Interview: Gene Dante of Hedwig and the Angry Inch
Few men were born to play a rocking German transsexual named Hedwig like Boston’s own Gene Dante. As a veteran of both the local theater scene and rock scene (his current band is Gene Dante & the Future Starlets), Dante knows a little of what it’s like to struggle for a piece of the pie. This weekend, Dante takes to the stage as the title character of the acclaimed musical, Hedwig and the Angry Inch. Time Out got a chance to talk one-on-one with him at Somerville’s Bloc 11 coffee shop.
Prior to your first performance of Hedwig in 2002, you did Rocky Horror in Europe. Did that prepare you for playing a German character?
It helped. I learned a little bit of German. Hedwig’s mother voice is a really bad impression of our drummer, who had a really nasally German voice.
Hedwig has been your first foray into full drag. Is it fun?
Yes, it is actually kind of fun! Who doesn’t like Halloween? Who doesn’t like playing dress-up? I love the idea of crazy costumes. For me it was natural. Is it going to freak people out? Yes.
Who will be more freaked out? Theater people or rock people?
I feel like we might hit a sweet spot with this because rockers who can’t stand musical theater—and I agree with almost all of their gripes about it—will put up with Hedwig because the music is pretty cool and it sounds like a freak show. And theater people who maybe are afraid of rock and roll, and wouldn’t go to a show, might go to see this because [mock thespian accent] ‘they say it’s very interesting!’
Does a play like Hedwig fall under the realm of ‘safe-edginess?’ Does that work for you?
This is a way for some people to look through the peep-hole a little bit. It’s not straight drag. Let’s face it: I’m never going to play the romantic lead. I’m built to play the weirdos, the outsiders and the villains. A photographer was taking my picture when I was first getting into acting, and she said to me: ‘You know what you’re like? If they sold Matt Damon and Ben Affleck dolls, everyone would buy the Matt and Ben dolls but you are this little rock and roller that only the collectors would get.’ And that’s kind of who I am.
Hedwig and the Angry Inch; $20; 7pm; June 9-11; .