I Am My Own Wife is a one-man drama based on a true story about American playwright Doug Wright and his investigation into Charlotte von Mahlsdorf, who lived openly as a transvestite and survived the Nazi regime and the Cold War. The play uncovers what it took for her to survive.
Sole actor Ben Gerrard changes characters throughout the piece, taking on various characters of her life. By the time we meet Charlotte she’s 65-years-old, running a museum in East Berlin full of objects from a very specific period of German design, called Grunderzeit. She loved and kept all these objects, and by the time the Berlin Wall falls in 1989 she’s a national icon, having preserved all this incredible furniture that everyone else has just thrown away.
Wright interviewed Charlotte in the early 90’s, and after her death in 2002 he felt inspired to collate the interviews into this play.
“It has great wisdom in the way that it unfolds this person, and we realise that when we look at heroes it’s good to consider their flaws as well as the things they got right, and that makes them only more human,” said Gerrard.
I Am My Own Wife visits the moments in Charlotte’s development as she makes the personal decision (with the support of her aunt, who condoned and encouraged her journey) to live her life authentically as a woman.
“I Am My Own Wife really demonstrates the magic of theatre. This isn’t something you can see in a film. It’s something that an intimate theatre space facilitates,” added Gerrard.
The original Broadway production toured 10 years ago with the Sydney Festival. It won the 2004 Pulitzer Prize for Drama, and a Tony Award for Best play. (MS)
Nov 17 – Dec 5, various show times. Old Fitzroy Theatre, 129 Dowling Street (Cnr Cathedral Street), Woolloomooloo. $25-$35. Tickets & info: oldfitztheatre.com/i-am-my-own-wife or iammyownwife.com.au or 0422 198 955.
BY MEL SOMERVILLE