Brown Skirts

Growing up, Lothar Berfelde’s biggest fashion influence was his cross-dressing aunt. Through her, the young tranny in training learned of Magnus Hirschfeld, the physician and sexologist who championed gay rights. Not surprisingly, familial support of Lothar’s transvestism ended with his aunt. His father, well, he was a Nazi – and that’s not mere hyperbole. This was World War II-era Germany, and Max Berfelde was a certified goose-stepper (and wife beater). But tough times call for extreme measures, and young Lothar must have had it pretty rough; his act of rebellion went a tad beyond wearing pumps and lingerie. In a desperate act of self-reclamation, Lothar murdered his father and renamed himself Charlotte von Mahlsdorf. (And you thought your family was screwed up.) While Von Mahlsdorf passed away in 2002, his legend lives on in all its strange glory in the one-man play I Am My Own Wife.

Von Mahlsdorf is brought to life by actor Jefferson Mays, who – while also taking on the play’s 34 other characters – recounts the most fascinating tale of survival this side of Cast Away. Although von Mahlsdorf had a hard enough time saving her own ass, her inner-museum geek led to another mission – collecting art, furniture, recordings, and other knickknacks in the wake of Nazi looting. Von Mahlsdorf eventually opened the Grunderzeit Museum, which has been a beacon of historical preservation ever since.

I Am My Own Wife opens Tuesday and runs through February 5 at the Parker Playhouse (707 NE Eighth St., Fort Lauderdale). Tickets cost $45 to $60. Call 954-462-0222.
Jan. 31-Feb. 5

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Jason Budjinski