Short and Sweet

Menomonie Theater Guild stages Hedwig and the Angry Inch

Betty Nikia, photos by Leah Dunbar

"I'M THE NEW BERLIN WALL, BABY. Try and tear me down." Veteran Chippewa Valley drag queen Miss Dee Lovely takes on the title character in the MTG's upcoming production of Hedwig and the Angry Inch. All photos by Leah Dunbar.

    This fall, the Chippewa Valley continues its evolution into more provocative theater productions with the Menomonie Theater Guild presentation of the cult film sensation Hedwig and the Angry Inch. The story follows the life of a boy named Hansel who undergoes a botched sex change while pursing love and an escape from East Berlin, only to end up alone in a trailer in the middle of Kansas. Hansel, now called Hedwig, pursues a tentative young man who goes on to achieve fame by stealing Hedwig’s songs. The show has been simmering on the back burner for a couple of years since Jeannette Paules, the show’s director, met Miss Dee Lovely while working on the Chippewa Valley Theatre Guild production of The Rocky Horror Show in July 2008.

In February of 2009, Miss Dee Lovely accompanied Paules to a screening of Hedwig, the movie, in Columbia Heights, MN. Here, Dee met Hedwig’s creator, John Cameron Mitchell, and received his blessing to pursue a local production. Miss Dee Lovely recalls, “On the drive home, Jeannette and I knew there was no turning back. Hedwig had to happen.”

Compared to the campy familiarity of Rocky Horror, Miss Dee Lovely emphasizes that this show will take her and her audience to a place more raw and vulnerable. “In portraying the tragedy and struggles this character goes through … I am literally stripping away the persona I’ve spent 15 years creating and presenting. This has not only required me to explore my own insecurities, it has also driven me to drop what will be an approximate 50 pounds by the time the show hits the stage.”

In the film, Hedwig and her band The Angry Inch play all of their shows at a string of seafood franchises. In homage to the film, the Menomonie Theater Guild decided to hold the show at a local café “in the form of a makeshift rock concert” instead of a theater. “Lisa and Nathan Wilder, who own the Menomonie Acoustic were great about adapting their space for our needs,” says Paules.

Dee adds, “Traditionally, the show has been performed in small, intimate settings to reflect the fact that Hedwig is an ‘internationally ignored song stylist’ and a tragic figure that … has been oppressed due to her status as a transgendered woman. The owners of the Acoustic Café have been very supportive from the beginning.”

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