Jan 23, 2015

John Cameron Mitchell Revives Hedwig, the Saint of Misfits and Losers, on Broadway

John Cameron Mitchell has now reprized his role of Hedwig, the German former male immigrant from East Berlin, turned to living a life as an awkwardly mended up Harlequin of a trailer trash divorced army wife, babysitter, probably prostitute and rocker in the US, after a botched sex change operation. John Cameron Mitchell co-created the off Broadway show, also turned into a movie in 2001, played the role and directed the film. After the show was revived on Broadway, this time played by the one and only Neil Patrick Harris or as netizens know him, NPH, it won a Tony Award for Best Musical Revival among other awards. NPH relayed the role to Girls and New Normal star Andrew Rannells, who relayed it to former Dexter and Six Feet Under star Michael C. Hall, reprising his feminine side once again. And now the original creator, star, and let's be honest, the original Hedwig is reviving her in true shape once again to remind us all again why we fell in love with her, and why we've loved her so much our whole lives.

I won't be able to see the show, because I live in the other side of the world from New York, and even if I could afford a plane ticket, visa costs, ticket to the Broadway show after selling a useless kidney (useless in comparison to witnessing the real revival of Hedwig), I'm sure it would be near to impossible to get a ticket now. And still even though I won't be able to see this revival myself, I'm so grateful that Hedwig is back in her true shape and form for all us misfits and losers all around the globe.

For all of us who saw the film, it remains one of the most important films in Rock Culture, and one of the most influential films of our lives. You don't need to be gay or transgender or even a former East Berliner to appreciate this film. The music in this film and show, the story, and Hedwig herself with all her tragedy and dramedy embodies so much of the loneliness, desire for love, from others, and for oneself, that is so universally human, that every naked soul can easily embrace and be seriously marked by for the rest of their lives.

Hedwig is far from a perfect woman, or man, or something in between. She starts as a he. She was "born on the other side of a town ripped in two". An East Berliner influenced profoundly by American Rock 'n Roll and Punk music, utterly and with no doubt gay and exquisitely effeminate and beautiful, falls in love with a huge black American army man who promises to marry him and take him away to the US, far beyond the wall. It is the year 1989. Hedwig's mother advises him to turn into a woman, take his mother's name and have a sex change operation to be able to pass the medical exam, to marry the strong, black American military man. It is 1989 and after Hedwig finds herself a trailer trash army wife, divorcee, the Berlin wall breaks down. All the sacrifice was done for nothing. As someone who's experienced immigration and the need to go beyond the wall myself, my whole life, coming from a formerly North Korean style isolated country, I deeply understand the need to get the hell out, the sacrifice, and I empathize with Hedwig's desperation. 

After being abandoned by the very same man who cut her into pieces, Hedwig has become a part time prostitute, a part time babysitter, and a part time musician. She falls in love with an innocent Christian raised young man, projects into the innocent soul all her dreams and hopes for completeness, and breaks his heart after revealing her angry inch left out of a botched operation. Ultimately he is the one who breaks Hedwig's heart even more. After receiving a great music education he steals all of Hedwig's songs and becomes a huge star. Hedwig, full of anger, regret, hate and most probably self-hate, sings her songs and tells her story to a smaller audience, near the venue where Tom Gnosis, her self-described soul-mate and heart thief is having one of his huge concerts. 

Hedwig sings of separation, love, incompleteness and finally acceptance. Origin of Love based on Plato's myth of humans separated as two halves by the Gods, seeking the other half to be complete, is one of the most beautiful love poems ever written. Who hasn't dreams of meeting that other person who's going to make us feel less alone, less incomplete; the missing half?

"Last time I saw you
We had just split in two
You were looking at me
I was looking at you
You had a way so familiar
But I could not recognize
Cause you had blood on your face
I had blood in my eyes
But I could swear by your expression
That the pain down in your soul
Was the same as the one down in mine
That's the pain
Cuts a straight line
Down through the heart
We called it love"

Hedwig is ripped into pieces, abandoned and abused, but she's far from perfect. She becomes abusive herself and desperately seeks an angry useless revenge to get back the pieces she's lost. Ultimately, after facing her flaws and regrets Hedwig finally accepts herself or himself or oneself in the end of the movie/show and is on the road to feeling complete. What a beautiful story for us viewers who haven't had botched sex change operations, but have had our lives cut important pieces out of us day after day making us feel incomplete and wrong. It's a story of acceptance, self love, connection to the world that can be so cruel and cold. 

John Cameron Mitchell's rendition of this imperfect creature, angry, regretful and vengeful, but ultimately vulnerable, sweet and charming in her Rock 'n Roll glamour and rawness, with her sweet, echoing, bitter voice, and her pungent jokes is a perfect artistic expression of a whole universe compressed into one sole character. To anyone who's felt alone, to anyone who's felt incomplete, to anyone who suffers an identity crisis or another, to anyone who seeks love, and forgets to love oneself, this film, this character, is a goddess that listens to our desperate prayers and tells us to walk proudly naked in our own form and be one with ourselves and the world.

Hedwig who's always been in between, between man and woman, between the East and West, divided by an angry wall, and an angry inch, who cut herself and gave pieces of herself to everyone in her life is trying to put herself back together. Her story and journey inspires us to put the pieces of our puzzle back together and find a sense of wholeness out of all this mess that we call identity, put down the make-up, take off the wig, take off the mask, the costume and turn back to the rawness that ultimately defines us, to the core person we are, whoever or whatever that might be, with all the pieces we've lost, and freed from all the foreign pieces we've awkwardly attached to our Frankenstein-Monster-Souls. Ultimately it's not the walls, and awkward body parts, and Tommy Gnosises that leave us cornered into a shattered mess, disconnected, and desperate to connect back again with the world, but our own selves. Those wires we need to sew the two halves of the split apple into one and back together to the tree, are found within ourselves. The love that we need is found within ourselves. Once we feel complete and perfectly defined we can go back to feeling part of the whole back again, connected with all the misfits, and the losers and rock n' rollers like us. 

It's not a virgin Mary but it's the imperfect angry Hedwig that shines a light at the end of a tunnel with her beautiful voice on a midnight radio. She tells us she'll be the guide to us misfits when we're lost in this town we call the pale blue dot. 

"The fates are vicious and they're cruel.
You learn too late you've used two wishes
like a fool

and then you're someone you are not,
and Junction City ain't the spot,
remember Mrs. Lot
and when she turned around.
And if you've got no other choice
You know you can follow my voice
through the dark turns and noise
of this wicked little town." 

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