Embracing Differences

by Liza Mitchell
‘Tis the season for goodwill towards men, and the upcoming production of “Hedwig and the Angry Inch” by the 5 & Dime Theatre Company demands no exception. The rollicking musical production by John Cameron Mitchell and Stephen Trask is staged at 8 pm December 13th, 14th & 15th, and at 10 pm on the 21st and 22nd, at Underbelly. A pre-show experience will begin at 8 pm prior to the December 22nd show. Advance tickets are available for $10 or $15 at the door. Tickets can be purchased at www.The5andDime.org.

Stage veteran, Josh Waller, plays the role of Hedwig in this cult classic about an East German boy who falls in love with an American GI and subsequently endures a botched sex change operation. The result is the birth of Hedwig and her band, The Angry Inch, and her painfully beautiful–and tragically hilarious–search for her other half, her sense of identity and the “origin of love.”
Waller and Maya Adkins play the roles of Hedwig and Yitzhak respectively. Hedwig and the Angry Inch, is directed by Edward Mourningwood. Other Jacksonville theatre veterans helping bring this story to life are musical director, Aaron Marshall, production designer, Lee Hamby, costume and wig designer, Joy Smith, and stage manager, Kim Schnepf.
“To me, this is a story about acceptance–acceptance from others and acceptance of yourself,” Waller says. “In my life, there have been those moments on stage during which it truly feels like magic is happening,” Waller says of stepping back into Hedwig’s skin. “That magic absolutely happens when I’m playing Hedwig and to get that opportunity again is truly a gift.”
With all of the negative noise drummed up by the City Council’s recent human rights debate, 5 & Dime co-founder Josh Taylor said it’s more relevant than ever for actions to speak louder than words. “We wanted to produce a show that spoke to the perceived ‘otherness’ of individuals being blatantly denied rights by local government and religious groups,” he says. “Hedwig is, underneath all of the glitter and wigs, a story about faith, about love, about music, about gender identity and about being different. These themes are universal to society, regardless of how you are categorized by your elected officials.”
Being different is commonplace for the members of 5 & Dime. Not many traditional theatrical companies are capable of finding success without a permanent address, but their guerilla performance style keeps things lively and allows for a multidimensional approach to their craft. Beyond the typical audition process, wardrobe and set design, it is a unique challenge not just to find a willing or available venue but one that fits the playbill.
They recently completed their 2013 lineup but plan to release details on a show-to-show basis. “Initially, we were set on locating and renovating a space in the Downtown/Riverside area to turn into our home. However, in our search for the perfect place, we were shocked with how many incredible spaces there were to choose from. So we decided, in a roundabout way, to make all of them our home,” Taylor says. “It allowed us to really create a custom environment for our shows, as opposed to the traditional view of a theater as an auditorium with a proscenium and a stage to act upon.”
This approach invites the audience to experience a performance in 3-D and surround sound not unlike a living, breathing planetarium. It also allows them to discover the hidden gems they never knew existed in their community. “The founders of the 5 & Dime came together with a shared desire to bring storytelling to the Downtown and Riverside areas. We noticed a lack of theatre presence in these prominent neighborhoods of town, and we set about to remedy the situation the best way we knew how,” Taylor says. “We also endeavor to create a product that speaks to all walks of life, but most especially individuals within the community that live theatre might not normally reach out to.”
Surprisingly, the nomadic approach to theatre has presented the members of 5 & Dime with few problems. Taylor attributes the good fortune to the “incredibly welcoming nature of the community around us” and is grateful to those who have provided support from rehearsal spaces to costume and set help. “And we’re only in our first year as a theatre company,” he says. “We owe our continued success to these individuals, and we hope to repay our gratitude by continually producing the highest caliber of theatre.”
Taylor calls the partnership with Underbelly “a no-brainer” and owners Emily Moody and Cameron Beard are thrilled for the opportunity to stage the venue’s first theatrical performance. “In searching for the perfect venue to stage Hedwig’s sad tour of America, we wanted a space that possessed the technical aspects necessary for the show but could also be made to look like a non-traditional tour stop for Hedwig’s band,” Taylor says.
Emily Moody said the collaboration promotes the continued expansion of the city’s urban core by celebrating a wide range of entertainment, and she, “can’t wait to see what 5 & Dime has in store for us.”
The 5 & Dime has announced to EU that the first show of the upcoming season will be All New People written by Zach Braff, who also wrote and starred in the film Garden State. Auditions for this production will be held at 6 pm Monday, December 10th at CoRK Studios in Riverside.