The four-time Tony Award® winning, Hedwig and the Angry Inch hits The Fox Theatre on April 4 for a two-night run of the groundbreaking musical. Debuting Off-Broadway in 1998, it played internationally before hitting Broadway in 2014. Hedwig is a beloved, complicated character that helps us to see and hopefully learn to accept our foibles. .
I had the privilege to sit down and talk with Hannah Corneau, who has performed in Daddy Long Legs, Chicago, Fiddler on the Roof and Les Misérables. We had the opportunity to discuss a variety of topics – from her role as Hedwig’s drag queen husband, Yitzhak to some places and things she’d like to experience while visiting Atlanta and what she hopes the audience will take away from spending a night in the world Hedwig and the Angry Inch.
Can you tell me a little bit about your background, and what drew you to the role of Yitzhak in Hedwig and the Angry Inch?
I’ve always loved music so very much and within musical theatre, singing has always been my ultimate joy and passion. So when I saw Hedwig on Broadway it was just such a moving, theatrical experience. I’m also such an advocate for parts that challenges minds, and really invokes raw emotions from the audience, not just like an easy commercial theater going experience. Hedwig is exactly that. It really forces the audience to feel and to engage. And the music is just so very powerful. Because it’s told in a rock concert setting, essentially that was really alluring to me.
That leads me into my next question; where you a fan of the movie and musical prior to taking on the role of Yitzhak?
I had seen the movie, and I loved it, loved it, loved it, but then I saw it on Broadway, this particular production was Michael Mayer’s version, I was extremely taken by it. Of course I had seen the movie and appreciated the art of it always.
How does it feel get on stage very night and take on the persona of this role?
It’s a fantastic challenge and opportunity. As an actor you always want to be stretched as much as you can. To step into this other person’s shoes, and also another gender is absolutely thrilling and transcendent experience.
How was it stepping into a multi-layered role – a role that contains so many different layers – from Hedwig’s assistant to backup singer, but also as a husband with an unhealthy and codependent marital relationship. As an actor how are you able to how do you deal with that dynamic?
Yes, it’s an extremely complex, multi-layered relationship. I feel as though my character is extremely empowering to anyone who has ever been in a relationship before, because I feel like there is a co-dependency and such a passion, love and vulnerability in every relationship. Hedwig and Yitzhak relationship sweetly exemplifies that.
I think it’s an important relationship to depict because when people go see art they want to resonate. They want to feel. They want to resonate like I said, and feel like they can identify with the situation on stage. Now, even though it is an extremely intense relationship between Hedwig and Yitzhak, on that is so multi-layered, that surely the audience can identify with at least one element of their relationship; their love and passion and co-dependency and vulnerability.
How did you prepare to take on the role of a Jewish drag queen?
When I was rehearsing I was able to watch Lena Hall play the part in L.A. While I was rehearsing Darren, Chris and Lena were performing for that month. So that, that was a huge tool to watch her do the part. That was an immense gift that I was able to experience.
Also, it’s like when you approach any part, you just try to find the truth in it and the heart and vulnerability within the character and the human essentially behind him being Jewish, behind him being a drag queen. For instance, what does he feel on the day-to-day? What makes him love Hedwig? And what does he feel within his spirit day-to-day, moment-to-moment? Behind this chapter in his life where he was a drag queen, where he was Jewish and living in Croatia. I just try to find the human behind all the given circumstances and go from there.
You just mentioned Lena Hall and I was just going to ask you what was it like to step into the role Yitzhak, playing the role who has been inhabited on stages across the world, with greats like Lena Hall, who has won a Tony® for the role, to Shannon Conley and Rebecca Naomi Jones?
It’s extremely inspiring and humbling. I would have to just say both of those. I watched both of them on Broadway, Lena Hall and Rebecca in Hedwig and in Murder Ballad, I saw Rebecca in American Idiot. It’s the ultimate gift and extremely humbling experience and very inspiring in that I feel like I have to fill the shoes; and hopefully I am doing it.
When you’re in Atlanta for the two day run in April what are you excited to experience or try in city since you’ve been here before?
I love Piedmont Park! I can’t wait to go there. I must say I want to go to the aquarium again. I wish I was there longer.
What is your favorite source of inspiration that is a tried and true way to bring you out of a lull?
Music. Music, listening to music, escaping and discovering new artists. Music has always been a source of peace and happiness for me.
What do you hope fans will take away from a night spent in the world of Hedwig and the Angry Inch?
I hope they take away that it is the right thing to do in this life and in this world to love yourself, love others and accept yourself for who you are, and therefore others for who they are. At the end of the day we are really the same, because we love and we lose people who are close to us and we are vulnerable and we want to connect. So that ultimately makes us human the same (sic). I think that is the message that Hedwig is trying to promote and I hope they take that with them.
– Danielle Boise