The Playbills handed out at each production in Broadway (and off Broadway, and I think Off-Off Broadway) typically have the name of the theatre underneath the title PLAYBILL, then a picture of some sort and/or the name of the play. This playbill has a handsome man with glitter all over his face, his eyebrows either thin-shaped or they are covered with brow covers and make up, his mouth is open with his tongue touching the corner of the left side of his mouth. He doesn’t look like Doogie, he doesn’t look like Barney, he doesn’t even look like Neil Patrick Harris.
He is Hedwig, and the name of his band is The Angry Inch.
7:30p: After work on saturday August 2nd, I mosied slowly to The Belasco Theatre on 44th between 6th and Broadway. The smell of Halal filling my nostrils teasing my stomach. I’d rather be eating something than walking to a crowd… NO. No I WANT to be here. It’s a long shot, but I want to be a part of it. I want to say I tried, as many times as I actually could to win the opportunity to pay $37 to see Hedwig and The Angry Inch. I live and work in Manhattan with Broadway only steps away and I want and need to be a part of it. For now, my role is “audience participant.” No, for now my role is “audience hopeful.” As I approach the crowd begins to close in and I see her–my housemate. This girl has won three times already. I hate her. Nah, it’s awesome! I’m envious and I wanted to change the locks the last time she won. heh. I told her I was going to tell her I was coming over tonight, but I figured she would be there–I was right. So we grab papers to write our names down. I write mine in pencil. first and last name. and email address. I didn’t write my email address last time, I hope I don’t end up on a mailing list that says “thanks for trying to see Hedwig, sorry you got left out please try again on the following dates listed below…” I put it in the wig box and say “thank you” to the nice young lady with straight brown hair and glasses.
8pm: The young lady with the wigbox has closed the wig box and explained the rules. Because there is a show going on behind her (there was a 7p and 10p show) so we have to play “The Quiet Game” for The Lottery. When she says the name of the person we are to hold up on one hand “using correct fingers” and tell her how many tickets we want. One or Two. There are not alot of tickets left. Twenty. So chances are each person she pulls from the box will want two tickets. There are, easily, almost 100 people there. I suck at gauging amounts of people, by the way. I have no idea how many people were there. I had described it to a friend as “a shit ton of people” and it seemed to draw a clear picture. She gets through a few names. The last time I was there, last weekend, she said some really difficult Asian name and it JUST SO HAPPENED there were TWO people there with the same unique difficult Asian name. What are the chances of THAT? What are MY chances??? I suck at ratios, too, by the way. She keeps saying names. Random names. We are all random, collectively random…She then says “ok guys I have one more name to pull, before I do if you don’t get picked today you have two chances to win tomorrow for the two shows at 3 and 7p. Then she reached in the wig box and I saw her mouth start to form the beginning of my name. Just the “aw” part and I inhaled sharply and felt a chill and my hands and fingers spread open with some kind of energy that felt electrocuting and I closed my eyes tight–they hurt for a moment, it was very weird. “Aiyani Mersai” And I place my hands up around my mouth and pretend to yell LOUDLY with my eyes squeezed shut, then thrust my hand into the air with a solid two fingers indicating how many tickets I wanted.
“bitch” The girl in front of me said. I opened my eyes and she was smiling. “You don’t want to sell your tickets do you? ” I grinned and shook my head. “Congratulations” and the crowd began to dissipate and I made my way to the front. Had to show my ID then the ten of us who won would be escorted directly to the box office. I was last in line. There is a guarantee that I will get two tickets, there is no guarantee that they will
be together, and there is a possibility of “partial view” only. I am absolutely okay with this. I walk up to the box office and politely, yet excitedly, hand over the money for my two tickets and they say LR BOX on them. I wonder if it’s The Box that Ya-Ya (housemate) spoke of. Wouldn’t it be crazy if we ended up in the same seats she won before? Maybe not too crazy, they could possibly save those seats specifically for The Lottery, upping the Coolness Level of winning in general.
I get my tickets and head back outside to meet up with Ya-Ya. I show her the tickets. “IT’S THE BOX!!!” She yells. And now we have to kill time. There’s a diner near by, I am still starving. We go. I get a bacon cheddar cheeseburger with fries. We sit and chat. we head back
9:20p: We are in line
9:30p: Doors open and the line that extends down the block and around the corner begins to move, fast. We. Are. In.
We are escorted up a set of stairs that lead to a small booth/balcony on the side of the orchestra seating. It is considered “Partial View”. We are adjacent to maybe row six or seven. The lowest price for tickets to tonights performance is $175, easy. We paid $37. I feel lucky. There are four seats total in The Box we are in the “back row” of these four chairs and we angle them so we have as good a view as we can get. I’m ecstatic. Elated. Beside myself. I live here. I won the lottery. I won.
10p: Showtime. The band comes out and the crowd goes wild.
<Lena Hall comes out and the crowd goes MORE wild. She looks as I remember from the performance on
The Tony’s and from the website images on Playbill for Hedwig:
This is going to be stupid amazing, isn’t it?
Then: The Entrance. It’s like Lady Gaga has beens stealing from Hedwig and none of us knew it. The wig is huge, the glitter, the outfit looks like it’s a huge butterfly. The wings coming out of the legs. The crowd is stupid with excitement, and I am participating. Then the sparklies are taken off revealing a denim gettup. skirt and vest. Gold ankle boots. Fishnets. Just–speechless. The crowd is going absolutely wild.
She speaks, welcoming us to The Belasco giving us the history of the theatre, and it’s address. Joking it’s not necessarily ON broadway but “Broadway Adjacent” then she comes back again with “East of Broaday…E-Broad!” Everyone is laughing. Her makeup is crazy. Those pencil thin brows and bright blue eyeshadow and red cheeks. During the history lesson, though, is where we were told that the theatre was haunted by the ghost of David Belasco (I believe she said), who built the historic theatre. He died in 1931 and has been said to be haunting “this booth….” And she comes over to House Right (or Stage Left, however you MUST say it) and a yellow light shines on four ladies, and I am one of them.
I can only imagine what the other faces look like, *mine* is stunned, jaw dropped and excited. My shoulders probably hugging my ears and my eyes more than likely resemble “crazy eyes” from Orange is The New Black. She looks at us and smiles. Then silence for a moment and she says “Four Sleepless Nights.” At least…that’s what I thought she said. I was confused having no idea if that was a reference to something I don’t know about…Probably is. And I still don’t know it. Because I’ve done zero research. I just say what I remember! Then she goes on to say the ghost is said to appear and it means the show that is playing will be a hit, so we need to keep a watch for the ghost. We all, the four of us, nod–or something- and the light lowers and I look over at Ya-Ya with a super excited face. (She has already sat up here, having one The Lottery before, but she is allowing me to just experience it–after I told her to stop telling me everything…hahaha)
Songs. Stories. Songs.
I haven’t seen an actor work THIS hard in…a really REALLY long time. It’s one-liner after one-liner. It’s laughter and energy and sweat and, and , and and, and “lets check in about the ghost” The lights come back up and she is standing on the edge of the stage asking if we’ve seen the ghost…I nodded “yes.” (mistake??) She says “Oh? Tell us all about it” and points her microphone up towards me–I am the one who shook my head yes. What was I thinking?? I didn’t know what to do or say, I was stumped. Stumped with excitement. My improv skills are at a Full Stop and my voice has squeezed so tightly closed I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to speak again. –I start to gesture. WHAT WAS THINKING? I was moving my arms up and wide and all over the place–and not speaking. “The Ghost is a Mime?” She says? and the audience laughs. I laugh. And nod. I am embarrassed and fear I am letting her down, letting Ya-Ya down, and everyone who is watching is somehow coming up with better things to say than me I JUST KNOW IT, and all I can do …is gesture. and nod…”Did the ghost tell you you have Huge Breasts?” Crowd. Goes. Wild. My lips roll towards each other to silence anything I could possibly say and I smile and slowly look down to my chest then as I grab my own boob I hear her say “yyyyyyaaah…they’re HUGE.” I look up and I’m laughing, and cupping my breasts (red tanktop, grey VS bra underneath, for those who need a better picture. hahaha) and I begin nodding again. “So…the ghost came over told you you had huge breasts then mimed away?” ..nodding.. “Oddly I don’t believe you! But keep watching, the show is not over yet” and the laughter continues and she backs up with this “if you feel something, say something.” (For those not in NY, on the subway system here and with public transportation in general, everywhere the mantra of the NYPD and MTA is “If you see something, say something.” It’s their way of saying packages and bags sometimes are left behind on purpose–and that could be a bad thing. SO…”If you feel something, say something.” And the crowd (and I) laugh, and the yellow light dims away again.
The Texas woman in front of me, [I know that because she told us at the beginning. Accent and all. Blue dress and hair curly or crimped..not wearing a scrunchie–as I often picture any tourist, especially from Texas (?), wearing.], leans back and tells me how much fun that was and she thinks we have great seats. She paid $175 for hers… I tell her I agree.
Singing. Talking. Singing. Drama. Acting. Theatrics.
“Oh…the ghost! The Ghost!! Oh Tits!! Tits! Tits! Tits!” And the lights fade up, I am covering my laughing face with one hand, it looks like that alien from the movie…Alien with Sigorney Weaver and I peel it off my face as everyone is laughing and the lights brighten. “I have to say it four times because that’s how HUGE they are! Have you seen The Ghost.” I clench my mouth closed (in a playing-along way) and give her a disappointed look. She just stares at me. “Anything.” I squint my eyes, mouth still closed. “Oh my god…you haven’t seen him, have you?” I shake my head no. I know that not seeing the ghost means the show may not be a hit, according to our earlier history lesson, but I can’t lie this time… “Have you even been WATCHING for it??!!” I lean forward and extend my right arm hand open and palm up as an offering “I’ve been watching you!!” She immediately changes her facial expression to sly and flirtacious.. “oh….good answer…” then she does that little flirty face we do with the nose wrinkling up and smiling and she “claws” at me like you do when you’re saying “rawr” to someone. We exchange similar looks and winks, and puckered lips, and shoulder angles for a bit. It seems like a good solid minute–which is long for silence in the theatre, right? Then she looks back at Yitzhak, her husband (Lena Hall’s character), and shrugs then Yitzhak shrugs, and tilts her head back towards my direction and says “I wanna become a lesbian.” Laughter. Again. And I am IN LOVE WITH MY SEAT AND THIS SHOW AND THIS ACTOR” She looks back and puckers a smooch towards me once more then breaks into a brief monologue about why it’s okay to not see the ghost. That it shouldn’t be up to a maybe-a-ghost-showing-up to know if you’re show is a hit. She knows she’s a hit, we know it. She smiles at me again and continues her stories and songs.
The stories are either fun, or sad. Sometimes both. She become a real person to us. This show is done in a way where we have to be under the impression that this woman, and her band, are just giving us a good show. She’s telling us about her life, her journey and singing songs that relate to it on the path and the order that things happened. It’s fun to hear. It’s difficult to hear. It’s important to hear.
At the end, Neil Patrick Harris is taking his bows in nothing but a pair of skimpy black booty-shorts/briefs. He has worked really hard by now, he’s dripping sweat. Make up is smeared. He’s barefoot–he turns towards me and blows me a kiss and it feels like it’s in slow motion. I take both my hands to my mouth and throw my arms towards him in awe, and wonderment, and appreciation. We are all standing, of course, when this happens. Texas looks back at me and smiles, I am staring at him applauding. Group bow on the stage. The crowd is loud and yelling and thunderous.
He is more than amazing in this role.
What an experience. Someday, I’ll tell him to his face that I was there. That I was a part of it. And I hope when that happens my mouth and words don’t fail me leaving me only to gesture. I hope I’ll be able to keep it together, while my insides fall apart in his presence.