entertainment

Rebel Wilson defends Hugh Sheridan after Hedwig cisgender casting backlash

Hedwig's creators also issue statement after Queer Artist Alliance calls casting "offensive and damaging"

2020-11-19

Rebel Wilson has joined the creators of Hedwig and the Angry Inch in speaking out after backlash to Hugh Sheridan's casting in a Sydney Festival production of the show.

Sheridan, who opened up publicly for the first time about his sexuality last month, was due to play the titular Hedwig in an upcoming Sydney Festival production at Enmore Theatre in January.

The story of Hedwig explores the complex gender identity of a rockstar; it debuted on stage in 1998 and was made into a cult film in 2001. 

"In light of recent community conversations and concerns"

This week, producers said in a statement that they had made the "difficult" decision to postpone the show "in light of recent community conversations and concerns."

"In casting Hedwig we auditioned a wide, diverse range of performers and no one from any background was excluded from this process, and were encouraged," the statement added.

"We wish to assure the Trans and LGBTQIA+ community that the issues raised are respected and taken very seriously. We appreciate your patience in giving us time to properly consider these concerns and respond accordingly."

"A young fem gay boy is bullied into a gender assignment"

Responding to the news, John Cameron Mitchell and Stephen Task - the creators of the original stage show - said in a statement yesterday (as per The Sydney Morning Herald): "[The role is] open to anyone who can tackle it and, more importantly, anyone who needs it."

The added: "The character does go on a gender journey, but it is sparked by a coerced, non-consensual surgery. A young fem gay boy is bullied into a gender assignment by his boyfriend and his government in order to preserve the sacred binarchy..

"Though we’ve always been so pleased to hear trans folks find resonance in the character’s journey to find his/herself, it’s really through drag and performance that Hedwig does so, creating a persona that is 'more than a woman or a man' and making 'something beautiful and new' out of trauma. Drag is a mask available to all and that's why anyone should be able to play Hedwig."

"He's literally perfect for the role"

Cats actress Wilson weighed on on Instagram, saying: "As someone who has met the extraordinary and talented John Cameron Mitchell, seen Neil Patrick Harris play the role brilliantly on Broadway and knows how amazing Hugh Sheridan is as a performer...

"...Any producers would be crazy NOT to put on Hedwig in Australia with Hugh in it! He's literally perfect for the role."

An open letter to producers of the show from the Queer Artist Alliance Aus Instagram page this week is shared alongside the caption: "This is not about cancelling an individual, this is about continuing to address the power structures that allow this kind of decision making to take place within an industry that operates through a heteronormative lens and continues to capitalize, exploit and profit of of LGBTQIA+ stories."

 
 
 
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The letter adds: "[This] is offensive and damaging to the trans community, and continues to cause genuine distress and frustration amongst trans and gender non conforming performers all across Australia."

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