Hedwig: Between David Bowie and gender

The musical “Hedwig and the Angry Inch” comes toGay 90’s

Boys, girls or both – we could all learn a little something from Hedwig.

The character Hedwig from the musical-turned-indie-film “Hedwig and the Angry Inch” sits between genders. In the story, she transforms from Hansel, an androgynous young man stuck loving glam rock, philosophy and boys, to a transsexual rock-star protagonist. And she does so in the most inconvenient of places: 1980s East Berlin.

We may not know exactly who Hedwig is, but one thing is certain – for better or for worse, she is human. And it is this notion that drives Holographic Theatre, which is staging the musical this month.

“We should love being who we are,” said Marcus Peterson, one half of the duo behind Holographic Theatre and the artistic director and star of “Hedwig.”

“We just have to learn to forgive ourselves for our own humanity first,” he said.

In the play, Hansel falls for an American soldier and adopts his mother’s name and passport, hesitantly succumbing to a sex change to escape communism and marry into the American Dream.

The fantasy fades when the operation is botched and Hedwig is left with just a 1-inch mound of flesh. Even worse, her husband leaves her on the same day the Berlin Wall falls.

Hedwig becomes smitten yet again, this time with the naïve Tommy Speck, who shifts from idolizing Hedwig to using her songs to skyrocket to celebrity status.

High, dry and loveless, Hedwig channels her frustrations into rock music, playing fabulous punk for unfortunately small audiences.

Peterson and his creative partner, show producer Paul Vogelman, chose “Hedwig” as Holographic Theatre’s first production because it mirrors their mission statement of how our experiences as humans shape and empower us.

Peterson and Vogelman met as students at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, both sharing a passion for theater. Peterson specifically was interested in shows that would speak candidly to people about their own lives.

“When I first saw ‘Hedwig,’ I was blown away,” he said. “It was about everything I had been fighting for.”

The two became the first to bring the show to Madison, generating rave reviews. Each sold-out performance brought cheers and standing ovations from those who felt “Hedwig” could just as easily tell their stories as it could Hansel’s.

“It’s about understanding Hansel’s intentions and how they are expressed,” Peterson said. “I would never do what he did, but I have to understand why he did it. If I can’t, I’m just a drag queen reciting lines. It’s not fair to him.

“At first I was nervous playing Hedwig. I kept thinking ‘I wouldn’t make a pretty woman!’ ” he said jokingly. “Turns out I make a gorgeous woman!”

Now, Peterson and Vogelman are bringing “Hedwig” to the Twin Cities’ premier drag club, the Gay 90’s.

“Our company is site-specific,” Vogelman said. “At the 90’s, the whole evening can be the play!

“Of course I want the show to be successful, but that’s not why I do it.

I love giving the resources to artists so they can create. It’s absolutely inspiring.”

Vogelman has high hopes for Holographic Theatre’s busy future, one that includes as many as five more productions over the next year.

“It’s a circle that everyone has their hands in,” he said. ” ‘Hedwig’ is especially visceral, though.”

Peterson agrees. “Everyone feels like this show is theirs,” he said.

“Hedwig” is a story about the literal and figurative walls that prevent our personal progressions. But to Holographic Theatre, the world can work for every one of us so long as we take advantage of the failures as well as the successes.

“In the end, I take off my wig and walk off stage with a clean slate,” Peterson said. “The audience lets me go, because they trust that things are going to be all right. If Hedwig can move on, so can they.”