Aiming for rock stardom is tough for a broke, transgender immigrant in a trailer park, but Skin Horse Theater’s “Hedwig and the Angry Inch” lets actor Evan Spigelman showcase this out-of-the-box character.
Just like Hedwig’s strange journey within the show, this actor’s path to the stage was not straightforward.
“I actually wasn’t a theater major. I was a gender and sexuality studies major, although I did take a lot of theater classes,” he said. “But I’ve got to say that since then, the best education I’ve gotten was actually from doing theater here in New Orleans.”
Spigelman’s praise of the NOLA theater scene comes after studying at Bard College in Annandale-on-the-Hudson in New York, where he and fellow students formed the Skin Horse Theater in 2007.
Two years later, the group – comprised of Brian Fabry Dorsam, Anna Henschel, Nat Kusinitz, Veronica Hunsinger-Loe and Spigelman -- came to New Orleans to perform at the Fringe Festival. Soon after that Big Easy debut, they chose the city as Skin Horse Theater’s Southern home for its experimental mixture of original work and well-known plays, including “CATS” and “Romeo and Juliet.”
Since then, Spigelman has won the 2012 Big Easy Award for the best actor in a musical for the company’s presentation of “Hedwig and the Angry Inch.”
That award helped fuel a new production in January at the Allways Lounge and Theatre, which the actor thinks is actually returning this off-kilter musical comedy to its underground roots.
“One of the things I like about this show is that it’s as much of a rock show or a stand-up comedy show as it is a play. It had originally debuted inside drag bars and rock clubs,” Spigelman said.
“Hedwig and the Angry Inch” also became a 2001 indie film that some compare to the “Rocky Horror Picture Show.” But, Spigelman feels that Hedwig stands on its own fishnet stockings in spite of similar musical elements.
“While you have all of the glam rock and punk rock trappings and drag queen theatrics, no matter what background people are from, they really find something fascinating in this character,” he said. “It’s a testament to the strength of the material that it’s able to tap into a real universal feeling.”
Universal may not seem to be the word for Hedwig, who gets a sex change operation to escape East Germany by marriage, to then be dumped (twice) and assemble a rock band of misfits in the U.S.A. However, despite this outrageous chain of events, Spigelman thinks “Hedwig and the Angry Inch” actually has a broad appeal.
“Everybody has moments that they think they’re not good enough or unable to express themselves the way that they truly are. I think Hedwig is about finding your inner strength,” he said. “That’s what this play is really about.”
The character’s struggle to find strength drives the audience to root for Hedwig through energetic rock songs and outlandish choreography that completely takes over the Allways Lounge and Theatre.
“The whole area is going to be the stage,” Spigelman said. “Whether you’re sitting at the bar or right up in front of the stage proper, we’re using the whole space, so people should be prepared for some full-contact-theater.”
Catch “Hedwig and the Angry Inch” every Friday, Saturday and Monday in January through Jan. 21 at the Allways Lounge and Theatre. For more information and tickets go to SkinHorseTheater.org and theallwayslounge.net. The Allways Lounge & Theatre is located at 2240 Saint Claude Ave. in New Orleans.