How ‘Hedwig and the Angry Inch’ Came to Be

Rolling Stone magazine has an extensive interview with numerous people who were involved with the creation, staging and filmmaking of Hedwig and the Angry Inch:

Michael Mayer (Director, Hedwig on Broadway): John and I had done a play together at the Atlantic Theater Company, and shortly thereafter he came to visit me when I was directing a show at Julliard and asked me if he could read me some stuff. He was reading monologues that ultimately became Hedwig, and I was intrigued… John and Stephen had been putting together bits and pieces of it, and ultimately there was a first version of the whole thing and a band. John asked me if I would help them put it together and show it to theaters, to try and get a production. So we invited a bunch of artistic directors from different theaters to come, and nobody wanted it. I think at that point it was too rock and roll for the gay people and too gay for the rock and roll people…too music-y for the theater people and too theater-y for the music people. It was just in-between everything, in the same way that Hedwig is in-between genders.

Mitchell: Then we brought in the real guns — Peter Askin — an experienced director who had done John Leguizamo’s shows. Peter said, “To make it a play you’ve got to have Tommy’s concert happening. Then it’s actually something in the present as opposed to just the past. Because if it’s in the past, then it’s just Hedwig telling her story; but if it’s in the present, now she can keep checking in on that while she’s talking about it and then it becomes a play as opposed to just a monologue.

Peter Askin (Producer): I think one of the reasons they may have approached me is that I have a writer’s background and I’d been working on almost exclusively new material. So part of what I think I brought to it — aside from an outsider’s clarity — was that dramaturgical sense that it needed, as all new work needs. I used to think of it as a really fascinating mess. John had a lot of good ideas and some ideas that he ultimately decided were not as good. It was always kind of about keeping the A material and getting rid of the rest. That was rewarding for me, too, because I like helping to shape material.

Trask: For the most part, the show happened piece meal for about two to three years, and then we found Peter Askin. We had a nightclub act that ended with a sex change operation, and was half cover songs and half original songs. Peter said, “I think the sex change operation needs to come at the end of the first act. At the end of the show, I know that Tommy Gnosis needs to appear. And he’s going to say something in a song that’s going to be really important for Hedwig to hear. I don’t know what that is, but that’s how I see it happening.” It was very baffling, because it was our first meeting with him! He somehow took what we had and just structured it in such a way that we were then able to just go and finish our writing. I think we were sort of stuck until we found him, because structurally there was no room for any more monologue and there was no room for more songs. And he just fixed it in a way that all the holes in the story and all the places where the songs needed to be became extremely clear.

Read the full interview

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