Her story is told in “I Am My Own Wife,” a one-person play running through April 2 at the Commonweal Theatre in Lanesboro. The play is the annual Apprenticeship production at the Commonweal, and features apprentice actor Lewis Youngren. The show is directed by Philip Muehe, who himself was a Commonweal apprentice in 2012-2013.
“To me and to Lewis, it’s just the epitome of what a one-man show can be,” Muehe said of the play. “So often, one-person shows are shticky comedy. This one is such a profound story. The fact that it’s a true story, and the political climate seems right to have a transgender woman fight the Nazis.”
The play, which won the Pulitzer Prize for Drama and the Tony Award for Best Play in 2004, is a challenge for actor, director and audience.
In the show, Youngren has to portray about 35 characters, including Charlotte, who was born Lothar Berfelde.
“I want to make sure we have 35 very distinct characters, that move differently, think differently,” Meuhe said. “We’re focusing on transitions, to make it flow, not feel like it is compartmentalized.”
“I admire the bravery Charlotte displays toward the persecutors in her life, and the courage she exudes to come forward and tell her story,” Youngren said.
The apprentice production typically lowers the curtain down on the year-long program that brings young actors, directors and theater technicians to the Commonweal for training. A new apprentice group starts each spring.
“For me, the apprentice program at the Commonweal was definitely a stepping stone,” Muehe said. “It gave me my professional debut as a director. It’s such a well-rounded program.”
Now, Meuhe is back at the Commonweal, this time as a full member of the company. “It’s nice,” he said. “It’s a really good group of people doing great work.”