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'Hedwig and the Angry Inch' opens Jobsite season at Straz Center

A groundbreaking, long-running Off-Broadway hit that is a mash-up of a cabaret show, a drag queen act, a rock 'n' roll concert, a stand-up comedy routine and a Broadway musical kicks off the 2013-14 season of Tampa's Jobsite Theater.

“Hedwig and the Angry Inch” is the ambitious opener for the resident theater company at the David A Straz Center for the Performing Arts.

Running weekends through Sept. 29 in the center's intimate Shimberg Playhouse, “Hedwig” tells the story of “internationally ignored song stylist' and transgender punk rocker Hedwig Schmidt, the victim of a botched sex-change operation that left her with just “an angry inch.”

This inch serves as a metaphor for feeling incomplete, says director David M. Jenkins who points out that within the play's campy humor are the issues of gender identity and the search for what makes one feel complete.

“This is such a universal story,” he says. “No matter who you are, you walk the Earth feeling incomplete, trying to find that other person or thing that you feel is missing.”

Written by John Cameron Mitchell with music and lyrics by Stephen Trask, “Hedwig” debuted 15 years ago. It enjoyed an award-winning first run for two years. It has been playing somewhere around the globe ever since. It also inspired a 2001 movie of the same title. A Broadway production starring Neil Patrick Harris is set for 2014.

Jenkins says among influences on Mitchell was Plato's “Symposium,” in which Aristophanes speaks of love as the longing for reuniting of one's “other self.” It's the basis for the Hedwig song “Origin of Love.”

Plato wrote that according to Greek mythology, humans were originally created as men and women combined with four arms, four legs and a head with two faces. Feeling threatened, the gods wanted to destroy humans, but Zeus split them into two separate parts, condemning them to spend their lives in search of their other halves.

In the Jobsite production, Spencer Meyers stars as Hedwig. Amy Gray portrays Yitzhak, Hedwig's current “husband,” roadie and co-performer.

Hedwig's story unfolds at a concert performance where she often addresses the audience, telling of the botched operation, a botched career and two botched loves.

The Angry Inch band includes Jonathan Cho (guitars, keys, backup vocals), Jana Doan (bass, backup vocals) and Woody Bond (drums).

Jenkins says this only the second time that Jobsite has used a full band in a production. “Hedwig” features a dozen songs, many in the glam rock style. “It's like being in a Manhattan cabaret,” says Jenkins.

Meyers, Gray and Cho are Jobsite veterans. Cho most recently appeared in “Much Ado About Nothing” and Hat Trick Theatre's “Neville's Island.” Meyers and Gray have both starred in Jobsite's musicals “Pericles: Prince of Tires” and “Gorey Stories.” Doan is the bassist for the Tampa rock group The Groves. Bond says he plays drums for just about “every ska band in the region.”

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