Gen­der pi­o­neer in­spires play

Auckland City Harbour News - - NEWS -

A cap­ti­vat­ing true story of how love can tran­scend phys­i­cal iden­tity is at the heart of a new play.

Grafton ac­tor Si­mon Cole­man stars in A Model Woman as Lili Elbe who turned heads as an al­mond-eyed beauty at the turn of the 20th cen­tury and be­came known as the first per­son to un­dergo gen­der re­as­sign­ment surgery.

Lili was born Ei­nar We­gener and mar­ried fel­low Dan­ish artist Gerda We­gener, played by Alex El­lis, in 1904. When Ei­nar stepped in to pose as a woman for one of Gerda’s fash­ion mag­a­zine draw­ings af­ter her model failed to show up, it led to a lifechang­ing se­ries of events.

The pair moved to Paris where they lived a dou­ble life, some­times ap­pear­ing in pub­lic as man and wife but more of­ten as a les­bian cou­ple with Ei­nar’s al­terego Lili.

Fi­nally Lili de­cided she could no longer live in a man’s body and with Gerda’s help searched for a doc­tor will­ing to per­form the world’s first gen­der re­as­sign­ment surgery.

She un­der­went fur­ther op­er­a­tions but the last proved fatal.

It is a story about brav­ery, play­wright Phil Ormsby says.

‘‘I’m in awe of Lili to have trav­elled such an un­known path in her search for per­sonal iden­tity. It’s a beau­ti­ful story.’’

A Model Woman is at The Base­ment the­atre un­til Novem­ber 2.

Photo: OLIVER ROSSER

Brave story: Alex El­lis and Si­mon Cole­man star as an un­con­ven­tional cou­ple in A Model Woman.

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