cabaret act," Rapier explained. "This is her grungy show she throws together anywhere she can get a space nearby where her former flame Tommy Gnosis’ is playing his tour.
"It’s all seen through Hedwig’s eyes and the audience can decide how cloudy that lens is," he said.
The only character that isn’t seen through Hedwig’s warped psychosis is band member Yitzhak, her aspiring queen, drag boyfriend.
"There is a lot more to Yitzhak in the play than there is in the film," Rapier said. "The presence and energy between him and Hedwig is constant, even though Yitzhak only says about 10 words throughout the play."
"There is always some kind of dialog, whether it comes from me actively ignoring her or her actively shunning me," Swenson said.
Latoya Rhodes, who plays Yitzhak, said she wanted to make sure her rendition of the character was three-dimensional.
"I tried to find a nice balance between the anger, suppression and love that is there," Rhodes said. "There is a reason why Yitzhak is still with Hedwig, and I try to play with that realm between hatred and love."
"The horrible, dysfunctional way that these two characters fit together as a couple is completely different than the way they fit together as performers of the cabaret act," Rapier said. "No matter what is going on between them, once the music starts, the audience can see exactly what connects them, and that transcends their (crap)."
Swenson, who has played Hedwig three times, said he feels more comfortable taking on the role this year than in the past.
"I’ve had time to settle into who I really am, which was something I hadn’t done when I first played the role," he said. "The cool thing about revisiting the show is that I have to bring so much of myself into the role. I have to take stock of where I’m at in my own life. It’s kind of narcissistic, but I’ve been able to watch myself grow up in this show."
Part of that was embracing his homosexuality.
"There was a time in my life, being a young gay person growing up in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, I was reaching adulthood, but had no sense of what the milestones were going to be," he said. "All the milestones I had set for myself that would tell me that I had arrived were gone. So, there was nothing to measure myself against that would tell me when I became a man. Somewhere between the second time we presented this production and now, I realized I feel more settled. Not because I feel like a man, but because I feel like an adult and that has been an incredibly liberating thing for me."
The dialogue about gender roles isn’t as far removed from people’s thoughts, as it was when Plan-B first presented "Hedwig and the Angry Inch," Rapier said
"I’m hard pressed to find people who don’t have opinions, one way or another, about gay marriage today," he said. "It’s exciting to see this rock musical that seems to be a good time in the theatre, but find is more pertinent than before. I think it helps people to have conversations that may not otherwise."
"Hedwig and The Angry Inch" will open at the Egyptian Theatre, 328 Main St., on Friday, June 8, at 8 p.m., and will run June 9, 5 p.m. and 8 p.m., June 10, 6 p.m., June 14, 15 and 16, 8 p.m. and June 17, 6 p.m. Tickets range from $20 to $30. For more information and tickets, visit http://www.parkcityshows.com .