Designing for Hedwig and the angry inch - the Broadway show!

Concept

Simple Sentence

Hedwig & The Angry Inch is about the conflicts of self-identification.

Complex Sentence

Hedwig & The Angry Inch is about how we find self-acceptance and redemption despite the expectations and identities imposed on us by others.

We chose a sentence from the play that most defined our perspective and understanding of the sentiment

“It’s the direction of the aggression that defines it.”

No one can live free from the influence -good or bad- of others. How we negotiate those influences defines who we are.

Luther, Hedwig’s mother and Tommy impose expectations on Hedwig. She accepts them, grows resentful and feels trapped, until she realizes it’s within her power to escape.

Visual Research

The visual research we did for the play is indicated in this blog.

Model Box

Based on Belasco Theatre's architectural drawings we made an 1/2" scale model of the theatre.

Set Design

The visual research, model and scenes together formed the creative decisions made for the set. 

Scenes

The three scenes we chose to design for from the show were -

1. The Engagement 

“To walk away, you gotta leave something behind."

At home in Berlin, Luther proposes with a ring, wig and an application for American citizenship.

2. Wicked Little Town (Reprise)

“You think that luck has left you there. But maybe there’s nothing up in the sky but air.”

In hearing Tommy sing her song, Hedwig understands that she is ultimately responsible for her own identity, and isn’t beholden to the identity assignments of others.

3. Passing the Wig

“To walk away, you gotta leave something behind.”

During Midnight Radio, Hedwig hands her wig to Yitzhak, acknowledging that she has been denying him his identity. Hedwig finds peace.

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Visual Research for Hedwig and the angry Inch

Who we once were or currently are, isn’t who we always have to be

One Simple Sentence:

Hedwig & The Angry Inch is about the conflict of self-identification

One Complex Sentence:

Hedwig & The Angry Inch is about how we find independence and self-acceptance within ourselves despite the expectations of others and identities imposed on our bodies.

Three-Five Sentence concepts:

Theatre is out, debauchery is in. While previously a [flourishing doll-factory or famed theatre featuring the 10-year run of ‘Barbie: The Musical TBD’], the Belasco Theatre has since fallen into disrepair. In an abandoned state, it’s been co-opted by the local “weirdos”: a home for squatters, a dance hall for clubbers, a thunder dome for exiles. Within this space that’s at odds with itself, Hedwig and her partner Yitzhak also reconcile their own corporeal-vs-self identities and the expectations thrust upon them by others. The physical space and complimentary projections exacerbate this question of fragmented, unstable and changing identity through distortion, reflectivity, and juxtaposition. Ultimately, our heroes find and define themselves not to satisfy social norms, but their own best desires.

Cornell Box

I saw Aunt Dan and Lemon as a world where things are not binary. It a gazillion shades of grey.

They justify fascism but if today I don't feel compassion does not mean tomorrow I can't. 

My version of the cornell box -

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Hedwig and the angry inch!

#Concept Sentences

1. One simple sentence - The play is about the life and changes of a boy named Hansel.

2. One complex sentence - A boy named Hansel from Germany who once lived with his mother tells the story of his sex change operation and how he moved to America.

3. 3-5 sentence description - Hansel, a boy from Germany who lived with his mother meets a man Luther - who wants to marry him. Hansel undergoes a badly done sex change operation for Luther, changes his name to Hedwig and moves to America later to be divorced by him. In his pursuit to find the other half according to a tale told by his mom he narrates his experiences. The play ends with Hedwig and Yitzhak exchanging their appearances to signify the unison of the broken eye. (which I am not sure if I am interpreting correctly)

#Fuch's Questions 

1. The world of the play

The world of the play is a Broadway theatre. But elements on the stage suggest explosion. The time of the play is recent but often refers to the late 1900s post building the Berlin wall and later during Hedwig's time in America. The play on the whole is in linear progression but often jumps back and forth in memories. The climate did not catch my attention since it is mostly indoors so controlled conditions. The overall mood of the play seems passionate and confident with sprints of sadness, anger, seriousness. The music defines and guides the mood a lot. 

2. The social world of the play

The play has a central single figure which is Hedwig and a band that accompanies on stage. The interactions of these characters is mostly one on one with back up vocals. There is significant tension and drama equipped with each interaction with different characters. Like a musical, the play shifts between songs and talking. Often Hedwig has a monologue but enacts out a memory with other characters. The language is colorful and ranges through the spectrum. 

3. Changes

First image: Yitzhak welcomes audience to the Belasco Theatre and requests them to turn off all cellular devices. 

Last image: Yitzhak dressed in female drag as the 'broken eye' appears and merges and becomes whole.

Center image: Hansel invited Luther home for dinner and he proposes. 

The scene was necessary to go through the transition of when Hansel becomes Hedwig and the changes that behold. It is a turning point of the play. The character is still developing during this scene and further on from this point is how the character evolves. 

4. Imaginer's view

The play demands of the viewer to empathize, to understand, to accept like Hedwig did of the wholeness of all beings. Man or woman or neither or both. 

 

 

 

Aunt Dan and Lemon by Wallace Shawn

Fuch's Questions for Aunt Dan and Lemon

1. The world of the play 

The play is mostly based inside - either Lemon's bedroom or Aunt Dan's friend Andy's flat or a restaurant. There are few scenes that take place in a garden of Lemon's parent's house or a night club. The play is based in the 1940/50s and goes back and forth non-linearly based on Lemon's narrative between the present (late 90s) and her memories or Aunt Dan's time in Oxford. The play is based in England on the outskirts of London and sometimes in Oxford - so mostly town-like. 

The climate is mostly dull and dark, even though it is based mostly in the interiors, England does have gloomy weather and the play does mention that Lemon's father chose a place "strangely un-English" and like a swamp near Mississippi - the air was sticky and hot.

The mood kept changing in the play during memories but mostly a seriousness and non empathetic tone towards the fascist topics seemed to be the overall aura. The way characters and scenes changed is mostly depicted by blackouts - which point towards a dark tonality. I am predicting a very heavy bass ish music to complement the tone of the play.  A lot of silence too for the fight and added dramatic turns - a perfect example for maybe sometimes silence sings louder than music. 

2. The social world of the play 

A few characters in the play seem more isolated than the others. Lemon and her father seem more inward and private. Lemon's mother, however, is vocal about her opinions and Aunt Dan seems to be strongly opinionated. Lemon seems to be more influenced by her Aunt than her mother. Aunt Dan is mostly around company. There is tension between Lemon's mother and Aunt Dan and they argue over their difference of opinions. In the memories, however, Aunt Dan seems like an easy-going happy-go lucky woman. Lemon's tone is mostly flowing and logical and very justifying yet not defensive but heavily influenced. 

3. What changes

First Scene : A woman named Lemon sitting on an armchair in a dark room. 

Last Scene : A dark room as at the beginning of the play

Mid Scene : The argument between Aunt Dan and Lemon's mother. The plot moves from friendship to bitterness. 

I shall say this part is hard for me to describe for this play because of it's non-linearity. 

4. Imaginer's view changes - 

Aunt Dan's perception went from a cool aunt to someone justifying the nazis. The play intends to evoke and question whether compassion truly exists. A comparison of extermination camps to killing roaches. I found it confounding that the part where Lemon says - Well, what is this compassion? have you ever felt it? made me realize that maybe I have not felt it either. I saw a man get run over by a train when I was 10 years old on my way to school and I did not look away and his severed arm fell onto the platform and I remember thinking what a stupid man he was for crossing the tracks instead of using the bridges. Was I never taught compassion? 

I guess I would feel compassion when one is suffering and not when one is dead or on the other side of suffering cause it seems to be of no meaning to feel compassion then. I don't know!

5. Theatrical Mirrors

The interesting part about any play is that each person takes away something different from it. Depending on the context and where the person is from and what environments they grew up in factor in a lot of whether I would like, dislike, relate to or be absolutely confused about a play. I was not there during Nazi Germany or the Vietnam war but any acts of violence deem wrong and unnecessary to me. Each character of the play is bringing into perspective a memory or an opinion and questioning it.

6. The pattern

*I need to come back to this*

#Sentences for the play 

1. One simple - The play is about a girl and her Aunt.

2. One complex - The play is about a young girl influenced by her Aunt's stories and opinions who conforms into someone justifying fascism. 

3. 3-5 sentence description - A young girl named Leonara referred to as Lemon born in England who loves to listen to stories by her Aunt - an American friend of her parents. She recalls her Aunt's stories reflecting on her experiences. The play questions our understanding of compassion, leadership and fascism. 

Empty Space by Peter Brook & Visits to a Small Planet by Elanor Fuchs - Response

#Elanor Fuchs

I read Elanor Fuchs' visit to a small planet first since Empty Space was a long read. I knew there was a massive void of Arts education in my schooling and college but this reading made me realize how big this void was. Something like Geography and Astronomy that are so scientific are used so profoundly to understand a play. I am not very sure if I fully understood and appreciate this writing, cause I read it twice and each time deduced more meaning out of it. The piece ends with "Of course you can construct meaning in this world in many different ways" - maybe that should be my takeaway. 

Midway through reading her I : The world of the play - first things first, I saw myself visualizing the title sequence of Game of Thrones - how they walk through all the kingdoms, set up the map and familiarize the viewer with the world. It is probably not a good sign that for every part Elanor mentioned my mind visualized something from the cinematic arts rather than the theatrical arts - but that maybe because of how little of theatre I have consumed. Her questioning strategy is oddly familiar to my project development technique. It's interesting that the progression it takes is 1. Set the inanimate things 2. Set the animate things 3. Set the interactions/changes 4. Add some "you" 5. Reason back and forth 6. Match the patterns - so once you have laid down the first three points only then do you add your takes and interpretations into it. The Theatre is not meant to be one man's play since it is one of the oldest forms of interactive arts and anything interactive needs more than one agent. 

#Peter Brook

Jumping to Peter Brook's Empty Space, this reading was a roller coaster ride - it went from directors, actors, sculptors, designers, painters, critics and audiences. It went from Broadway to Tel Aviv and Russia and it went from one era to another. As I read what he was describing in the deadly theatre, I saw myself exploring where in history was theatre in India deadly, rough, holy or immediate. Since this summer I have been meaning to explore if theatre has the potential or already is a self sustaining industry in post independence India for thesis. Midway this reading Peter speaks about the role of critics and he rightly says "theatre has no room for error or for waste". Incompetence would show immediately in theatre and there is an abundance of that in the society I aim to explore. You can hand in a lousily written chunk of code, you can do a mediocre job at diagnosing patients and get away with it but theatre would point that out. Walking through history and how poets, playwrights and society developed and redirected themselves a certain way - some got commercial and lost essence makes me wonder what direction turns theatre into monopoly. 

Evaluating Broadway theatre sales from 1960s to 2000s for a case study last semester for Entertainment and Media Markets was a helpful in understanding further to what Peter Brook talks about in audiences choosing the spend their money on theatre and it is a risk. Media, critics and societal pressures play a huge role in what drives theatre in different cultures. As an English director, Peter seems to have had the opportunity to derive a world view of theatre - makes me wonder more about American and European history with theatre hugely influenced eastern culture and perception of theatre as well and what is the global reception of theatrical acts from different regions since Peter strongly suggests language is a part of theatre and not the sole aspect. Would a Bharat Natyam piece be as well received in a foreign land or would Opera or a Broadway musical be well received in the interiors of China and India. What seems to end on a hopeful note is his conclusion - "But unlike a book, the theatre has one special characteristic. It is always possible to start again." Maybe it is a good idea to look into Theatre and it's future in India for thesis.