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The story of Charlotte Von Mahlsdorf

By Roman DeSantos

Born Lothar Berfelde in the Berlin suburb of Mahlsdorf in 1928, Charlotte Von Mahlsdorf showed a preference for women’s clothing at an early age. Von Mahlsdorf (who referred to herself in the feminine) had a tyrannical father who was a Nazi. He forced her to join the Hitler Youth. She found support, however, from her mother and her Aunt Louise.

I Am My Own Wife
With Alan Jordan
Thu, Feb 13–Sat, Feb 15, 7pm
Mon, Feb 17–Sat, Feb 22, 7pm
Sun, Feb 16 and 23, 3pm
175 pesos
Matinees 150 pesos
La Buhardilla
Fábrica La Aurora
Tickets at Solutions (Mesones 57)

Von Mahlsdorf bludgeoned her father to death in his sleep with a rolling pin. She was sentenced to four years in a youth prison but she was released early when the Nazi regime collapsed in 1945.

Von Mahlsdorf began cross-dressing full time in her late teens. Though she identified as a transvestite rather than a transsexual, she described herself as a female soul in a male body.

From the time she was a child Von Mahlsdorf had an avid interest in collecting household items such as furniture, clocks and phonographs. These items were acquired from families persecuted by both Nazi and communist regimes with the intention of preserving them.

After the war, Von Mahlsdorf acquired an old manor house in Mahlsdorf, where, in 1960, she opened the Grunderzeit Museum, showcasing items in her collection from the late 1800s. She re-created the Mulack-Ritze–a Weimar-era nightclub formerly frequented by Bertolt Brecht and Marlene Dietrich–in the basement of the house.

Von Mahlsdorf was hailed as an eccentric celebrity during the years of German reunification in the early 1990s and was even awarded the prestigious Medal of Honor.

In 1992 she published her autobiography Ich bin meine eigene Frau (I Am My Own Wife). This was followed by a documentary film of the same name by Rosa von Praunheim.

Author Doug Wright began interviewing Von Mahlsdorf, and researching her life for a play. He discovered numerous discrepancies in her life story. For example, files from recently opened government archives revealed that she had acted as an informant for the Stasi secret police. These revelations resulted in her being vilified by the media. She left Germany for Sweden in 1997.

Wright’s play, also entitled I Am My Own Wife, premiered on Broadway in 2003, garnering widespread acclaim and winning numerous awards in 2004. Included in the awards are the Pulitzer Prize for drama, Tony Award for best play, the Drama Desk Award, Drama League Award, Lucille Lortel Award and the Lamda Literary Award.

I Am My Own Wife is not a story about being gay, not a story about being a cross-dresser and not a story about cold war politics. It is a story about the survival of one astounding person.

OBRA Productions presents I Am My Own Wife starring Canadian actor, Alan Jordan (whose production of House was held over in San Miguel and toured Mexico last year).

I Am My Own Wife opens at La Buhardilla in Fábrica La Aurora on Calzada de la Aurora in San Miguel de Allende on February 13 and plays through February 23.

Performances will be held Thursday, Friday and Saturday evenings at 7pm. Sunday matinees will be at 3pm. Evening performances are 175 pesos. Matinees are 150 pesos.

This very unique play, which takes place in a museum, will be presented as Environmental Theater. The audience will be seated in and on the wonderful antiques at La Buhardilla.

Tickets are available at Solutions on Mesones 57. Please note that Solutions closes at 2pm on Saturdays and is closed on Sundays. So please plan ahead. Fábrica La Aurora has ample parking and all taxis know its convenient location.


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