ANIMIZE Magazine Volume 4 Issue 1 January 2019 - Page 39

The New York Times described Torch Song as ‘stirring’ and propelling ‘an ostensible period piece into a vibrant present’. Second Stage Theater’s revival of Harvey Fierstein’s 1983 Tony and Drama Desk winning play has just completed its limited engagement at the Hayes Theater. We caught up with Michael Hsu Rosen to reflect on his work as Alan in the play.

Set in the 1970’s and 80’s, Torch Song follows Arnold as he navigates a post Stonewall New York City. His love for his partner Alan and grief he suffers following Alan’s death can be both universal and foreign to the play’s characters and its audience. Hsu Rosen, who has been with the production since its original run off-Broadway has a keen sense of why this material is still relevant today in a post marriage equality world. ‘Society has come a long way in terms of loving and accepting people’s differences, but there is no doubt we still have a ways to go. Hate abounds. Not just in our country but all over the world. Celebrating the human need for love is as necessary now as ever, and this play does that in an extraordinary way.’

This play has taught me a lot about pride. I’ve never been prouder to be gay and this play and the friendships it’s given me have a lot to do with that.

So how does one approach this material in 2018? Michael admits that that the theater demographic has changed significantly from the 1980’s. ‘The audiences were mostly heterosexual and poised to side with the disapproving, prejudiced Mrs. Beckhoff over her flamboyantly gay son, Arnold. In 2018 we played to a much more diverse audience, they gasp in horror at Mrs. Beckhoff and readily applaud Arnold’s self determination. So, we have the audience’s sympathies right off the bat. Our responsibility today is not so much to convince, though when our fearless leading man Michael Urie takes the show on tour across America he intends to do just that, but to remember with as much accuracy as possible a time in the not so distant past when a person could be fired from their job or even murdered for being gay. We must remember so that we never regress.’