This month, Harlequin Productions presentes I Am My Own Wife, directed by Aaron Lamb. Aaron frequents the Harlequin stage as both an actor and director. Most recently, he appeared as Garry Essendine in Noël Coward’s Present Laughter. Aaron has also worked in Seattle for Village Theatre, Taproot Theatre, Book-It Repertory Theatre, and Seattle Shakespeare Company and has worked regionally throughout the country.
In I Am My Own Wife, Aaron has brought us the story of the historic character of Charlotte von Mahlsdorf, who was a collector and museum curator in Berlin in the mid-20th century. Born Lothar Berfelde in 1928, Charlotte von Mahlsdorf survived as a transgender person through both the Nazi and Communist regimes in eastern Germany.
Why did you want to produce this show?
I just love the play; I think it’s a beautiful story and a beautiful piece of theater. I’ve wanted to do it for many years, on either side of the desk. I’m excited to be doing it in this capacity. It’s a beautifully told story that’s intrinsically human and connects with the audience on that level.
What surprised you about this show when you first saw it?
It’s a surprising stretch for the character. She’s put in such a difficult position. She’s able to span so far over so many years. There’s a fortitude, but she gains her strength not from brute force, but from being honest, and just being herself. She was up against some of the most brutal regimes, cultures, and people on the planet, for the majority of her life, and all she did was try to live simply and well. And because of that, she was wildly successful at that. And now, through this play, she’s able to touch so many people. That’s part of where I find the great beauty in this show.
What were Charlotte’s family, friends, and youth like?
The play is her story, so we do learn quite a bit of that through the play. She had parents, she had an aunt, but we don’t want to tell you anything about them until you come see it!
What was the playwright’s relationship to Charlotte?
He was tipped off to her existence by a friend of his who lived in Germany. So he went over and toured her museum and met her, and he was enchanted enough that he wanted to continue researching her and getting to know her. So he spent a couple of years visiting her and spending time in Germany, and the result is a somewhat difficult to curate piece of theater, for reasons that will be explained in the play.