In honor of our 20th anniversary, we are reflecting on some of our most popular and pivotal shows from the last two decades. This week, we asked Moises Kaufman and Doug Wright to reflect on what it was like to develop I AM MY OWN WIFE with support from About Face. Read on to learn more and stay tuned as we share AFT history every week throughout our 20th Anniversary campaign!
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In 2002, Moises Kaufman (Tectonic Theater Project, THE LARAMIE PROJECT) and Doug Wright (playwright) approached AFT for assistance in developing I AM MY OWN WIFE. The piece, which would ultimately go to Broadway, win the 2004 Tony Award for Best Play and Best Actor (Jefferson Mays) and win a 2004 Pulitzer Prize for drama, took hundreds of hours of interviews with the real-life inspiration for the main character, Charlotte von Mahlsdorf – Berlin’s most famous transvestite, who survived two of the most oppressive regimes of the 20th century, the Nazis and the Communists, in a dress – and turned them into a stunning one-man show. In addition to the great success this play went on to achieve, this partnership was the beginning of an ongoing, extremely fruitful relationship with Kaufman’s Tectonic Theater Project and was instrumental in moving AFT forward as a recognized resource for the development of new LGBT work.
“Moises Kaufman intuitively knew that the About Face Theatre would be the perfect home to develop I AM MY OWN WIFE, and he was right,” explains Wright. “The theatre is unafraid not only of plays with overtly queer content, but also interested in formal and aesthetic innovation, new voices, and idiosyncratic stories. About Face showed unshakable faith in the play and in us; the staff gave keen dramaturgical advice, marketed the play with savvy, and even scoured all of Chicago for Edison phonographs and grandfather clocks to decorate our set. The About Face Theatre nurtured my tiny play all the way to Broadway, and I’ll be forever grateful.”
Kaufman likewise remarks, “What a treat it was to develop I AM MY OWN WIFE at About Face! Doug Wright, Jefferson Mays and I were blessed to be able to try new things, fail and discover the best way to tell Charlotte’s story. About Face understands about new work, about risk, and about creating a space where artists can soar. I AM MY OWN WIFE would never have happened without About Face.”
I AM MY OWN WIFE is just one of the works that AFT is incredibly proud to have been able to support the development of over the last 20 years. It is part of our organization’s fabric to embrace risk, nurture visionaries and put (sometimes unlikely) LGBT voices in the spotlight. We are lucky to have always had supporters and audience members willing to trust us along these journeys as well – just imagine what we’ll be able to create over the next two decades!