My Gay Toronto - MGT Stage

Wham, bam, thank you glam:
tucking into Hedwig

by Drew Rowsome

“She will be vicious, dirty, campy and real,” says Nathaniel Bacon of his starring role in Hedwig and the Angry Inch. “I’m a completely different person than everyone who has played this role before. So my personal instincts and sense of humor will shape Hedwig into a different version than every one before.”

Bacon had to work hard even before beginning rehearsals. “I believe I had to go in and audition four times in total. It was pretty intense. And even when they’d decided they wanted me to do it, I still had to go in and have a final meeting so they could make sure I had a personality they could work closely with. I definitely had to work for it.”

The Lower Ossington Theatre’s executive director Joseph Patrick is excited to be presenting the gender fluid rock n’ roll masterpiece at the same time as the more staid The Sound of Music. “We’ve wanted to do Hedwig for a long time,” he says, “but it just never seemed right. Now we have eight shows in production and we’re very proud to have Hedwig among them.”

Bacon is delighted to be making his d├ębut with LOT. “It’s a huge place with incredible energy and a million things going on at all times,” he says.” However, the group working on Hedwig is a small, dedicated band of brilliant freaks. It’s just as it should be. I love them all.”

Hedwig can be a tricky show because it involves two intense political/sexual minorities who are both vocal about how they are portrayed. “The second you start worrying about what other people are going to think of you, you’ve lost control of your performance,” says Bacon. “I understand the intense cult following this show has, because I am one of those crazy fans. But you’re never going to please everyone and I don’t aim to. Hedwig certainly doesn’t care about pleasing people and to play her for truth, I’ve got to embody that. I’ve put an incredible amount of time and thought and work into making her a complex, layered, real person. That’s the only thing that matters to me.”

As one of the breakout stars of Queer Idol, Bacon frequently sang songs identified with female divas. “The funny thing is that I never realized I did that,” says Bacon. “I think it just reflects my attitudes about gender roles. I really don’t believe in them. I think masculinity and femininity are just different sides of one coin. But come to think of it, that’s an integral part of the show. Hedwig’s ideas about gender are my own, so it becomes easy to channel her in that way.”

That should set the trans community at ease about how Bacon will represent the gender facet of Hedwig. But how about the musical facet? Glam rockers can be even pickier. “I’ve watched more concerts than I can tell you. I really want Hedwig to have a unique persona that doesn’t evoke any one person too completely. Personally, I’m drawing a lot of my inspiration from DavidBowie, Tina Turner, Mick Jagger and Steven Tyler, among others.” None of those influences, except perhaps Bowie, go as deep into glam rock as Hedwig demands but Bacon has already, apparently instinctively, exploded into a glam rock homage/deconstruction during the finale of his season of Queer Idol. “That’s funny, because I didn’t know I was doing that. I don’t aim to be sexy, ever. Sex is a part of virtually every person. If you’re being honest and open, sexuality is just there. I see no reason to judge or analyze that. Hedwig is a viciously honest person and she has almost no reservations. I just want people to see Hedwig as the person she is. I want them to see themselves in her. We are all Hedwig in a sense.”

Many will quibble with Bacon’s, “I don’t aim to be sexy,ever,” assertion, and those who saw his star turn in Bent know that reducing him to an angry inch is going to be difficult. “The tucking has been a challenge,” he admits. “There have been multiple occasions where my various angry inches have been accidentally revealed. That’s still a work in progress. The good thing is that when the adrenaline kicks in, the incredible discomfort fades to numbness . . . until after the performance, at which point the pain is very real.”  

Bacon, despite the pain, is ready to “Put on some make-up, and turn up the tape deck, and pull the wig down on my head” but it will be to incarnate a spitfire of a Hedwig of his own devising. Who’s on the tape deck as Bacon transforms? “An unreal mix tape of Bowie, Aerosmith, Tina Turner and Alanis Morissette,” he laughs. Not only unique choices but certainly “vicious, dirty, campy and real.”

Hedwig and the Angry Inch runs Thurs, April 17 until at least Sat, May 10 at The Lower Ossington Theatre, 100A Ossington Ave.