It Girl: Lena Hall
Wednesday, May 28, 2014
Lena Hall is taking Broadway by storm. The Tony-nominated singer-actress, who plays Neil Patrick Harris’ husband Yitzhak in the uber-popular cult musical Hedwig and the Angry Inch, talked to us about music, style, and what it’s like to think, act, dress (yes, she stuffs her pants with a fake penis) like a man.
Tell us about your character Yitzhak in Hedwig and the Angry Inch. How do you relate to him?
Yitzhak is a biological Croatian male who was the greatest drag queen in Zagreb. Hedwig forced Yitzhak to give up being a drag queen, and in return, she married him so he could become an American citizen and leave Croatia. In love with Hedwig and desperate to get out of the country, he agreed to the terms. Berated, insulted and used by Hedwig as her personal roadie/ backup singer, Yitzhak longs to do what Hedwig does — to be in the spotlight, to perform, and to be a beautiful woman.
What’s so great about Yitzhak is that despite the mental torture and abuse given by Hedwig, he is eternally hopeful for his future, extremely tough, and ever the loyal husband. I can relate to the longing for the chance to shine and the hopefulness for the future. No matter how bad things got in the past, I toughened up, focused on my goals, and stayed loyal to those around me.
What is it like playing a man?
I have to adjust everything about myself in order to convince the audience that I am a man. I hold my shoulders up, I walk with my hips forward and with a grounded shuffle, I edit my facial expressions, and I lift and hold things with more strength.
I love playing a man. It’s really fun to be tough and lumber around like a dude. I enjoy being so physically challenged. I’m bruised up and my arms and shoulders have gotten muscular just from all the activities I have to do on stage.
Playing a man is very different than playing a woman. Men are less outwardly emotional and more stoic.They express their pain in more of an aggressive way and often bottle up their emotions. It’s a challenge to express Yitzhak’s deep emotional story all the while keeping him stoic and cool.
How is it working with Neil Patrick Harris (Hedwig)?
Neil is a dream. He is fun, inventive and a consummate professional. We have such a great time together – on stage and off. He is extremely sweet to me and very supportive of everything I do. I am one of the luckiest girls alive to have the opportunity to share the stage with such a wonderful performer.
People often think being an actress on Broadway is glamorous. What’s it really like?
Being on Broadway is a whole lot of hard work. I usually look tired and worn out when I’m performing 8 shows a week. Not only do you get just one day off a week, but you also have to give 100 percent of yourself for every single show, no matter how big or small, loud or quiet the audience is.
You also have to keep the show feeling fresh and new so the audience doesn’t get a subpar performance. There are some extremely difficult things about being on Broadway, but the rewarding aspects far outweigh the hard parts.
You’re also the lead singer in a band, The Deafening. What’s your signature style for a show?
I LOVE my band so much. It’s something I have creative control over, and I get to strut my stuff.
My signature look for The Deafening is prom girl gone bad! I wear a fluffy Betsy Johnson dress, leather crop jacket with The Deafening logo on the back, black and white striped stockings and red Converse. For accessories, I wear mismatched leather gloves, a vampire teeth necklace and handcuffs as bracelets. Throw in a dash of sexy sailor, wild cheerleader, some fake blood and a mustache, and you’ve got a show!
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