Question: Was “Hedwig” harder to produce as a play or a film?
John Cameron Mitchell: Oh, well, you know, it was in all
kinds of forms, other than those two, I mean, it started out, like
really like a band, you know, in rock clubs and was in a more of a
cabaret setting, it was in a sort of pseudo-cabaret theater setting,
then it was a theater, then it was a film, and it’s been in concert, you
know, which is a whole different thing. We’re preparing to have it on
Broadway, which will be a different... so to me, I don’t, I don’t
differentiate them by, in terms of, you know, one’s more successful than
the other. They all have their challenges, they all have their
rewards, and to me, they’re complementary.
So I just enjoy being
able to, to try it in different venues and also enjoyed seeing other
people do it as well. I’m never micromanaging about other productions.
Some people get very uptight about protecting their property, and "it
can only be done this way." To me, that kind of kills it, makes it a
Question: What was the personal significance of the “Hedwig” story
John Cameron Mitchell: Well, you know, it was really my
composer and I, I mean, from the beginning, I mean, I was playing around
with some ideas and new I wanted to make a rock theater piece with the
Plato’s story of the origin of love as the central metaphor and met with
a few composers and then Steven Trask, the songwriter, came on, and we
really developed it for many years together. So, bits and pieces of both
of our lives came, came through, his struggling music career, my
growing up on the army bases, it’s not really an autobiographical story
in terms of facts, but it’s definitely emotionally auto-biographically.
Moving around a lot as a kid, and my father being the military
commander in Berlin before the wall came down and... there was, you
know, there was a woman who was our babysitter, a German divorcée living
in a trailer park, who was my brother’s babysitter and a prostitute on
the side and I didn’t really clock that until later. But she was the
original inspiration for Hedwig and then, you know, other characters in
my life were grafted on her. But, you know, probably her, her aesthetic
came from other people, but her emotional core just came from my own,
you know, sort of feeling like a citizen of the world kind of seeking
out inner, you know, interaction and connection in a chaotic kind of,
you know, sort of, I don’t know what to call it. Kind of an
understanding that we’re all very much these hybrids of all the people
that we’ve met, you know? And men, women, lovers, mothers, fathers, and
reinterpreting the myth of the origin of love as a kind of collage of
all the people we know, rather than just two halves.
know, it’s still something that, my interpretation of changes, you know,
when I look at it, as I age, you know.
Question: Now that “Hedwig” is returning to the stage, do you view
the show differently?
John Cameron Mitchell: I don’t know yet, because I
haven’t really, you know, entered that realm yet. It’s interesting to
think about it in terms of writing and directing, but I really don’t
know till I get there. But it’s a kind of an ageless character, could
be, you know, she really could be telling her story at any given time,
you know, in her life and, you know, I could be doing it in a wheelchair
at some point. But I don’t, I don’t know. We’ll see.
Recorded on May 3, 2010
Interviewed by Austin Allen