Broadway musical “Hedwig and the Angry Inch” debuted in Hattiesburg on Aug. 10-12 and 16-18 at the Thirsty Hippo.
University of Southern Mississippi Assistant Professor of Classics and Film Studies Miles Doleac both directed the show and played the lead character of Hedwig.
The performances of “Hedwig” followed the success of “Cabaret” held at the Thirsty Hippo last summer. Brad and Sarah Newton, owners of the Thirsty Hippo, coordinated with the Hattiesburg Civic Light Opera (HCLO) to host Broadway shows in Hattiesburg. “Hedwig” is the second show to be performed by HCLO at the Thirsty Hippo.
“I like the idea of doing these slightly edgier envelope pushing shows in this kind of bar setting because people coming there seem to know what they’re getting into,” Doleac said. “The audience is right there and you’re right in their face and there’s just this connection I think that you have with the audience which is very important for a show like ‘Hedwig’ as it was with ‘Cabaret’.”
“Hedwig and the Angry Inch” tells the fictional story of East German singer Hedwig who receives a botched transgender surgery in order to marry an American soldier and escape Communist Germany. The musical takes inspiration from the style of David Bowie as well as the work of John Lennon, Lou Reed and Iggy Pop.
“‘Hedwig’ is a show that I had always wanted to do, and it was just, for me, a question of – is Hattiesburg ready for Hedwig?” Doleac said. “And after the response to Cabaret last summer, which in many respects is every bit as racy as Hedwig, in perhaps slightly different ways, I thought, it’s time to do Hedwig in Hattiesburg.”
“Hedwig and the Angry Inch” was the fourth show that Doleac directed with HCLO and his tenth appearance as a performer with HCLO.
Doleac dedicated his performance in “Hedwig” to “all the misfits, the losers and the strange rock and rollers,” along with men and women of every background, national origin, ethnicity, religious persuasion and sexual orientation who have suffered against the forces of fear, bigotry and oppression.
“Anybody who’s ever been pushed to the fringe, who’s been ostracized, or felt like an outcast or a misfit, or felt like they were unable to be who they were, who has been made to feel like a weirdo or who has made to feel like they are less than for having a certain opinion or passions can identify with Hedwig,” Doleac said.
“I thought it was a revolutionary moment for Hattiesburg. They brought such a controversial musical to our city in the name of change and inclusion, and it was absolutely inspiring to witness,” Junior Graphic Design major Cameron Cummins said.
“Hedwig turns out to be, as much great art is, so incredibly relevant and timely and addresses issues that are right in our faces, right at this moment and what we’re seeing in the news every day,” Doleac said. “So, I thought it would be a great show and, as it turns out, the vast majority of the community has embraced it and everyone who’s come to see the show… I mean I think there was some backlash and some fear, for whatever reason of doing Hedwig here.”
A major sponsor of HCLO asked for their logos to be removed from the show’s programs and Facebook ads because they had received complaints about the content of the show.
“At the end of the day, Hedwig is about the healing power of love, and accepting who you are,” Doleac said.
HCLO plans to debut several shows in the upcoming season including the first ever Shakespeare in the Park performance of “Macbeth,” “White Christmas,” “The Who’s Tommy” and “Evita.”
Since its founding in 1976, HCLO has produced over 120 shows in order to bring entertainment to the Pine Belt residents and provide an outlet for community members to share their various artistic talents with their neighbors.
According to HCLO’s website, participation in HCLO performances has allowed hundreds of locals to learn about play production and share their talents and enthusiasm for artistic endeavors with other members of the community.
Visit www.hclo.org for more details, ticket information and notes on related performances.