Feb 9, 2024 - News

Tampa play sounds wake up call on LGTBQ+ identity

RP McLaughlin during a rehearsal of "I Am My Own Wife."

RP McLaughlin stars as Charlotte von Mahlsdorf and more than 30 other characters in "I Am My Own Wife." Photo: Courtesy of Stageworks Theatre

"I Am My Own Wife" opened viewers' minds when it premiered on Broadway 20 years ago. Now a Tampa theater is putting on the Tony and Pulitzer Prize-winning play hoping to do the same here.

What's happening: St. Pete native and nonbinary actor RP McLaughlin plays Charlotte von Mahlsdorf, a real transgender woman who survived Nazi and Communist rule in 1930s Germany.

Why it matters: Director Karla Hartley tells Axios she chose the play specifically to counter Gov. Ron DeSantis' administration targeting transgender and LGBTQ+ Floridians.

  • "This is not a new story. It's a fascinating story, but it's not a new one," Hartley said. "These brothers and sisters, and cousins, and uncles and aunts have been around for a long, long time, and we need to embrace that as a real truth."

The big picture: Florida, under DeSantis, has broadly restricted expressions of LGBTQ+ identity and culture, from bans on students learning about gender identity to legislation targeting drag shows.

What he's saying: Wright told Axios that he wants the play to serve as a wake up call.

  • "The show's heroine survived both the Nazis and the Communists. I'm not sure she would've been so lucky under current Republican leadership."

The intrigue: McLaughlin isn't just the play's star, they play 33 other characters in the one-person-show — a meta-theatrical take on identity.

  • "It's not a puppet show," they told Axios. "These need to be fully realized, dropped in, lived in characters. It's been a lot of hard work to be honest with you and a real joy to [be] within one body [and] find how to embody all these different people."

If you go: The show runs Fridays, 8pm, and Saturdays, 7:30pm, with matinees on Saturday and Sunday afternoons at 3pm, through Feb. 24. Tickets are $25-50.


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