Hedwig Schmidt stands in the middle of the stage with a beer bottle in her hand. She casually narrates her dynamic story as she struts around. Some may be dazzled or outraged by her appearance and provocative actions. Regardless, Hedwing's such features try to tell us something. Let us follow her voice.
Why Hedwig and the Angry Inch?
Hedwig and the Angry Inch (henceforth Hedwig) was originally a small off-Broadway play with only a small target audience in 1998. However, when the show was on, a flow of cult fans followed ? it became a sensation. Hedwig began to expand its ground from a few cities to worldwide, and it arrived in Korea, too. The musical Hedwig was staged seven times in Korea and was sold out every single time. From the huge success of the musical it became a movie as well, for audiences all around the world. The fame of Hedwig was heard at UOS, too. English Drama Research Association (E.D.R.A.) of the Dept. of English Language and Literature successfully staged the musical Hedwig from Sept. 4 to Sept. 8, for four days. The result was, again, sensational; the seats were almost sold out. By now, a question must arise: why is this Hedwig so loved? Well, prepare to get to know her better.
“Who is this Mystery Woman?”
Plainly put, Hedwig Schmidt is a homosexual and possibly transsexual drag queen. She begins to tell her story; that how her life has been all about searching for her perfect half that can make her complete. Since she was a man in East Berlin, she believed in a story about the origin of love told by her mother. This story convinces her that she cannot be whole without her destined half, making her fervent about finding the other half, her man. When she meets American Sergeant Luther Robinson, she thinks he is her 'one.' Soon she gives up a little part of herself ? her manhood, although the operation was not entirely successful ? and puts on a wig to be with him in America. When her love woman” Hedwig moves on to Tommy Gnosis, formerly known as Tommy Speck. Hedwig gives him her music and her wisdom ? gnosis in Greek ? but he takes them away and abandons her. Lastly, she finds an illegal immigrant and drag queen named Yitzhak and bets on his hopelessness and helplessness to make a lasting relationship. Thus, she marries him and gives him a green card, but he also leaves her. After failing in the search for her other half for a third time, she realizes that she cannot find wholeness in another person because it is within herself. Hedwig acknowledges the fact that there is no perfect half and that she is more than just
an imperfect half waiting for the other as she listens to Tommy Gnosis’s song for her.
“… you were so much more Than any god could ever plan More than a woman or a man …
There's nothing you can find That cannot be found”
With this epiphany, she accepts herself as a complete and worthy being and becomes whole.
Hedwig Within Us
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Hedwig’s life story is as bizarre and unusual as it can get. Hedwig is neither a woman nor a man. She has her “little bishop in the turtleneck” removed, but one inch of her is left like an obstructive bump in her way that makes it impossible for her to belong anywhere, as neither male nor female. Stuck between dichotomies, unaligned and incomplete, Hedwig relies on her “cosmic lover” to make her feel belonged. Sadly, it is still not smooth sailing for her. Luther leaves her alone with the wigs, Tommy denies her “receding” front, and Yitzhak marries her but only conditionally. In the end, she sings all alone, a discouraged failure.
“ I was born on the other side of a town ripped in two and no matter how hard I’ve tried I end up black and blue... ... I gave a piece to my man I gave a piece to the rock star He took the good stuff and ran”
Listening to her story, we think, “Wow, she has lived a harsh life. I have never gone through anything like that.” However, we feel that her weird and unique stories are somehow familiar to ours. We all have had similar experiences to hers, like when we went the extra mile to fit ourselves into some categories: wanting to be recognized as a good child, not a bad child; a girly girl, not tomboyish; a sporty boy, not shy; a student at a top university instead of an unheard one. The category might have been being cool instead of being a lonely loser. Standards may differ but one thing is identical: when we were not a part of something, we felt terribly insecure and alone, like Hedwig is when she fails at finding her other half and "ends up black and blue.” However, in the end, for the first time she pulls herself up by her bootstraps from her forsaken life. She accepts herself for who she is and learns to love herself as she is. Hedwig takes off her wig and gives it to Yitzhak. She lets him go as she lets go of her childhood dream of her other half. Standing by herself and proud for the first time, she sings the ultimate message;
“Know in your soul Like your blood knows the way From your heart to your brain Know That You’re Whole”
Hedwig is a victim of the dichotomy that people want to put on others: the distinctive line that one cannot cross. However, she gives us a chance to break these prejudices that tell us to belong somewhere ? Do not be a wall in the dichotomy but a bridge between two sides of the world. She tells us that we “shine like the brightest stars” even if we are not ‘something’or even if we break down because we are perfect on our own. Hedwig is not a freak of nature or a pervert who is different from the majority of people. Her story is extraordinary and complex, but who she is is clear: she is just another person whose life is filled with struggles, hopes, self-doubt, and acceptance. The show presents the question “who is this mystery woman?” The answer is that she is you, she is me, and she is us; she represents the aspects that we all have because we are all humans. No matter how different we may be from others, we are complete when we stand as ourselves. It is time that we take the wigs off ourselves and love ourselves for who we are.
Ourselves as Hedwig, not Head-wig
Kim Soo-yeon Junior Reporter
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