Yesterday, the sixth day in a row of rehearsal. Exhausted, there is always something to do at night, and preparation in the morning. We started early, the actor-teachers and I, heading to our usual place for fight call - and expanded fight call this morning, as we would be learning how to execute a basic sword fighting workshop for the R&J and MACBETH residencies.
Our “usual place” is at Chester & 18th Street, on the CSU campus, a simple, landcsaped lawn next to a parking garage and the urban affairs building, where Billie Lawless’s notorious sculpture THE POLITICIAN: A TOY was relocated earlier this year. Wheels constantly turning, mouth moving open and closed, groaning metal on a large, pencil-shaped axle, the sun shining, the lawn bouncy and soft ...
What an awesome place to be! In the middle of Cleveland! I took a look around as all four teams switching fighting partners, and thought, this is a good place to be!
Rehearsal let out a little early, I joined my wife and the kids at a wedding reception at Gordon Square. And then ... well, was I joing to check out the revival of HEDWIG AND THE ANGRY INCH at the Hi-Fi that night at 10? Marian offered to drive, you know.
Photo:Hedwig in 2001.
HEDWIG was dynamite at CPT in 2001. It was epic, Dennis had put together and tight band (how could he otherwise) Ali was Yitzhak, and the woman herself came in the form of diminutive, wide-faced Dan Folino at the beginning of his career - age 23.
I love that play, we had both been fans since we saw the movie in August that year, the stage show was even better - I mean, as a stage show its better, I am not going to make a comparison between Mitchell and Folino. In spite of its comedy, camp, acidic tone, Hedwing’s tale of hope and disappointment, of love and loss and discovery, this search to love yourself - combined with an amazing collection of really excellent songs - it is a tremendous undertaking.
In the wrong hands, however, I am sure this show could be an unlistenable disaster, hateful and mean and useless. The original CPT company made it look effortless.
A huge success, it was revived the following holiday season ... where it was not, I understand, a huge success. Repetition can sometimes go that way. And in spite of constant comparisons, HEDWIG is not ROCKY HORROR. It isn’t dumb enough. Take it as a compliment, there are no moments in ROCKY HORROR where you want to cry in sympathy, overwhelmed by tremendous beauty and passion.
I was worried about this new production, really. I had no doubt it would be executed as well as the original, but would I ... care? It’s been a long time. It’s like THE DOWNWARD SPIRAL - that was great in 1994. I am no longer in that place.
The differences were immediate. We are no longer in the cavernous, historic Gordon Square Theatre, we are in a club, a bar, really, with a stage. The “set” is hidden. There are projections, and surprise “hydraulics” at the end (sorry - spoiler alert) but it is a rock show in its natural setting. And it makes a startling difference.
Instead of being separted by the apron of a massive stage, Hedwig is right in front of you. I had encoruaged some new actor-teachers who had attended not to sit in the back - but to sit in front of me - in the first row! A great deal of the jokes were delivered right to them, or Hedwig’s asides based on audience reaction were delivered to them. They got sweat on a lot, too. I was worried they might get beer split on them, but so what if they did?
Intimacy ... from the first moment, when the band walked on it was different. Ali restaged this version and she gets a great deal of the benefit from the new setting. as the largely non-verbal Yitzhak, she doesn’t need to make faces as grandly as she did in the big theater, she has the opportunity to be subtle. They both do, with each other. The aggression which was so obvious in the first version is so much more realistically painful here.
And Dan himself, now 31 ... he has admitted he didn’t really understand a lot of Hedwig’s journey first time out. At 23? You kidding? No surprise there. He told me it was all due to Lester Shane’s direction that he was able to fake it back then as well as he did. But he gets it now, I was astonished. Apart from what I might call the mature connection to the story he has now, I was fascinated by the transformation his Tommy Gnosis has taken. I mean, WICKED LITTLE TOWN is my favorite song in the show (undercut in the film by the weird lip-synch Michael Pitt does of Steven Trask’s vocals) but eight years ago it was all high-gloss, which may have been intentional. Hedwig does make it clear what she thinks of Gnosis’ style and abilities.
But then, that’s her take. Maybe he is deep and talented, and this where we get to understand that. And maybe they are the same person. And maybe that’s another reason to dig so deep for that song.
You have four more weekends. If you are within a two hundred mile radius, you have the rare opportunity to experience not only a legendary theaterical performance - but one that has actually improved with time.
Listening to: PODRUNNER Classic - Lifter (156 BPM)
Distance: 6.15 miles
Spending the night at Mom & Dad's. Running Lakewood. Saw a 12 year-old girl on a bike sporting a black T-shirt reading FUTURE TROPHY WIFE.
Hands up, who thinks that's funny?