Winner of the Pulitzer Prize
Winner of the Lambda Literary Award for Drama/Theater I Am My Own Wife is a tour-de-force one-man show that explores, through the emergence of forty different characters, the extraordinary true story of Charlotte von Mahlsdorf. An East Berlin transvestite and celebrated collector of Wilhelm II antiques, von Mahlsdorf successfully navigated the two most oppressive regimes of the twentieth century—the Nazis and the Communists—while openly gay and defiantly in drag, and was, incredibly, distinguished with Germany's Order of Merit after the wall came down. But controversy hounded her final years in the form of accusations of complicity with the Stasi, and the facts behind Charlotte's remarkable survival may never be known.
In exploring his own conflicted feelings about Charlotte—was she a hero of a queer history or Judas in a black dress and pearls?—Doug Wright has produced a profound and dynamic work that, as Hedy Wiess noted in the Chicago Sun-Times, is "at once a vivid portrait of Germany in the second half of the twentieth century, a morally complex tale about what it can take to be a survivor, and an intriguing meditation on everything from the obsession with collecting to the passage of time."
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I Am My Own Wife
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ACT ONE(The French doors at the rear of the room open, and standing before us is CHARLOTTE VON MAHLSDORF.
She is, in fact, a man, roughly sixty-five years old. CHARLOTTE wears a simple black housedress with peasant stitching, a kerchief on her head, and an elegant strand of pearls.
She gazes at the audience for a moment; the tiniest flicker of a smile dances on her lips. Then, surprisingly, she closes the doors as quickly as she appeared, and is gone.
A pause. The stage is empty again.
In a moment, the doors reopen. CHARLOTTE reappears. Cradled