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June 26, 2017

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Finding yourself in Hedwig's angry inch

American stage director and choreographer Brook Hall always wants to do something different. No matter if it is big-budget Broadway productions or independent, small-scale shows, he adds a twist to give classic works a new face. This time, with joint forces from what Hall calls a "dream team of production people," the legendary rock musical "Hedwig and the Angry Inch" (搖滾芭比) is performed in Chinese, making everything more relevant to local Chinese-speaking audiences.

"Hedwig" is scheduled for 30 shows in 30 days, which is rare, if not unheard of in Taiwan's performing art scene, as many shows, local or international, are made to last only for a week. With a lot of people spending time and effort to make it work, Hall wants to "build a scene."

"We want people to tell their friends about a show they watched. And there's still that show playing," he told The China Post on March 12.

"We want people to dress up, to have a good time. This is totally different than anything you have seen. This half show, half concert is very young, very rock, and at the same time very smart and meaningful," he added.

A Lifelong Journey to Find Oneself

Originally written by John Cameron Mitchell in 1998, "Hedwig" portrays Hedwig the transsexual singer's life from when she was a boy named Hansel in East Germany. Hansel falls in love with Luther, an American solider who wants to marry Hansel, under the condition of him becoming a woman via sex-change surgery. Hansel underwent the operation, but the surgery wasn't 100-percent successful, leaving her a dysfunctional one-inch mound of flesh called "the angry inch."

Taking her mother's name Hedwig, Hansel flees from East Germany to embrace her new identity and life in the West. One year after Luther leaves her for another man. Hedwig forms a rock band to move on with life. She then meets her next lover Tommy, with whom she writes several songs. However, later on Tommy leaves her, taking her songs and becoming a super rock star. Undeterred, Hedwig continues to perform in the shadow of Tommy's sold-out stadium tour, attempting to find herself again. On the way she meets Yitzhak and the story goes on.

"He (Hedwig) is transgender; he is half-half: half Eastern, half Western, half German, half American, and at the same time half man, half woman … He is bi- everything," remarked Hall.

"We are all many things. My family comes from Europe. I grew up in the U.S. and I am now in Taiwan for a quite while… I am a mix of all these things … And we all run into problems in life, and need to figure out how to get through those problems," he said.

Hall cited the show's success in Japan and South Korea, where the show was translated into the countries' languages and became one of the most popular musicals.

"So why can't it work for Taiwan? I think Taiwan is open-minded enough to embrace something like this," Hall added.

A Dream Team

"Hedwig" is 90 minutes long with about a dozen songs. All of them have been translated from English to Chinese. On the production team, Wang Hong-yuan (王宏元) is the main translator who made the Chinese version from the English script. Composer Owen Wang (王希文) and musician Molly Lin (林孟珊) are both producers who supervise the music. Lin plays bass with local rock band P!SCO, which performs live music for the show.

"In this production, everybody 100 percent has given more than what's asked of them. Everybody," Hall stressed.

Describing "Hedwig" as "a total combination of Broadway and downtown New York glam punk rock 'n' roll music," Hall encourages audiences to "come in costume, and sing along if you know the song." ■

'Hedwig and the Angry Inch' (搖滾芭比) ► 7:30 p.m. from now until April 14 (Sun.) / 2:30 p.m. April 6 (Sat.) & April 13 (Sat.) / Plum Wine Factory at Huashan 1914 Creative Park (華山1914文創園區 東三館烏梅酒廠) / No. 1 Sec. 1 Bade Rd., Taipei (台北市八德路一段一號) / NT$799 ~ NT$899 / www.ticket.com.tw

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