Torch Song Trilogy

Let's Get Social

Written by Harvey Fierstein
Characters Arnold Beckoff
Lady Blues
Mrs. Beckoff
Date premiered January 15, 1982 (1982-01-15)
Place premiered Actors’ Playhouse, Greenwich Village, New York City
Original language English
Genre Drama
Setting 1970s, 1980s New York City

2017 Revival Cast

Michael Urie – Arnold
Mercedes Ruehl – Ma
Michael Rosen – Alan
Roxanna Hope radja – Laurel
Ward Horton – Ed
Jack Difalco – David

Tickets 2nd Stage Website until Dec 09 2017 Only

Torch Song Trilogy is a collection of three plays by Harvey Fierstein rendered in three acts: International Stud, Fugue in a Nursery, and Widows and Children First! The story centers on Arnold Beckoff, a Jewish homosexual, drag queen, and torch singer who lives in New York City in the late 1970s and early 1980s. The four-hour play begins with a soliloquy in which he explains his cynical disillusionment with love.


Each act focuses on a different phase in Arnold’s life. In the first, Arnold meets Ed, who is uncomfortable with his bisexuality. In the second, one year later, Arnold meets Alan, and the two settle down into a blissful existence that includes plans to adopt a child, until tragedy strikes. In the third, several years later, Arnold is a single father raising gay teenager David. Arnold is forced to deal with his mother’s intolerance and disrespect when she visits from Florida.

The first act derives its name (International Stud) from an actual gay bar of the same name at 117 Perry Street in Greenwich Village in the 1960s and 1970s. The bar had a backroom where men engaged in anonymous sex.[1] The backroom plays a central role in the act.

The award-winning and popular work broke new ground in the theatre: “At the height of the post-Stonewall clone era, Harvey challenged both gay and straight audiences to champion an effeminate gay man’s longings for love and family.”[2]

Production History

The first staging of International Stud opened on February 2, 1978 at La MaMa, E.T.C., an Off-Off-Broadway theater, where it ran for two weeks. The Off-Broadway production opened on May 22, 1978 at the Players Theatre, where it ran for 72 performances.[3]

The first staging of Fugue in a Nursery opened at LaMama on February 1, 1979.[4]

Torch Song Trilogy first opened at the uptown Richard Allen Center in October 1981, produced by The Glines.[5] On January 15, 1982 it transferred to the Actors’ Playhouse in Greenwich Village, where it ran for 117 performances, produced by The Glines.[6] The cast included Fierstein as Arnold, Joel Crothers as Ed, Paul Joynt as Alan, Matthew Broderick as David, and Estelle Getty as Mrs. Beckoff.

After eight previews, the Broadway production, directed by Peter Pope, opened on June 10, 1982 at the Little Theatre, where it ran for 1,222 performances. Fierstein, Joynt, and Getty were joined by Court Miller as Ed and Fisher Stevens as David. Later in the run, David Garrison and Jonathan Hadary portrayed Arnold, Craig Sheffer was cast as Alan, and Barbara Barrie replaced Getty.

The play won Fierstein two Tony Awards, for Best Play (with John Glines’ historic Tony speech that acknowledged his lover and co-producer Larry Lane) and Best Actor in Play; two Drama Desk Awards, for Outstanding New Play and Outstanding Actor in a Play; and the Theatre World Award.

The West End production starring Antony Sher, with Rupert Graves as Alan, opened on October 1, 1985 at Albery Theatre on St. Martin’s Lane, where it ran for slightly more than seven months.

In late January 2009, it was revived at the American Theatre of Actors Sargent Theatre in New York City by Black Henna Productions.[7] Directed by Malini Singh McDonald, ran as a limited engagement until February 1, 2009, with each act being performed separately on weeknights and the entire series running on Saturdays and Sundays. The cast featured Cas Marino as Arnold, Ian M. McDonald as Ed, Susan Erenberg as Lady Blues, Christian Thomas as Alan, Amie Backner as Laurel, Chris Kelly as David, and Mary Lynch as Mrs. Beckoff.

The play was revived at the Menier Chocolate Factory in London in 2012, with David Bedella playing Arnold.

Torch Song Trilogy was produced by Studio Theatre in Washington DC as part of its subscription series September – October 2013. It was directed by Michael Kahn, artistic director of The Shakespeare Theatre, also in Washington, DC.

2017 brought “Torch Song” back to Off Broadway at the   Second Stage Theatre, in New York City, with Michael Urie as Arnold and Mercedes Ruehl as Mrs. Beckoff, it was directed by Moises Kaufman. [8] With a new running time of 2 hours and 40 minutes, with Harvey Fierstein reducing the original source down to a more workable running time.

Reviews 2017 Revival


New York 1
The New York Times Critics Pick
The Washington Post
The New Yorker
Theater Mania
Broadway World


MICHAEL URIE (Arnold) can currently be seen in Government Inspector Off- Broadway. He originated the role of Alex More in Jonathan Tolins’ Buyer & Cellar Off-Broadway, on tour, and in London, for which he received the Drama Desk Award, Clarence Derwent Award, the Lucille Lortel Award, LA Drama Critics Award and nominations for the Drama League and Outer Critics Circle Awards. New York theatre credits include How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying (Broadway), Shows For Days (LCT), Homos, Or Everyone In America (LAByrinth), The Cherry Orchard (CSC), Angels in America (Signature), The Temperamentals (Lucille Lortel, Drama Desk and Theatre World awards, Drama League nomination), The Revenger’s Tragedy (Red Bull), Another Vermeer (HB Playwrights). Regionally, Urie has worked for Two River, The Old Globe, Vineyard Playhouse, South Coast Rep, Seattle Rep, Folger Shakespeare, Barrington Stage, Hyde Park (Austin), and The Blank (L.A.). Film: He’s Way More Famous Than You (also directed), Thank You for Judging (co-director/exec. producer), Beverly Hills Chihuahua, WTC View, Jeremy Fink and the Meaning of Life, The Decoy Bride, Petunia, Such Good People, The Hyperglot (director), and Grantham & Rose (exec. producer). TV: Gavin Sinclair on Modern Family, Younger, Workaholics, The Good Wife, Hot in Cleveland, Partners and Marc St. James on Ugly Betty. He currently hosts the Logo series Cocktails And Classics. Web series: What’s Your Emergency (director). Training: Juilliard.
MERCEDES RUEHL (Ma) is an award-winning stage, film and television actress. She won an Academy® Award and a Golden Globe®, as well as a Chicago Film Critics® Award and Los Angeles Film Critics® Award for her role as Anne Napolitano in Terry Gilliam’s film The Fisher King. Neil Simon’s Lost in Yonkers earned Ruehl Tony,® Helen Hayes, and Drama Desk® Awards. She received Tony nominations for her roles in The Shadowbox and Edward Albee’s Pulitzer Prize-winning The Goat, or Who is Sylvia? She won Obie® Awards for Woman Before A Glass, a one-woman show about the life of actress Peggy Guggenheim, as well as Christopher Durang’s The Marriage of Bette and Boo. She was awarded The Clarence Derwent Award for creating the role of Kate in Other People’s Money, and a Drama Desk nomination for the role of Serafina opposite Anthony LaPaglia in Tennessee Williams’ The Rose Tattoo. She starred in Richard Greenberg’s The American Plan at the Manhattan Theatre Club and in the premiere of Edward Albee’s The Occupant as Louise Nevelson at The Signature Theatre. At The Old Vic in London she co-starred with Jeff Goldblum in Neil Simon’s Prisoner of Second Avenue. Most recently she revived Full Gallop, a one-woman show about Diana Vreeland at The Old Globe in San Diego. Ruehl came to popular attention with her portrayal as the gun-toting wife of a Mafia don in 1988’s Married to the Mob, which earned her a National Society of Film Critics® Award. Her other film credits include Big opposite Tom Hanks; the romantic drama For Roseanna opposite Jean Reno; Gurinder Chadha’s What’s Cooking?; More Dogs than Bones; Another You; Heartburn; 84 Charing Cross Road; Leader of the Band; The Secret of My Succe$s; Slaves of New York; Crazy People; and Chu and Blossom. Her television credits include guest & recurring roles on “Life in Pieces,” “NCIS,” “Mysteries of Laura,” “Two Broke Girls,” “Power,” “Luck” (series regular), “Law & Order: SVU,” “Subway Stories: Tales from The Underground,” “Indictment: The McMartin Trial,” “North Shore Fish,” “Psych,” “Monday Mornings,” “Bad Apple,” “The Lost Child,” “Star Spangled Banners,” “Frasier,” & starred in HBO’s Golden Globe and Emmy winning telefilm “Gia.”
MICHAEL ROSEN (Alan) was last seen on stage in Colman Domingo’s Dot at the Vineyard Theatre directed by Susan Stroman and has appeared on Broadway in On the Town and as Chino in West Side Story. His other theater credits include Vito in Do I Hear a Waltz? directed by Evan Cabnet at City Center Encores!, Somewhere starring opposite Tony Award Winner Priscilla Lopez at Hartford Stage for which he received a nomination for Best Actor at the 2014 Connecticut Critics Circle Awards, and Nikolai and the Others directed by David Cromer at Lincoln Center Theater. His on screen credits include Jimmy in Looking: The Movie on HBO, Dating My Mother, “Sinatra: Voice for a Century – Live from Lincoln Center” on PBS, “Taxi Brooklyn” on NBC, and The Empty Building. He was selected for the 2016 ABC Discovers: Talent Showcase in New York City.
ROXANNA HOPE RADJA (Laurel) Broadway: Frost/Nixon, After the Fall, The Women, Boeing Boeing (u/s,) and others. Off Broadway: Ruins of Civilization (Manhattan Theatre Club), Ode To Joy, Horsedreams (Rattlestick Theater), Mahida’s Extra Key To Heaven (Epic Theater Co.), Princess Turandot (Blue Light Theater Co.), 1001, Arabian Night. Regional: Hedda Gabler (Hartford Stage); Les Liaisons Dangereuses, Richard III, Julius Caesar, Pericles (Shakespeare Theatre of NJ); Tartuffe, Indian Ink, Hecuba (American Conservatory Theater); Williamstown Theater Festival; Huntington Theater; Westport Country Playhouse; Colorado Shakespeare Festival and others. Film/TV: Puncture, “Elementary,” “Blue Bloods,” “Unforgettable,” “The Good Wife,” “Law and Order: SVU”, “Law and Order,” “Law and Order: CI”, “All My Children” and others. MFA, The American Conservatory Theater.
WARD HORTON (Ed) is best known for playing Dr. Scott Strauss in the CBS drama, “Pure Genius,” was the male lead in the horror film Annabelle, which grossed over $245 million worldwide, and is a spin-off of the horror hit The Conjuring. On the big screen, Horton’s additional film credits include Midnighters (which recently premiered at the LA Film Festival in August 2017), Bakery in Brooklyn, Alto, Marcy, The Wolf of Wall Street, I Hate Valentine’s Day, Veronica Decided to Die, The Might Macs, We Fight to be Free, Falling for Grace, The Good Shepherd, Christmas Wish List, Four Eyed Monsters, Nail Polish, Dress Rehearsal, and Loverboy. On the small screen, Ward has appeared in the following television shows: “Royal Pains,” “One Life to Live,” “White Collar,” “Body of Proof,” “CSI: Miami,” “Law & Order,” “Mercy”, “Fringe”, “Gossip Girl,” “Day Break,” “Law & Order: SVU,” “Hope & Faith,” “All My Children,” and “Guiding Light.” Horton has also been involved in the theater, appearing in productions such as Brighton Beach Memoirs, The Crucible, You Can’t Take It With You, In Masks Outrageous and Austere, The Autobiography of God, Bash: Latter-Day Plays, Equus, and Lost In Yonkers.
JACK DIFALCO (David) Theatre: Marvin’s Room (Roundabout Theatre Company), Yen (Manhattan Class Co.), Mercury Fur (The New Group), Lord of The Flies (Denver Center), A Midsummer Night’s Dream (Proscenium Theatre). Film: One Percent More Humid (Tribeca Film Festival 2017), Bully, I Can, I Will, I Did (Asian Pacific Film Festival 2017), Rocket Man, Naranja, The Hard Sell, Aoife O’Donovan’s Music Video Beekeeper. Television: The OA, Blue Bloods. Training: SUNY Purchase Workshop 2013, Yorktown Stage Company, Trinity Players.



International Stud first premiered in 1978 at La MaMa, where Fierstein made his professional acting debut in Andy Warhol’s play Pork in 1971. Mel Gussow of The New York Times panned the play as a “sincere but sentimentalized view of a transvestite extremes.” Despite the criticism, Ellen Stewart, founder of La MaMa, chose to produce A Fugue in the Nursery and Widows and Children First! in 1979, though she personally found the work “too talky.”[9] The Glines, a nonprofit organization dedicated to forwarding gay-themed cultural endeavors, financially supported Fierstein in reworking the three one-act plays as a singular theatrical event, which became Torch Song Trilogy and earned excited praise from Mel Gussow. “Arnold’s story becomes richer as it unfolds,” he wrote, claiming that Fierstein’s performance “[was] an act of compelling virtuosity.”[10]

Film Adaptation

Main article: Torch Song Trilogy (film)

Fierstein adapted his play for a feature film, released in 1988. It was directed by Paul Bogart and starred Fierstein (Arnold), Anne Bancroft (Ma Beckoff), Matthew Broderick (Alan), Brian Kerwin (Ed), and Eddie Castrodad (David).

Awards and Nominations


  • 1983 Drama Desk Award for Outstanding New Play
  • 1983 Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Actor in a Play (Harvey Fierstein)
  • 1983 Tony Award for Best Play (Harvey Fierstein)
  • 1983 Tony Award for Best Performance by a Leading Actor in a Play (Harvey Fierstein)


  • 1982 Drama Critics’ Circle Award Runner-Up Best American Play


  1. “GREENWICH VILLAGE: A GAY HISTORY”. Retrieved October 18, 2010.
  2. Charles Busch (November 12, 2002). “Torch Song Trilogy June 1982”. The Advocate. Retrieved June 24, 2008. [dead link]
  3. “International Stud”. Lortel Archives. 2008. Retrieved June 24, 2008.
  4. La MaMa ETC
  5. Gussow, Mel (November 1, 1981). “Theatre Review: Fierstein’s ‘Torch Song'”. The New York Time. Retrieved June 24, 2008.
  6. “Torch Song Trilogy”. Lortel Archives. 2008. Retrieved June 24, 2008.
  7. “Black Henna Productions”. Retrieved October 18, 2010.
  9. Full References at Wiki

External Links