Adam Cooley brings ‘Hedwig and the Angry Inch’ to TSKW

A close up of a person with pink hair - Concert
Adam Cooley plays the lead role in ‘Hedwig and the Angry Inch’ and also directs. He describes it as a rock gig/stand-up comedy routine backed by a cast of musicians.

Adam Cooley is a musician, an actor, director and theater initiator. After college, he moved to New York City where he was involved in theater. He moved to Baltimore, for the small theater scene and, well, let’s hear about it in his own words.


Q: You’re bringing “Hedwig and the Angry Inch” to the Studios of Key West this month. Where else has it been performed?

A: My band and I have been together since 2010 when we first produced the show in Baltimore at an artist-in-residence space called The Creative Alliance. We’ve performed it in Baltimore several times: at the Creative Alliance and at a speak-easy type performance spaced called The Parlor. Key West is our first out-of-town gig!


Q: Give us a snapshot version of the play.

A: Hedwig Schmidt is the “internationally ignored” East German rock ‘n’ roll goddess and victim of a botched sex-change operation. This cult musical hit is about sex, transgenderism, and Hedwig finding his “other half” beyond the Berlin Wall. This outrageous and unexpectedly hilarious story is dazzlingly performed by Hedwig (née Hansel) in the form of a rock gig/stand-up comedy routine backed by the hard-rocking band “The Angry Inch.” It’s a rocking ride —funny, touching and ultimately inspiring to anyone who has felt life gave them an inch when they deserved a mile.


Q: What interested you as a director about this play?

A: I’ve never really considered myself a director, but I know what I’m drawn to, artistically. I love rock and roll, but as a musical theater performer it’s rare that I get to do that material. I especially love ’70s rock: David Bowie, Lou Reed, Iggy Pop and those artists were very influential in writing the score for “Hedwig and the Angry Inch.” I love powerful stories about the human condition, hilarious stage shows, and drag performers and this show lends itself to all of that. I thought that if I was going to get the chance to perform a show like this I’d have to make my own opportunities. So I found musicians, a willing theater, and produced it.


Q: You first went to New York City after college, what was that like? How was the theater life?

A: I moved to New York and lived there for a little less than 10 years working in regional theater, national tours, off-Broadway, and some TV and film. I was working steadily as an actor, but not in projects that were really artistically fulfilling to me.


Q: You have moved to Baltimore, and said you’ve been busy. What’s the theater scene there like as compared to your experiences in NYC?

A: I moved to Baltimore and have found the small, yet active theatre arts community to be very welcoming and super inspiring. I have been cast in a number of new plays in Baltimore, as well as writing my own material that have been incredibly fun and fulfilling for me. In New York, I never would have been able to produce, direct, and perform the lead role in Hedwig and the Angry Inch (Neil Patrick Harris is reprising the upcoming Broadway production).


Q: What got you interested in writing original material? How often have you performed/directed original material?

A: I feel like I have a lot to say and want to say and it’s hard to find material that’s already been published that says exactly what I want to express. This frustration propelled me to write my first piece, “Dream/Job,” as a vehicle to tell my story in cabaret form using established musical theatre songs between monologues to illustrate my points. Since that first piece, I have been putting together some material in hopes of realizing a full-length play a la “The Boys in the Band.” I also do a lot of emceeing in Baltimore for burlesque acts, drag shows, and open mic nights and that certainly gives me the chance to work on my improv skills!


Q: Have you heard anything about the theater scene in Key West?

A: I have heard that Key West is known to have some pretty wild partiers and eccentric personalities so hopefully a show like “Hedwig and the Angry Inch” will be right up their alley.


Q: You’re here through January? What are you going to do?

A: I’ve already compiled a list of the local hot spots. The band and I will be out every night in costume promoting the show, so be on the lookout! We’ve certainly been known to drink a few cocktails…


Q: What are the dates and times of your performance at The Studios?

A: Thursday, Jan. 30 through Saturday, Feb. 1 with curtain at 8 p.m.