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Designing for Live Performance – week 03: Hedwig and The Angry Inch


Hedwig and the angry inch is a musical about an east berliner that went through sex change operation and the cloudiness in which her sexuality and identity meets on the quest of finding her true half.

Hedwig and the angry inch is a musical about an east berliner who, in the quest to find her other half, went through an unsuccessful sex change operation – the inch that is still there. Hedwig guides the audience by telling about his life story, talking about his mother, east Berlin, his concept of love, sexual and gender experiences he’s been through.

Hedwig and the angry inch is a musical about an east berliner that falls in love with an american and to come to the US with him goes through a sex change operation. The operation is unsuccessful, leaving an inch of her penis behind. Hedwig tell us her life story before and after the surgery, what she believes to be true love (her other half) and how her gender/sexuality plays the part in her quest of finding the love of her life.


Answers & Questions Eleanor Fuchs Instigations

The sound atmosphere of the musical is a berlin punk rock scene fusion with american pop rock; Hedwig is a kind of “attention whore” character, so the set should try to focus on him as much as possible (possibly with lightning, costume, and elements/set arrangement/composition). Because the actor talks directly with the audience, I believe the set design has to reflect this is some sense (be an open space, make the audience feel comfortable etc). Hedwig’s story is about about pairing, finding someone, transitions, passages, rendez-vous, so there should be movement on stage – scenes happening in different parts of it, character constantly walking. Lou Reed, Iggy pop, david bowie etc should be used as attitude, gesture & aesthetic inspiration for the character. I feel there’s a sense of Rocky Horror Show to it (on how Hedwig interacts with the audience). There’s also an important factor that is the décalé atmosphere through the musical: the lack of success of the surgery (was this sex operation a desire of their?), this “limbo” state Hedwig finds herself (“where my penis used to be / where my vagina never was”), her life in the US,the fact that she is presenting her musical over someone else’s set design. The elements used in the art direction should reflect this decay sense, they must look second hand or not intended to be used in the purpose it is being used. The ambiguous feeling of being good about herself and feeling lost about who she is (“I cry because I will laugh if I don’t”, “I laugh because I will cry if I don’t”) should be reflected in some way on the set design – and maybe try to associate it with her idea of looking for a missing half/true love? How to translate this quest and feelings towards the self through movement, physical objects, lightning, costume etc?

The Jane Street Theatre mostly presents Off-Broadway plays…so how would be a set design of an Off-Broadway musical version of the Hurt Locker ? Would it be minimalist, conceptual, ethereal? How would it work with lightning ?

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