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