In a small building just off Wells Street, big things are happening.
Three Rivers Music Theatre is having a great big party for their new venue, featuring the Fort Wayne premiere of the queer cult classic, Hedwig and The Angry Inch, opening Nov. 3 and running three weekends through Nov. 19.
Emphasis on inclusion
‘Hedwig and The Angry Inch’
Three Rivers Music Theatre
8 p.m. Friday-Saturday, Nov. 3-4
6 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 5
8 p.m. Friday-Saturday, Nov. 10-11
6 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 12
8 p.m. Friday-Saturday, Nov. 17-18
6 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 19
Three Rivers Music Theatre
416 W. Fourth St., Fort Wayne
$21.60-$36.60 • email@example.com
Three Rivers Music Theatre is a company whose primary focus is inclusion, their mission statement being: “Three Rivers Music Theatre engages, inspires, entertains, and challenges audiences through intentional and impactful programing in a diverse, inclusive, and encouraging environment.”
They demonstrate their dedication to this mission not only in their choice of productions and inclusive casting practices but also in the environment they create in their venue.
Their lobby, while painted white, is awash in the rainbow of pride flags with shelves displaying queer literature and memorabilia.
Daniel Meredith, who portrays the title character of Hedwig in the upcoming production, credits his director (also Three Rivers Music Theater executive director) Andy Planck for helping to create this environment.
“Andy and I have talked a lot, especially talking about the show and how important it is to the queer community, and how he’s really trying to build a really great safe space for queer performance artists,” Meredith said. “I mean, a lot of theaters by nature invite a lot of queer performers into their space, but I really think that Andy is putting such an emphasis on it.”
Meredith, who identifies as a cisgender gay man, really values the environment Planck has created.
“I think it’s really cool for a theater to really take initiative and not just have inclusion be kind of a byproduct of whatever show they’re doing or whomever they get to come on to auditions,” he said.
Filling the space
Three Rivers Music Theatre previously staged events for Pride Month and also plan to produce a queer-friendly holiday show.
Hedwig and The Angry Inch is no different.
The story surrounds Hedwig Schmidt, (Meredith) a German rock n’ roll artist who had a less than successful gender reassignment surgery. Hedwig fronts a band called The Angry Inch and tours the country with her husband and backup singer, Yitzhak (Greyson Barnett), telling her story on a search for love and meaning.
Hedwig and The Angry Inch is a unique show in that it lends itself to an intimate and immersive space, perfect for the new Three Rivers Music Theatre’s black-box style venue.
The show is performed almost cabaret style, which is something that Meredith says excites him.
“By nature the show was written to be immersive,” Meredith said. “The show itself wasn’t started on Broadway or Off Broadway. It was started in night clubs and at drag bars and birthday parties and private events, and it was constantly changing.
“It’s specifically written in the script to customize it to fit whatever space you are performing. And so I was so eager to really get up in this very intimate space, for this is a very intimate show. Hedwig bears her entire heart and soul on that stage.”
In this particular case, the stage is small and arranged somewhat like a cabaret, with a small catwalk and VIP tables on either side. There is, of course, ample seating, but none of it is off limits to the fearless Hedwig.
“Andy has encouraged me, especially much later in the show, to really get into the audience,” Meredith said. “Especially during the songs, to find people in the audience that I know, or people who are enjoying the show, to really pull them and make them a part of the show.”
Staying in the moment
There has been great care taken by the production team to connect to the target audience, especially in these times where the queer community and drag performance in particular has come under fire by lawmakers.
“We all sat down and kind of had a meeting about the world of the show and the meaning of the show,” Meredith said. “I never viewed Hedwig necessarily as a drag queen, even though what I’m doing on stage is considered drag.”
Meredith further elaborated that the creator of the show, John Cameron Mitchell, would not classify the title character as drag or transgender, but actually genderqueer which is more fluid, not conforming to either binary gender.
However, Meredith thanks AJ Lorenzini (aka Tilda Whirl) with help finding Hedwig’s performance look for the production, saying working with Tilda Whirl is “Fabulous!”
No matter Hedwig’s look, which was originally based on androgynous glam rockers like David Bowie, Meredith focuses on doing his fearless character justice.
“I try not to focus too much on hyper-feminine or hyper-masculine moments,” Meredith said of his portrayal. “I just let her be what she’s gonna be at that moment. Hedwig just fades in and out of everything so quickly, because she’s a very flighty character. She flies by the seat of her pants all the time. And I try to go with whatever she’s feeling at that moment.”
Meredith hopes Hedwig will help to open some minds for the people of Fort Wayne and encourages everyone to come to the show.
“Through all the jokes and the rock songs, and the glamor and the heels and the waves and the makeup, there is a very heartbreaking story behind what she is saying,” he said. “And a very relatable story that a lot of people have gone through.”