“When I woke up from my surgery, I was bleeding,” said Hedwig Robinson. “First time as a woman, and it was already that time of the month.”
This statement is just one for Evan Tuttle, Manhattan resident and executive director of the Aggieville Business Association, in his role of Robinson in the musical “Hedwig and the Angry Inch.”
The musical tells the fictional story of Hansel Schmidt, who transforms into Hedwig Robinson when an American military sergeant approaches him to get married in Communist-occupied East Berlin during the Cold War era. The only way Robinson will be able to leave East Berlin is to get married in an opposite-sex marriage.
After agreeing to a sex change surgery, it ends up being botched. Robinson’s male sex organs are removed, but there is a one inch length of skin remaining from the removal of penis, conveniently nicknamed her “angry inch.”
After moving stateside, the military sergeant leaves Robinson for another man. Robinson becomes disoriented and later falls in love with a musician named Tommy Speck, also known as Tommy Gnosis, who Robinson believes is her soulmate.
“This show is something everyone can relate to because everyone has these struggles of questioning who they are and where they belong,” said Heather Branham-Green, director and Manhattan resident. “It asks ‘who am I?’ and ‘why am I here?’ It’s about redemption; going in one side and coming out the other stronger than they entered.”
Betsy Baddeley, Manhattan resident, said she wanted to get involved because of the rock ‘n’ roll aspect of the show. Baddeley plays Yitzhak, a back-up singer.
“This show has a message about oppression and injustice,” Baddeley said. “But rock ‘n’ roll is more about beauty and love. This show has such a poignant love story.”
Baddeley said one of the most challenging things for her was the research and analysis that went into the characters. She said the band members in the show are all political refugees, and the band is their outlet.
“This show is also really ambiguous,” Baddeley said. “How much are you going to let the audience figure out on their own compared to what is actually written.”
The original writers of the production are brilliant, Tuttle said. He said all the songs performed are catchy and could be on the radio. He also added that everything has a double entendre to it, which adds humor to the show.
“It was a lot of music to memorize,” said Ashalen Sims, Manhattan resident, who plays keyboard player Skszp. “I am usually a classical musician, so this was a completely different genre for me. But the music is super catchy, and each song has vital elements.”
Sims said when she would go home from rehearsal, she would practice the music just for fun because it was so catchy.
Justin Trowbridge, Manhattan resident, said he has been familiar with the show since 2004 and has known the music for quite some time. He said that when he was approached to do the show, he was excited. Trowbridge plays Schlatko, the drummer.
Although the rehearsals have been going on since early January, the band had only really began rehearsing two to three weeks ago.
“I had played with (Sims) and (Tuttle) before and had already established that camaraderie and sync with them,” Trowbridge said. “But then, it was finding that band mentality with the others, instead of just a bunch of musicians on a stage playing together. They are all excellent musicians and know their craft. We have managed to avoid clashes – dodged that bullet.”
Nick Reiter, Manhattan resident, plays the band’s guitarist Krzysztof. He had never played with many of the other performers, but he was asked and said yes.
Stephen Keith, Manhattan resident, plays Jacek the bass player. Keith said it was challenging in the transition from an actual rock band in real life to a rock band in a production. This is the first time Keith has been in a production.
“It has been an absolutely outstanding time,” Keith said. “It’s been a total throwback. It has been kind of nostalgic for me, since I remember the ’80s and was in a hair metal band before this.”
Branham-Green said people should come out to see the production to support the LGBT community, support the local artists, or to laugh and see a rock ‘n’ roll show.
“Hedwig and the Angry Inch” will be performed at Aggie Central Station, 1115 Moro St., April 10-12 and April 17-19 at 7:30 p.m.. Tickets range from $8-$15 and can be bought online at hedwigmhk.brownpapertickets.com.
“It has been an absolute privilege to be a part of this show,” Keith said. “It is incredibly upsetting to me to see the climate surrounding the LGBT community. It has been fun to be a part of what I consider a civil rights movement by being a part of this production.”