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Hedwig and the Angry Inch Mar 7.docx

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University of Toronto St. George
Victoria Wohl

ENG 140 March 7, 2014 Hedwig and theAngry Inch Summary • Hedwig tells us her story through a series of flashbacks • Hansel Schmidt was born in berlin in 1961 • Year the Berlin wall went up • After getting kicked out of university, Hansel meets Luther Robinson • Luther wants to marry hansel and take him back with him to the united states • Hansel has to have his penis removed in order to do this • Doctor botches the operation, 1 inch of skin left • Luther leaves hansel for a girly boy • Kansas is a reference to the wizard of oz • Tommy Speck – son of the base commander for which Hedwig babysits o Jesus freak with a fish on his truck o Hansel finds him incredibly hot o Hedwig has started a band with a trio of sargeants wives o Hedwig is Tommy’s musical prodige • Hedwig gives Tommy a name – Tommy Gnosis • Tommy discovers Hedwig’s angry inch and steals Hedwig’s songs and becomes a rock star • Hedwig goes on tour in Croatia and meets her second husband • Hedwig agrees to marry Yitzak, he has to promise never to wear the wig again • Hedwig shadows Tommy Gnosis’tour • Hedwig runs into tommy while hooking in the meat packing industry • Movie makes it easier on the eyes, in the play they hit a bus of deaf school children • Hedwig becomes almost famous when people show that she’s the songwriter for Tommy’s music • In the stage version, JCM is also speaking Tommy’s line, final scene she becomes tommy who gives her wig to Yitzak • Before Hedwig was a play it was a drag show o Created by two young men after a chance meeting on their play o Two young men were JCM and steven trask o JCM was a young broadway singer who was slightly famous o His first stage role was a Scottish boarding school (played virgin mary) o Steven Trask was the lead guitarist for an art punk band called Cheater o Mitchell had been toying with a rock theatre piece, they decided to work on a drag theme o The singers did not usually sing the songs, Squeezebox wanted to put drag singers in front of a real band and let them actually sing o The solution was simple, they made it a punk band o They hired Steven Trask, and made JCM try out as Hedwig o Not yet a play at this point o Mitchell and Trask borrowed theatre space in 1997 o Bought a run down old hotel o 1998 on valentines day was the first production o Became a cult hit quite quickly o The It crowd started showing up (Madonna, bowie, Lou reed) o People were vying to sit in the seat where Hedwig gives the car wash o Hedwig ran for 10 shows a week for 7 months at the James street theatre o Left the role because he was exhausted • Produced as a play at major cities around the world o Staged in 2012 here at the Drake Hotel o Neil Patrick Harris is going to play Hedwig on Broadway o They filmed the movie a lot in Toronto o Luther is a Toronto actor o The boy who plays young Hedwig went to school in Toronto o Major addition to the film was to have an actual actor play Tommy Gnosis o Premiered at the Sundance film festival and won many awards in the states and Canada o It has become a rocky horror for our time • Drag suggests that gender can be performed and that maybe that suggested that your gender is just a performance o One that you perform for so long that you forget that it’s just a performance o Since the 1960s, medical theory has held that gender is not fully established until the age of 2 years old o Gender identity is a product of sexual assignment than it is something your born with – a role you take on o Medical practice now controversially can assign a gender to intersexed infants o Children are most likely turned into women because it’s easier than making a penis • Increasing number of studies in neuroscience, genetics, indicating that gender differences are innate and biological o Changing your gender is through biology, not through performance o Arguments take a position and the truth is always between the arguments o Cultural and biological o It is not destiny • Maybe what bothers people about drag is that gender is something that we do instead of something we are o The most powerful moment of empathy is the moment where tommy puts his hand in hedwigs pants and pulls back in shock o Anger at tommy, sorrow for Hedwig – catharsis • Hedwig makes the moment of catharsis easy, both very gentle on mainstream America • This was to get the film into movie theatres, but Mitchell had other reasons to take that particular approach o The film diffuses homophobia or heterosexist anxieties about it’s content matter with a joke o It takes the edge off it’s shock with humour, making catharsis easier to achieve o Film version provides an outlet by giving it a character (guy who yells faggot) it is answered by violence o The flight is the perfect image of the kind of story that JCM wanted to tell, a story that rises above quarrels within the transsexual community o The play is very up front about the subject matter, she is hard to miss o Tries very hard to stop dwelling on Hedwig’s differences, film was criticized in the transgendered community for this reason o Hedwig is tame by drag’s standard, if he had been too drag it would have helped erode the shock value that it has o If it becomes too comfortable than it loses it’s comfortableness o JCM struck exactly the right balance between telling the story that not many people could identify with something you could identify with • “You sit in the audience, and you say, I have nothing in common with a person who has sacrificed their manhood for freedom…but as you go through the story, and her story is told to you, you say, I have everything in common with Hedwig, because I know what it’s like to want to be loved, and I know what it’s like to search for your other half, and I know what it’s like to not fit in.” – Kevin Cahoon, Whether you like it or not: the making of Hedwig • The fall of the Berlin wall o August 13, 1961 o It became a long series of fences that divided Berlin in two o Mitchell lived in Berlin when the wall went up, his father was commander of American forces in Berlin from 1984-1988 o Grew up onArmy bases around the world o Wall was open by the East German government in 1989 and torn down for the rest of the following year o Thought of a symbol of confinement and oppression but it was also a very clear marker of political identity – physical divide for two competing world views that made it v easy for people to decide where they stood o It told you where you stood and that you had to stand there, no moving back and forth – no ambiguity or moving back and forth o When the wall came down everyone rejoiced o The certain knowledge was lost o Hedwig is between east and west, but she is neither o She doesn’t belong in either world, that homelessness can be liberating but it can also be painful • Luther abandons Hansel on the same day the Berlin wall comes down, when Hedwig was with Luther she knew who she was – she was Mrs. Hedwig Robinson o Now the wall is done and Luther is gone o Her answer is to put on makeup and a wig, to construct an identity when you need one o The wig shows up at exactly the right moment when that one identity had been taken away to provide her with another temporary identity o It limits hedwig’s identity as much as it defines her identity, which is why she calls it her own personal hell o The wig is not who she is, it’s just something that she wore while she was trying to figure out who she is, a temporary home o It’s borrowed, exactly like her name is o The wig is not home at all, it’s a refuge, which is what the name Hedwig means i
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