The award winning stage play I Am My Own Wife examines the life of Charlotte von Mahlsdorf, German-born Lothar Berfelde, who killed his father when he was a young boy and survived the Nazi and Communist regimes in East Berlin as a transvestite.

According to her autobiography of the same name, as a child she was already interested in girls' clothes and "old stuff." Although she was physically male, from childhood Lothar felt more like a girl.

Naked Stages Founding Artistic Director Mark Cabus stars in Doug Wright’s critically acclaimed and award-winning one-man show I Am My Own Wife March 19-29, at Belmont University’s Black Box Theatre (2100 Belmont Boulevard).

"I Am My Own Wife is powerfully moving in its examination of human daring and dignity - two themes important to Naked Stages and to Nashville, especially in the GLBT community,” Cabus said. “As a gay man, producer and actor, I marvel at the indomitable spirit of Charlotte and her brave struggle. Her outspoken courage inspires me to strengthen my own commitment to equal rights for everyone, whether gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgendered or straight."

Max Berfelde, Lothar's father, was an early member of the Nazi Party, but became a party leader in the late Twenties. He and Lothar often quarreled, but the situation escalated when Lothar's mother left the family during the evacuation of Berlin. Max demanded Lothar choose between her parents and threatened her with a gun. Shaken by this, Lothar struck her father dead with a rolling pin while he slept. After several weeks in a psychiatric institution, Lothar was sentenced by a court in Berlin to four years detention.

With the fall of the Third Reich, Lothar was released. She worked as a second-hand goods dealer, dressed as a woman and became known as Charlotte von Mahlsdorf. She collected items from area cabarets and nightclubs, thus saving these historical items from the Weimar Republic. Her collection evolved into the Grunderzeit Museum. Threatened with demolition, she engaged in the preservation of the Mahlsdorf estate and was finally awarded the manor house rent-free. Charlotte opened the museum in 1960 and became known in cinematic, artistic and gay circles, making the museum a key feature of Berlin's gay scene.

"At Naked Stages our personal vision not only embraces spare, unadorned theatrical staging, the proverbial 'empty space,' but also the Theater's ability to expose the human condition to its bare essence, to strip nature to its most fundamental,” said Cabus.

I Am My Own Wife (www.iammyownwife.com) premiered Off-Broadway in 2003 at Playwrights Horizons. It opened on Broadway later that year.

This article has been republished from Out & About Nashville, and was part of a series of first-person pieces written by the late Bobbi Williams.

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