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       Creating Hedwig

The New York Times,
Friday, February 27, 1998
by Rick Lyman
John Cameron Mitchell as Hedwig
John Cameron Mitchell (right) , an actor and director with the Drama Dept., had been toying with the idea of merging a rock and roll show with theater for a while. " I wanted something that was truly rock and roll and truly theater," he said. "Besides, I had a bit of a rock star fantasy that I'd be able to act out as well."

Then on an airplane, he met Stephen Trask, leader of a rock band called Cheater, and they decided to try it. This became " Hedwig and the Angry Inch," written and directed by Mr. Mitchell with music by Mr. Trask. It opened this month at the Jane Street Theater at the Hotel Riverview Ballroom.

Mr. Mitchell, who also appeared in television's "Party Girl," plays Hedwig, an East German emigre whose sex-change operation has been botched and who finds herself living in a trailer park in Kansas.

In its earliest incarnations, the piece was about a male rock star. Hedwig was a secondary character. But then Mr. Mitchell and Mr. Trask tried out some material at Squeeze Box, a downtown drag club.

"I just thought, "Well, I could pretend that I was a drag queen and use it as a chance to work on the character.", he said. "But it was such a hit that we decided to keep her as the main character."

Still, Mr. Mitchell was thinking of moving Hedwig and the Angry Inch into a traditional theater.

"That's the world I came from," he said."So I worked on it and tried it before a theatrical crowd at the Public Theater.

"It was kind of a disaster. All the theater people were stone-faced. It was like tumbleweeds crossed the stage after the jokes."

Mr. Mitchell decided that he and his partners would mount the show themselves, financed in part by his work on "Party Girl" and other television shows. They did a fresh workshop and began searching for a space. Finally, he stumbled across the Hotel Riverview.

"It's this wonderful, ancient hotel full of German backpackers," he said. " There are a lot of Hedwigs walking around, if you know what I mean. I had to turn a lot of stuff down to do this, and I'm kind of broke. But it's sort of worth it."

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