Doug Wright’s I Am My Own Wife
By Craig Kaczorowski
I Am My Own Wife by playwright Doug Wright and starring Alan Jordan, is back by popular demand and is now playing in San Miguel de Allende. The works of award-winning playwright, screenwriter, and librettist Doug Wright often focus on the unconventional lives of society’s outsiders. Among these are the iconoclastic artist Marcel Duchamp in Interrogating the Nude; the Marquis de Sade in Quills; Charlotte von Mahlsdorf, an East Berlin transvestite who survived persecution by both the Nazi and Communist regimes, in the Tony Award and Pulitzer Prize-winning I Am My Own Wife; and “Big Edie” and “Little Edie” Bouvier Beale, two eccentric American aristocrats who ended up living in squalor, sharing a once-elegant mansion, in the musical Grey Gardens, based on the cult classic documentary film of the same name.
I Am My Own Wife, Pulitzer Prize and Tony Award winning play by Doug Wright
Starring Alan Jordan
Thu-Sat, Nov 27-29, 7pm
Sun, Nov 30, 5:30pm
Thu-Sat, Dec 4-6, 7pm
Sun, Dec 7, 5:30pm
Finca y Fábrica
Stirling Dickinson 28
Tickets for general seating can be purchased only at Solutions, Recreo 11
In 1990, before he had even begun work on Quills, Wright took a trip to Berlin. While there, he received a letter from his high school friend John Marks, who at the time was the US News & World Report bureau chief in Germany. “I’ve found a true character,” Marks wrote. “She’s way up your alley. And, believe me, I use the term ‘she’ loosely. I think she may well be the most singular, eccentric individual the Cold War ever birthed. Have I piqued your interest?” Marks was referring to Charlotte von Mahlsdorf, born Lothar Berfelde, an East Berlin openly gay transvestite and furniture collector who survived persecution by both the Nazi and Communist regimes. (Charlotte von Mahlsdorf later published her autobiography, Ich bin meine eigene Frau, in 1992. She also appeared in Rosa von Praunheim’s 1992 film of the same name.)
Wright’s interest was indeed piqued and he traveled with Marks to a rural suburb, Mahlsdorf, in the former East Berlin to meet with von Mahlsdorf. “She had us for tea in her basement and started to spill the story of her life,” Wright recalled of his initial meeting with her. As he listened to her talk, Wright knew immediately that her life story had to be put on stage. “When I first met Charlotte I wanted to write a real hymn to her,” Wright has explained. “I thought that all the negative conditioning I had endured as a young gay man growing up in Texas was countered by her own extraordinary stories of survival.” He believed that von Mahlsdorf’s story could serve “as a powerful corrective for all of our gay self-loathing.”
Von Mahlsdorf agreed to be interviewed by Wright for material to form a play about her life. Wright repeatedly returned to Berlin for nearly two years, recording hours of conversation with her. Ultimately, he amassed more than 500 pages of transcribed text.
As Wright delved deeper into von Mahlsdorf’s life, he found that her story was even more complex than he originally thought. The playwright discovered that she had been an informant for the Stasi, the East German secret police, and may even have betrayed a friend. The revelation was startling, and Wright felt he could no longer continue with the project. “I felt that to write the play,” he revealed, “would be the betrayal of a friendship because I knew there were things I had learned that she would not necessarily want to be disclosed.” Instead, he began writing Quills to distract himself from the disappointment of suspending his work on von Mahlsdorf. However, two years after Wright had first learned about the Stasi file, the German press publicly revealed her informant past. Wright decided that now he could continue with the project. “It would no longer be my disclosure,” he said.
In 2000, Wright was invited to work on his project at the Sundance Theater Laboratory in Utah. “How wonderful,” Wright later explained, “that a fascinating historical figure who had been forced to adopt a series of guises in order to live her life, how fitting that her story should be told by one actor forced to adopt a series of guises in order to impart it.”
The play was a critical and commercial success and earned Wright some of the most enthusiastic reviews of his career. Bruce Weber, writing for The New York Times, called it “the most stirring new work to appear on Broadway this fall.”
Wright received a Tony Award for Best Play, a Drama Desk Award for Outstanding New Play, a GLAAD Media Award, an Outer Critics Award, a Drama League Award, a Lucille Lortel Award, and the 2004 Pulitzer Prize for Drama for I Am My Own Wife. On winning the Pulitzer, Wright announced, “It’s especially gratifying and exhilarating for someone who grew up with all of the ambivalence one has about one’s sexuality, because this award sanctions my most overt and openly gay work.” This extra ordinary one-man tour de force play stars Alan Jordan.
I Am My Own Wife is now playing at Finca y Fábrica, Plaza Pueblito, Stirling Dickinson 28, tickets for general seating can be purchased only at Solutions, Recreo 11, 175 pesos.