This Thursday, the trans/non-binary punk show experience Hedwig and the Angry Inch is coming to a theater near you: Shanley Pavilion, to be exact. Directed by Adam Orme and produced by Lindsey Weiss, Hedwig is a show about a genderqueer East German performer who relocates to the U.S. and performs in a rock band along with her roadie and sort-of lover Yitzhak.
Communication sophomore Jack Posey is a hair and makeup designer for Hedwig, along with Communication sophomore Eva Grace Warrender. As a drag performer, Posey has firsthand experience with drag makeup and drag culture in general. In addition to designing hair and makeup, Posey also worked as the dialect coach for the show, helping with the German and Croatian influences on the speech patterns of Hedwig and Yitzhak. NBN sat down with Posey to discuss everything Hedwig, from wigs to gender roles to how this show got him to NU. This interview has been condensed and edited for clarity.
NBN: How are you approaching hair for the show?
Jack Posey: So there are a total of five wigs in this show – three of which are very styled and are meant to be truly extravagant centerpieces of the play, and two of them are sort of jokey prop wigs. I have had a lot of experience wearing wigs but not a lot of experience styling wigs, so this was a big new venture for me. I’ve been doing a lot of sculptural styling of wigs, and I hope they turn out all right. And Eva is great with cutting hair, and we’ve definitely had to alter some of these wigs so they can suit [Hedwig] in the way that they need to.
With the hair, Hedwig has this one very iconic look that is consistent across every iteration of Hedwig and every production that sort of emulates the Farrah Fawcett hairstyle with its own punk twist. There are these two giant loaves of hair on the side of Hedwig’s head; they’re referred to as the Aquanet lungs in the script - Aquanet being a hairspray and they’re like giant lungs on the side of her head. But then, through the rest of the show there’s a little bit more liberty with the stuff that we can do, so it’s been fun workshopping what we we’re going to do. It’s really cool and I feel very much in the ethos of Hedwig that I had to be kind of resourceful and crafty with how to obtain the wigs and how to get them to the place they need to be for presenting onstage. It’s true DIY, drag, punk stuff.
NBN: And what about makeup?
Posey: A sort of foundational concept for this production is that this is a true genderqueer trans narrative. In this production we talked a lot about Hedwig not being a binary trans-story so much as a true genderqueer narrative, and about finding personal peace and existing sort of between gender and beyond gender. There’s definitely an oscillation of gender throughout the show. In a lot of the canon of Hedwig, they talk about, “Hedwig’s in drag,” or, “Yitzhak is a drag king in the show who plays a drag queen,” whereas in this production, we’re trying to move more towards them just being genderqueer performers and artists.
With that, I’m using a lot of techniques and skills that are central to drag makeup, but definitely softening them. In drag makeup, there’s a lot of reshaping and reconstructing the face, using highlight and contour to create a feminized face, whereas in this, I’m not using any of those techniques on [Hedwig]. It’s more about the diffusion of gender and playing color and vibrancy and fun. It evokes a lot of the punk scene, especially femme punk rock. There’s a lot of glitter, there’s a lot of color on Hedwig and there’s a lot of beiges and taupes on Yitzhak.
We’re trying to specifically make it [that] this isn’t drag makeup, this is makeup that incorporates a few drag techniques that is meant to diffuse gender.
NBN: Why is this show important for people to see?
Posey: This show is probably my favorite musical of all time, and I don’t even consider it to be a musical – it’s just a live music and storytelling event. The musical is written by John Cameron Mitchell, who is a Northwestern alum. It is so specific to the queer subversive sensibility, and at the same time it is one of the most universally, viscerally enjoyable and moving, and just awe-inspiring pieces of theater in my opinion. I love this show more than I can express in words.
This show is literally the reason I’m at Northwestern. I saw it on Broadway when I was 16 years old with John Cameron Mitchell in the role of Hedwig, and I said, “Where the fuck did he go to college?” and here I am. Wherever that person learned how to create this, I want to go and learn that, and that’s really why I’m here. I have the poster up from that show in my apartment.
I’m talking about it like it’s a feel-good, self-help, inspirational piece, but it’s so irreverent. It’s so vulgar. It’s so funny. And in that way, it so appeals to a queer sense of humor, a queer desire for subversion and grittiness and just raunch, but also there’s a song, Origin of Love, that I can’t listen to without fully weeping. It just speaks to the universal nature of love and how queer love and non-queer love are just on totally the same playing field as just a foundational experience of humanity.
Yeah, people queer and not queer should see it just because it’s fucking amazing. It’s everything. Hedwig is everything.
Spectrum Theatre Company’s Hedwig and the Angry Inch plays Oct. 19 at 8 p.m., Oct. 20 at 7:30 p.m. and 10:30 p.m., and Oct. 21 at 7 p.m. and 10 p.m. in Shanley Pavilion. Admission is free, but any donations will go toward the LGBTQ+ Community Center of Puerto Rico.