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Actor Nick Garrison’s love of German history, art, and music began long before he took on the role of Charlotte von Mahlsdorf in I Am My Own Wife.
In his extensive Seattle acting career, Garrison has played everything from the titular role in Hedwig and the Angry Inch at Re-Bar—a role he went on to play in San Francisco, the U.K., and Chicago—to performing as the Emcee in The 5th Avenue’s Cabaret. Garrison is a veteran of playing German characters for the stage and has always had a strong interest in German history and culture.
“I went to school in Paris for a while,” Garrison said. “While there I studied voice for years and was always very drawn to music from Weimar Berlin. I don’t know why German characters have found me and German culture has kind of haunted me. It didn’t even begin with Hedwig [and the Angry Inch]. It began before that. I played some German characters, I learned early on how to sing in German with some facility—even though I don’t speak German—but I’m learning more German for this show.”
“There’s a vibration of that era, particularly the early part of the twentieth century in German culture, which rests well with me as a performer,” Garrison said. “It was a flowering before the war of incredible ideas and art and democracy and freedom. That soul of Germany is in this play. It’s all over it. And Rob Witmer, our sound designer, is bringing it literally into the room, with some of the beautiful music he’s bringing into the show.”
Doug Wright’s I Am My Own Wife holds a special place in Garrison’s heart. After seeing the original production in New York and being awestruck by the play and Jefferson Mays’ performance as Charlotte von Mahlsdorf in 2004, Garrison immediately knew he wanted to do the play someday.
“For me, Charlotte represents German history in a way,” he said. “She is a literal representation of the German soul. Charlotte stands for survival in the face of anything, which to me is what gay people have done and many other disenfranchised groups have done for years. She’s implacable. She’s steady survival, calm survival, and that to me is beautiful. I love her as you can tell, I adore her. I think she’s a hero for the ages. And like most good heroes, she’s a little bit flawed and strange. “
Opening night of I Am My Own Wife is approaching fast! Preview performances start this week, and we’d like to give you a place to share your thoughts about the show. So what’d you think? Leave a comment on this post and let us know how you feel.
Not long after the fall of the Berlin Wall, playwright Doug Wright began a conversation with Charlotte von Mahlsdorf, an elegant and eccentric 65-year-old German transvestite who, against all odds, hid from the Nazis in plain sight as a woman. In the play, Doug Wright uses more than 30 characters—played by actor Nick Garrison—to piece together Charlotte’s controversial life.
Click below to hear Garrison talk more about creating these characters and the rehearsal process of I Am My Own Wife, a play which he calls an “incredible exercise in storytelling.”