In Designing for Live Performance this week, we read “Hedwig and the Angry Inch” and were tasked with answering the questions in Elinor Fuch’s “Visit to a Small Planet: Some Questions to Ask a Play.” Here goes…
I. THE WORLD OF THE PLAY: FIRST THINGS FIRST.
The space of this world is interior; it takes place on stage using a “recycled” Broadway set. The time is real time. It’s a performance, but it goes in and out of memories that span several years. The mood is big, theatrical, attention seeking.
The dressing room is the unseen place in this play. It’s the place where the characters are outside of the public eye. It’s where they can be seen without their showy outfits and makeup—where they are most vulnerable.
The music is people-pleasing, Broadway music.
II. THE SOCIAL WORLD OF THE PLAY: A CLOSER LOOK
This is a public world—it’s a performance. There is one central figure with a few supporting actors. The figures are exaggerated. They are very concerned with appearance. The language of this planet is song. The songs are either monologues or duets.
III. WHAT CHANGES?
There are two levels of changes, what is happening on stage and what is happening in Hedwig’s life as told through her memories. In Hedwig’s memories, Hedwig begins as a boy, has a sex change operation in the middle of the play, and is a woman at the end.
On stage, Hedwig wears the wig at the opening, while at the closing Yitzhak does. In the center of the play, as the Berlin Wall falls, Hedwig, in her memories, rips her wig off and throws it. The wig plays an important role throughout the play. Depending on the moment it can be either a sign of freedom or of repression.
From the beginning to the end of the play, Hedwig finds some self-forgiveness, and as a result some freedom and self love. The personal struggle remains constant.
This world does not change. It has shifted slightly for two people, but the environment remains difficult. The underlying problems have not been solved.
IV. DON’T FORGET YOURSELF
This plays asks me, the viewer, to witness the lives of those living at the fringes of society—immigrants (people trying to find a better future), and LGBTQ people. But more than that, it asks me to consider what humans, all humans, are seeking through their search for love.
V. THEATRICAL MIRRORS
For me, this world speaks to the dramatic world of Rent. They are both Broadway shows that give windows into people living on the fringes of society in the U.S. It also speaks to me a bit of Chicago for its theatrical showgirlyness.
VI. THE CHARACTER FITS THE PATTERN
The world is one that appears very superficial—an old broadway set, over-the-top makeup and clothing. This showiness allows for actual truth from the characters to shine more brightly as they stand out in contrast to their environment.