Blaine Hogan is just 23 and barely out of Butler University’s Theatre Department, but he’s become a creative force in Indianapolis, and a harbinger of what a new generation of artists might bring to this town. In little more than a year, Hogan has staged an experimental performance piece in a Broad Ripple alley, appeared in productions for the Indiana Repertory Theatre, the Phoenix Theatre, the Edyvean and Beef & Boards. Most notable of all, though, was Hogan’s tour de force turn as the transsexual title character in the Phoenix Underground’s production of Hedwig and the Angry Inch.
“You tell me I can’t do something and I’m going to do it,” laughs Hogan, seemingly amazed by his own gumption, “and it’s going to be big.”
Originally from Minnesota, Hogan knew he wanted to act from the time he was 9 years old. But when he was 13, Hogan had an experience in a theater that changed his life. His father took him to a roadshow production of Jesus Christ Superstar in Minneapolis. They had second row seats and, Hogan recalls, “It was the first real show I had ever seen.” The stars were Ted Neely and Carl Anderson. Hogan was transported by the sheer scale of the production – the lights, movement, sets and costumes. Then, at the close, as the cast was taking their bows, Hogan noticed Carl Anderson surveying the audience. “He looked right at me and made a connection and smiled. I had made a connection with a living actor onstage. It blew my mind.”
Flash forward 10 years. Hogan was playing Prince John in the IRT’s mainstage production of The Lion in Winter. At the same time, Carl Anderson was appearing in a revival of Jesus Christ Superstar, this time at Clowes Hall. Hogan managed to contact him and Anderson agreed to a meeting at his hotel. For Hogan, the experience was like closing a circle.
Anderson told Hogan that every time he performs he says a prayer: “God, let’s go out there and change the world.” Indeed, he had changed Hogan”s world. “He got to find out what happened 10 years ago.”
Hogan wants to see himself as part of an artistic tradition that offers the kind of transforming experience Anderson once sparked in him. His choice of what some might consider risky projects are really vehicles that make it possible to connect with audiences in truly compelling ways. He’s seen this happen when hundreds of people braved freezing temperatures to witness his adaptation of a Kafka parable over two nights in that Broad Ripple alley and again, triumphantly, during his extended run as Hedwig. “It gives you an incredible amount of satisfaction,” Hogan reflects. “You reached people. And with that comes a sense of confidence: There’s work to be done here. There’s an audience for that.”
Blaine Hogan takes Carl Anderson’s prayer to heart. He wants his art to change the world – and he wants that process to start here, in Indianapolis. “I’m 23 years old,” he says, “just out of school. I still believe I can do that. And if not that, then what?”