You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Stagecraft Podcast: Harvey Fierstein, Michael Urie Talk ‘Torch Song’ (Listen)

How did Michael Urie shake the memory of original actor Harvey Fierstein when he took on the lead role of “Torch Song”? He didn’t even try.

“He’s always there,” Urie explains in the latest episode of “Stagecraft,” Variety‘s theater podcast, when asked how he dealt with performing in the shadow of Fierstein, the playwright-actor who originated the role of drag performer Arnold. “In terms of shaking the Harvey, I never tried to do that. I knew that there was no way that I could do the Harvey. I knew that I would have to attack Arnold from within me.”

Urie is playing Arnold in the newly revised version of Fierstein’s breakout, “Torch Song Trilogy,” now shortened and called simply “Torch Song.” Fierstein trimmed down the script by more than an hour for the production at Second Stage Theater.

It took him 35 years to go back to “Torch Song,” and in “Stagecraft,” Fierstein explains why it took him so long. “Frankly, I wanted to stay far enough from AIDS,” he said. “My feeling has always been that AIDS is a disease, and I hate that the gay community has been labeled with it as if it defines who we are. I didn’t want ‘Torch Song’ colored by that. There were people when the movie came out [in 1988], they said, ‘Why didn’t you put AIDS in it?'”

Fierstein gave his most significant advice to Urie on the first day of rehearsal, in the meet-and-greet with everyone involved in the production, including the ushers. “He said, ‘If this play doesn’t embarrass you, you’re not doing it right,'” Urie recalls. “Which embarrassed me! Everyone looked at me.”

Fierstein and Urie also talk auditions, Estelle Getty, bus and truck tours, and the legacy of gay history plays in this episode of “Stagecraft,” now available on iTunes, Google Play, Stitcher, and SoundCloud.

More Legit

  • Signature Theatre Celebrates Millionth Subsidized Ticket

    Signature Theatre Offers $35 Subsidized Tickets, Celebrates Millionth Sold

    Just the other night, a Manhattan cab driver told Signature Theatre executive director Harold Wolpert that he couldn’t afford to take his girlfriend to a show. In response, Wolpert motioned to his theater, saying that they offer $35 subsidized tickets. The driver said he’d try it out. “It was a great moment,” Wolpert said. “We’re [...]

  • SOCRATES The Public Theater

    Tim Blake Nelson Waxes Philosophical on Writing a Play About Socrates

    Despite Tim Blake Nelson’s knack for playing folksy characters in films such as “The Ballad of Buster Scruggs,” in his soul lurks the heart of a classicist. Nelson, who stars in HBO’s “Watchmen” series this fall, has also penned the play “Socrates,” now running at New York’s Public Theater through June 2. Doug Hughes directs, [...]

  • TodayTix - Brian Fenty

    TodayTix Banks $73 Million to Boost Theater and Arts Ticketing App

    TodayTix, a Broadway-born mobile ticketing start-up, is looking to expand into a bigger global media and transaction enterprise with a capital infusion of $73 million led by private-equity firm Great Hill Partners. The investment brings TodayTix’s total capital raised to over $100 million, according to CEO and co-founder Brian Fenty. Part of the new funding [...]

  • Ethan Hawke, Bobby Cannavale and Griffin

    BAM Gala Marks Leadership Change, Celebrates Brooklyn as 'Cultural Center of New York'

    Wednesday’s annual gala celebrating the Brooklyn Academy of Music (BAM) served as a poignant moment of transition for the New York stalwart of contemporary performance. As long-time artistic director Joe Melillo, who along with Harvey Lichtenstein transformed BAM into a vanguard of progressive art, prepares to pass the torch to new leadership, gathered patrons and [...]

  • Tootsie Santino Fontana

    Listen: Santino Fontana on How Broadway's 'Tootsie' Was Adapted for Our Times

    Broadway’s “Tootsie” has turned into one of this season’s Tony Awards frontrunners, winning raves for its deftly funny update of potentially problematic source material — and for a firecracker cast led by Tony nominee Santino Fontana (“Crazy Ex-Girlfriend,” “Frozen”), who makes his character’s transformation, from difficult actor Michael Dorsey to female alter ego Dorothy Michaels, [...]

  • Death of a Salesman review

    London Theater Review: 'Death of a Salesman'

    August Wilson famously disavowed the idea of an all-black “Death of a Salesman.” In 1996, he declared any such staging “an assault on our presence and our difficult but honorable history in America.” Arthur Miller’s antihero is no everyman, Wilson implied; Willy Loman is very specifically white. Critic John Lahr was inclined to agree: “To [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content