The original Off-Broadway production of Hedwig and the Angry Inch premiered at the Jane Street Theatre on (appropriately enough) Valentine’s Day, February 14, 1998. Looking at the playbill from performances during that era, one can see a number of contributors from our neighborhoods, including the Westbeth Theatre Center, helped make the original show happen. John Cameron Mitchell and Stephen Trask’s glam/punk musical would eventually become a movie directed by Mitchell. It eventually made it to Broadway, London’s West End, and stages across the globe, receiving critical acclaim, Tony Awards, and a cavalcade of notable actors in the title role.
The subject of love is deeply rooted in this show, as it explores everything from maternal love to romantic love, and of course self-love and acceptance. The play’s song Origin of Love explains this complex emotion inspired by Plato’s Symposium.
The anthem made a number of young, musical theater kids around the world feel seen. It demonstrates the power of art and of representation. One needs only to look at the devotion of the show’s super fans, affectionately referred to as “HedHeads,” to begin to see the impact of this show.
For years now, John Cameron Mitchell and Stephen Trask have brought that piece of musical theater history and all of your favorite songs from Hedwig back to the stage with their show entitled the Origin of Love Tour. The show takes audiences through stories of creation, collaboration, and artistic trials and triumphs. Artists like Amber Martin, who you might recognize from her solo artist residency at Joe’s Pub, join Mitchell and Trask onstage. The affection for one another as well as current and past collaborators is palpable. But the care and passion does not stop there. These shows, which reunite these co-creaters to the delight of fans nationwide, was staged for an important purpose: to help John Cameron Mitchell raise money for his mother’s health care. At the event one may get an opportunity to bid on some show memorabilia or signed merchandise all for a good cause.
Dig deeper, and one sees that Mitchell and Trask are spreading the love around. For example, when the show ran at The Town Hall in Midtown. portions of its proceeds proceeds went to organizations like the Ali Forney Center, Chosen Family Law Center (CFLC), and Burritos Not Bombs!
Watching an international sensation continue to impact both audiences and communities in need of a little assistance is an inspirational way to explore love. Whether it is love of one’s self or love of one’s fellow humans, Mitchell and Trask give us more than a song to light our way — they give a shining example of how artists can make a difference. That’s some lasting impact for a little show that started down on Jane and West Streets back in the 90s.