When the earth was still flat
And the clouds made of fire
And mountains stretched up to the sky
Folks roamed the earth
Like big rolling kegs
They had two sets of arms
They had two sets of legs
They had two faces peering
Out of one giant head
So they could watch all around them
As they talked, while they read
And they never knew nothing of love
It was before the origin of love
– this was what Hedwig sang, raising a manhand to her wig. “How’s my hair? Is there trouble in the west wing?” She asked, then pointed to her burly curls. “These are actually my lungs. My Aquanet lungs. They kick in on the high notes. Let’s be serious.”
After being closed down – by an affectionless mother, the Berlin wall, an unsuccessful sex change, a failed marriage and a rock star who stole her songs – Hedwig is opening up. For one night only. Ladies and gentlemen, whether you like it or not: Hedwig and the Angry Inch.
Hedwig has traveled from Germany to America, from off-broadway to film. It’s a musical. It’s a soliloquy. It’s a stand up comedy routine. It’s an erector set of sexuality. It’s a wrecking ball of rock’n’roll. In the author/director/star’s note, John Cameron Mitchell says, “The script is, at best, a record of a single evening of a single production of Hedwig and the Angry Inch. We deliberately developed it over a number of years in non-theatre venues – rock clubs, drag bars, birthday parties – in order to keep it free-flowing, improvisational, alive.”
Mitchell probably does not remember meeting me – or actually maybe he does – because I shook his hand like I was going to rip it off and attach it to a key chain as my talisman and I said,
“Thank you for giving us a third option: Man, Woman and Hedwig.” It was a line I had rehearsed. It was dead on arrival. I was already eulogizing the experience.
“She’s quite a woman,” he smiled with a tired grace. A smile nonetheless. And then we, the shadowcast, stood in front of his movie, based on his musical, and made it about us. Mirroring the actions, lip-synching the words, feeling the emotions. We didn’t have a mission so we took Hedwig’s: “I must find my other half.”
Once I accepted that my other half was not John Cameron Mitchell, I hosted a search party – in bars, clubs, social networking sites – until I had searched everywhere but home. I came back to my Wicked Little Town of East Troy, Wisconsin and tried to die. And yet back, back, to the Origin Of Love I was drawn, to a God whom, like a celebrity, I knew of, but did not know –
Well, I am completely dilated tonight. And I digress.
So. Once I was home, I had to leave. I found a second home, 45 miles away: Milwaukee.
And it only took 6 years for Hedwig to catch up with me, via Smithereen Productions, a local theatre company.
Their elected Hedwig ambassador was Jordan Gwiazdowski, a young actor with a nose as formidable as his talent. His performance was a tower of strength and the Leaning Tower of Pisa. He drew me close and then drew blood – I wanted to give blood – plasma – a heart.
Once I accepted that Jordan Gwiazdowski was not my other half (he was moving after the show closed), I wanted to restart the search party in the usual kinds of places, all of which were within walking distance of the theatre. But I was with a good friend who would not leave me alone until it was too late to do anything but go home.
Days later, I was at my church’s children’s after school program. Kevin, one of the Pastors, who is one of my roommates, until November, when he will become one flesh with Brianna, read from my favorite version of the Bible, the Storybook Bible. “God wrote ‘I love you’ – He wrote it in the sky, and on the earth, and under the sea. He wrote His message everywhere! Because God created everything in His world to reflect Him like a mirror…”
That night I got Hedwig from the library, where she was waiting between Heaven’s Gate and The Heiress. Halfway through the film, trapped by a too-close-up, Hedwig looked into the camera. Kevin walked in and looked at her, then at me. I looked from her to him. I searched his eyes and thought about saying something, but I stopped when I heard Hedwig singing –
Know in you soul
Like your blood knows the way
From you heart to your brain
Know that you’re whole