The Importance of Being “Hedwig”

Question: Was “Hedwig” harder to produce as a play or a film?

John Cameron Mitchell:  Oh, well, you know, it was in all\r\n kinds of forms, other than those two, I mean, it started out, like \r\nreally like a band, you know, in rock clubs and was in a more of a \r\ncabaret setting, it was in a sort of pseudo-cabaret theater setting, \r\nthen it was a theater, then it was a film, and it’s been in concert, you\r\n know, which is a whole different thing.  We’re preparing to have it on \r\nBroadway, which will be a different... so to me, I don’t, I don’t \r\ndifferentiate them by, in terms of, you know, one’s more successful than\r\n the other.  They all have their challenges, they all have their \r\nrewards, and to me, they’re complementary.

So I just enjoy being \r\nable to, to try it in different venues and also enjoyed seeing other \r\npeople do it as well.  I’m never micromanaging about other productions. \r\n Some people get very uptight about protecting their property, and "it \r\ncan only be done this way."  To me, that kind of kills it, makes it a \r\nmuseum piece.

What was the personal significance of the “Hedwig” story \r\nfor you?

John Cameron Mitchell:  Well, you know, it was really my \r\ncomposer and I, I mean, from the beginning, I mean, I was playing around\r\n with some ideas and new I wanted to make a rock theater piece with the \r\nPlato’s story of the origin of love as the central metaphor and met with\r\n a few composers and then Steven Trask, the songwriter, came on, and we \r\nreally developed it for many years together. So, bits and pieces of both\r\n of our lives came, came through, his struggling music career, my \r\ngrowing up on the army bases, it’s not really an autobiographical story \r\nin terms of facts, but it’s definitely emotionally auto-biographically. \r\n Moving around a lot as a kid, and my father being the military \r\ncommander in Berlin before the wall came down and... there was, you \r\nknow, there was a woman who was our babysitter, a German divorcée living\r\n in a trailer park, who was my brother’s babysitter and a prostitute on \r\nthe side and I didn’t really clock that until later.  But she was the \r\noriginal inspiration for Hedwig and then, you know, other characters in \r\nmy life were grafted on her.  But, you know, probably her, her aesthetic\r\n came from other people, but her emotional core just came from my own, \r\nyou know, sort of feeling like a citizen of the world kind of seeking \r\nout inner, you know, interaction and connection in a chaotic kind of, \r\nyou know, sort of, I don’t know what to call it.  Kind of an \r\nunderstanding that we’re all very much these hybrids of all the people \r\nthat we’ve met, you know?  And men, women, lovers, mothers, fathers, and\r\n reinterpreting the myth of the origin of love as a kind of collage of \r\nall the people we know, rather than just two halves.

So, you \r\nknow, it’s still something that, my interpretation of changes, you know,\r\n when I look at it, as I age, you know.

Now that “Hedwig” is returning to the stage, do you view \r\nthe show differently?

John Cameron Mitchell:  I don’t know yet, because I \r\nhaven’t really, you know, entered that realm yet.  It’s interesting to \r\nthink about it in terms of writing and directing, but I really don’t \r\nknow till I get there.  But it’s a kind of an ageless character, could \r\nbe, you know, she really could be telling her story at any given time, \r\nyou know, in her life and, you know, I could be doing it in a wheelchair\r\n at some point.  But I don’t, I don’t know.  We’ll see.

Recorded on May 3, 2010
Interviewed by Austin Allen

The creator and star of "Hedwig and the Angry Inch" discusses what the project meant to him personally, and how he feels about returning to it 10 years later.

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