No Box Necessary
- By gentleguide
- On Sat 17 Feb 2018
Hedwig and the Angry Inch is a journey unlike almost any theatre experience out there, and in the hands of Kata Klysmic Productions, their presentation is likely to be creative, unusual, and anything but mundane. In other words, combine Hedwig and Kata Klysmic, and (as Director Emily Davis puts it) you’re not just thinking “out of the box.” You’ve completely removed the box from the equation!!
First, for those who have never heard of Hedwig and the Angry Inch, a brief (but outrageous) explanation: Hedwig (and his backup band, The Angry Inch) are performing a gig, and the story is told through Hedwig’s stories and songs. We hear of his life growing up, his (now her) botched sex-change operation, her hopes and dreams, failures and obsessions, her co-dependent relationship with husband Yitzhak, and ultimate transformation into… well, that would be giving away the ending, now wouldn’t it??
Director Emily Davis is ready to bring the story of Hedwig back to Des Moines audiences beginning February 23 at The Garden Nightclub, and has cast two young yet experienced performers in the lead roles. Connor Ripperger, a freshman at Drake, plays Hedwig in all her glory and explosiveness, while Rachel Meyer takes on the part of husband Yitzhak. Yes, there’s a man playing a woman and a woman playing a man, and you can throw away immediately every expectation you may have about the people, plot, and subjects in this show. And get ready for anything.
“Hedwig is so other than,” says Davis. “She is mesmerizing. She is the hero and the villain. She is a walking anomaly. Hedwig and the Angry Inch are a grungy rock band who are used to playing gigs in dive bars and the occasional Red Lobsters. The set is mostly a dirty stage with not much finesse. Our production moves back to the ‘grunge in your face’ rock concert. I think bringing back the grunge dirty look and having an audience as involved and close as we have at The Garden brings back the first feeling of Hedwig. As crazy as the show is, it is a very intimate experience.”
The show was originally produced off-Broadway. (It celebrated its 20th birthday literally last week. It’s practically legal!) Over the years it has become a cult film and then ultimately a Broadway production (winning Tony awards for its leads). Throughout the life of Hedwig and the Angry Inch, however, it has always challenged boundaries and standards, and never settled for the “usual” way of presenting its story or its characters. Kata Klysmic is very much in tune with this idea, and Rachel Meyer as Yitzhak loves “getting rid of the box.”
“[My previous theatre] shows have such different settings and characters,” says Rachel, “and allow you to enter worlds you could never normally experience. Hedwig is that and more for me. Not only was it a whole new world to explore, but it was nothing like anything I had seen in the musical theatre world before. It is simultaneously extravagantly over-the-top and almost unsettlingly down to earth, warts and all. Yitzhak is such a fun and challenging role to play, since you never leave the stage and are always in the background listening and reacting to what is going on.”
“The show takes place during what really becomes a turn in his life, and everything that has happened before comes to a head for this character in plain view for everyone to see since the fourth wall is nonexistent in this show. The whole dynamic between [Hedwig and Yitzhak] really captures the complexities and difficulties of human relationship, and gives them layers of personality and depth as characters.”
The Origin of Love
Rachel and Connor have slowly found their own way with the co-dependent characters, and with their relationship onstage as Hedwig and Yitzhak as well as their own personal interactions as performers. Although Rachel and Connor hadn’t met before being cast in this production, each was cautiously prepared for the tremendous task in front of them, both individually and in relation to each other.
“I mean, I don’t really know if I am totally ready,” acknowledges Connor. “The character [of Hedwig] is a beast of a role to take on in many ways. The sheer volume of monologues that Hedwig has is terrifying and the emotional journey is also pretty terrifying. But I know with this amazing team and with my cast mate Rachel, I will have a great group supporting me on the stage.”
Rachel has seen her friendship grow with Connor, even as the strange relationship of Hedwig and Yitzhak has been a process of discovery for the two of them. “Connor and I hit it off pretty quickly,” she says. “He is really fun and easy to work with. We had noticed in the beginning of rehearsal that we were subconsciously giving each other room and slowly figuring out what the other was comfortable with. As our friendship and trust has grown, we have been able to develop Hedwig and Yitzhak’s relationship and pull out all the details and tics that it has.”
“Theatre has this magical way of allowing strong friendships to be made in what seems like not a lot of time. There is always a level of trust that actors have to give each other to be able to do what we do, but all the shared time, stresses, laughs, and exhaustion will bond a cast like nothing else.”
Wicked Little Town
As Director, Emily Davis has been able to bring her Hedwig, Yitzhak, and the band The Angry Inch (led by music director Ben Hagen) together into a unit, but it’s a unit that has many different facets, much like the music of the show itself. As Davis notes, “Hedwig has so many styles of music. There’s rock, grunge, country, ballads, and laments. Every type shows each of the many sides of Hedwig. Usually in musicals the songs are full scenes telling a story as they happen. These songs are telling stories of the past or a song that is just a song build into the set list of The Angry Inch.”
“The band, first of all, is amazing. I feel like a groupie every time we have them at rehearsal. If you don’t like musicals and like rock music, come for the band! The band and Yitzhak have a fun time reacting off of Hedwig. Every person on stage has a narrative that is uniquely attracted to Hedwig.”
Ultimately, the show and the story are as unique as Hedwig herself, and that’s the crowning glory of Hedwig and the Angry Inch. Davis knew that going in, and has still discovered how wondrous and incredible it can all be. “There is no box. Even people who are labeled as ‘different’ have a thousand different stories to tell.”
“Sometimes you can think that the world has hurt you and you are a victim, but you cannot see that it is exactly how you are treating others. Love can be complicated and beautiful and hurtful and unbearable. Sometimes a choice that seems to be the only way to be free can lead you to another type of captivity. ‘It’s the direction of the aggression that defines it.’”
If you’re interested in an experience that can be complicated and beautiful and hurtful and unbearable, then I hear there’s this unique and incredible band playing nearby soon. Hear the story, feel the emotions, and experience the transformation of Hedwig and the Angry Inch. Performances begin February 23 on Fridays, Saturday, and Sundays through March 4. Tickets are available through the Midwestix website (look under The Garden Nightclub listing for Kata Klysmic events).