In a Word... Tim Oberholzer on Hedwig and The Angry Inch
by Gaëtan L. Charlebois
Tim Oberholzer is an Ottawa-based actor, theatre creator, producer, and graduate of Algonquin College’s Theatre Arts Program. He is also a recent nominee for the 2013 Emerging Artist Award from Ottawa’s professional theatre awards, Les Prix Rideau. Mr Oberholzer has most recently appeared in Age Of Arousal, The Comedy Of Errors, The Taming Of The Shrew, (Bear & Co.), Ethan Claymore (Same Day Theatre) and The Chronicler (Screaming Artists’ Collective). Tim Oberholzer is a founding member of the Ottawa-based theatre collective Bear and Co., and also serves on the advisory board of SevenThirty Productions. He is the artistic director of Vanity Project Productions and oversees the Ottawa Theatre Producers’ Network.
CHARPO: First off, what brought you to Hedwig?
OBERHOLZER: My first connection to the piece was through the Original Off Broadway Cast Recording, which I purchased purely out of curiosity. I was immediately struck by how beautiful, powerful and accessible the music was. I’ve performed in a few rock musicals over the years, and have always been a fan of the genre, but this is definitely one of the best rock musical scores out there. At the time I had taken a break from producing, but I definitely filed it away mentally as a potential future project. After seeing the subsequently released film adaptation, I was only more intrigued by the show and the Hedwig character, so sought out the script and since then have just been waiting for the right conditions to present themselves.
CHARPO: How are you preparing for this very difficult role? (And how much does the rest of your life suffer for the preparation?)
OBERHOLZER: There's certainly been a great deal of time spent exploring the character and researching source material. On some level you certainly want to maintain a level of faithfulness to the characterization immortalized by John Cameron Mitchell in the film, as fans of the film will on some level expect that. But at the same time, the stage production is a very different animal, and first and foremost there's a lot of work getting into shape for the vocal and physical demands of the piece.
It makes for a lot of late nights to get all the work done, but I hardly consider it suffering, it's a joy and privilege to get the opportunity to bring such a fantastic story and character to life. It's the kind of project that energizes you and feeds the soul, and makes you appreciate the rest of your life more, rather than coming at the expense of it.
CHARPO: Now you’re acting and producing - tell us about the juggling act?
OBERHOLZER: Dividing ones focus by wearing multiple hats is always a challenge, and not a circumstance I seek out lightly, but when you're passionate about a project sometimes you just have to roll up your sleeves and do whatever it takes to make it happen.
Self-producing is something I believe every artist should experience. It certainly gives you a much greater respect and appreciation for all the work that goes on behind the scenes. I've been pretty hands on, which means lots of meetings and coordination, promotional work, shopping for the show and getting my hands dirty building and painting. Luckily I have a fantastic artistic and production team on board who adore the show as much as I do, and who I know I can depend on to make the production process as smooth as possible.
CHARPO: The stage play has become iconic and most people who see if for the first time are struck by it. However the movie was pretty “meh”. How do you remind people this is theatre and that the experience of Hedwig is not the same thing live?
OBERHOLZER: Admittedly I've never had the opportunity to see the stage play, and was introduced to the character through John Mitchell Cameron's film portrayal, but in speaking to prospective audience members who have mostly only seen the film, or possibly heard the album, many are similarly struck by it. One hopes seeing the show live just takes that enjoyment to the next level.
I agree that the film and stage play experience are very different and I'm curious to see how fans of the film will react to the stage play in terms of their expectations coming in. Of course, in promoting the show we do our best to try and communicate the fundamental differences in staging between the stage play and the movie, but I think people fundamentally understand that movie versions of stage plays are often adapted and overproduced in ways that simply aren't practical on stage. Personally, I think the power of the music to move people and the great writing is the common denominator, and I think the strength of those elements will continue to resonate with fans of the movie, and the energy of live performance will just amke them love the story all the more.
CHARPO: Finally - and putting on your producer hat - what forces are you mobilizing to assure success when the show opens?
OBERHOLZER: We're definitely aiming to tap into a different demographic for the show, primarily a younger, and more indie-film literate audience than regular programming at the Gladstone usually attracts, in the hopes we can convince fans of the film to experience Hedwig live. As well, we're partnering with a local LGBT charity Jer's Vision, to help get the word out about the show. Also, courting fans of musical theatre and live music in general who should be at highest likelihood to enjoy the content and format of the show.
Hedwig and the Angry Inch runs from April 2-5
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