Gil Sperling

video, stage and music

Hedwig and the Angry Inch

September 29, 2019 by gilsperling


Hedwig and the Angry Inch is about trancsending boundaries.

Hedwig and the Angry Inch is about a woman who deals with her gender identity crisis through a rock concert.

Hedwig is the star and creator of a live music concert which tells her life story: growing up as a boy in East Germany, undergoing a botched sex change operation in order to come to the U.S. as the wife of an American soldier, building up the music career of a man she loves, who rejects her over her imperfect genitalia. As the show progresses, the focus turns from the wrongs caused to her by others to her struggle with an inner demon, that prevents her from seeing herself as whole.

Fuchs Questions

Physical World

Space – a theater stage – an artificial set for a musical about the Iraq war. There is a door to the outside – where it’s alluded to by sound that another show is being performed.
Time – The show happens in real time. Flashback memories are told as stories, not relived on stage. Pace is set by the tempo of the songs, and by the breaks for dialogue between musical numbers.
Music – A combination of styles from glam rock to punk/grunge to Broadway ballad. The music is loud, overpowering. The context of singing is naturalistic – people don’t burst into song, they’re performing for us.
Tone/mood – dark humor, cynicism, flamboyance, high energy (which then underscores the quiet, somber moments).

Social World

Patterns – forefront and background. Hedwig is the star, The Angry Inch are her band, Isaac is her sidekick. Hedwig lives out her relationship with other characters by playing them all herself, furthering the point that her conflict is ultimately internal.
Language – The song lyrics mostly rhyme. Word puns and sexual innuendo abound. Language’s main function is to convey emotion.
Hedwig uses language to establish her persona.
Appearance – Everyone is dressed for a performance, but none are as flashy as the star. Costumes are used to blur gender lines. Putting on and taking off an item of clothing (e.g. wig, dress, suit) acquires psychological meaning.


First image: Hedwig entering on parachute in full drag, serving femme realness.
Middle image: (going into “wig in a box”) Hedwig tears the wig off her head. She feels alienated from the object she uses as a gender signifier.
Last image: Hedwig without any female attributes, leaving through a stage door. She is able to feel whole inside her body as it is.


There are two fictional shows that the play refers to – Hurt Locker: The Musical, which is a parody of current trends in musical theater, and Hedwig’s fantasy of Tommy’s concert – a more glamorous, A-list event that overshadows her own show.
External references:
Madame Butterfly – An american soldier marries a local girl and consequently abandons her; its modern adaptation M. Butterfly, in which the girl the foreigner falls for is actually a man.
Ziggy Stardust – David Bowie’s gender-fluid glam-rock alter-ego.
Plato’s Symposium – Aristophanes’ fable on the evolution of human genders and the search for unification in love.

The Viewer

If the viewer is someone who feels uncomfortable around non-traditional gender representation, the play wants to push that discomfort to its extreme. Viewers who have felt inadequacy, especially around body or gender issues, can identify with Hedwig and receive a message of hope and self-empowerment.

Posted in Fall'19 - Design for Live Performance |

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