Direct from the Sundance Theatre Laboratory: I Am My Own Wife (A Work In Progress)

In 1992 while vacationing in Germany, writer Doug Wright stumbled across an astonishing subject for a play: an East German transvestite named Charlotte Von Mahlsdorf. Charlotte was born with the unfortunate moniker "Lothar Berfelde" in the early part of this century. Lothar's favorite aunt was an eccentric lesbian, who indulged the young boy's predisposition toward women's clothing. Instead of reading his fairy tales, she would put him to bed with a chapter from renowned sexologist Magnus Hirschfeld's book, Die Transvestiten. As a result little Lothar grew up with a sense of his unique identity that had not been compromised.

I Am My Own Wife, a solo work-in-progress, originated at the Sundance Playwrights Theatre Laboratory in 2000. It chronicles the unparalleled story of young Lothar/Charlotte, who reached adulthood during World War II. As a young homosexual, he escaped internment in a concentration camp by successfully passing as a woman. A longtime lover of decorative arts, Charlotte opened a museum dedicated to antique furniture, and she lovingly saved a preserved the last remaining Weimar cabaret. Charlotte was constantly under siege. Government authorities-- the ferocious, legendary Stasi among them -- where always threatening to shut the building down, because privately held museums were illegal in the newly formed Communist state. Through a variety of means, some inspired, others nefarious, Charlotte was able to keep the place open -- covertly -- for more than 30 years.

When the Berlin Wall fell in 1989, the West German government discovered Charlotte and her unusual museum, and her life changed irrevocably. She achieved celebrity in Berlin and was awarded a medal for her heroic efforts at preservation. Dressed in a black peasant dress and pearls, she accepted the covetedprize on German national television.

Actor Jefferson Mays, who created Charlotte at the Sundance Theatre Lab last summer, reprises this multifaceted man/woman as well as the writer and translator who find themselves inexplicably drawn to her fascinating life.


Doug Wright
Moisés Kaufman
Jefferson Mays
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