On This Gay Day: The play ‘Torch Song Trilogy’ had its premiere

The play ‘Torch Song Trilogy’ made its mark on this day in 1982

Harvey Fierstein’s acclaimed work Torch Song Trilogy opened off Broadway at The Actor’s Playhouse in Greenwich Village.

The collection of three short plays, which are performed in succession, runs for over four hours and tells the story of Arnold Beckoff, a gay Jewish drag queen and torch song singer. The play is recognised for its depiction of an effeminate gay man who longs for a family.

The play discussed issues like gay marriage and adoption and has been recognised as a precursor to popular TV shows like Will & Grace, Modern Family and Queer as Folk. 

The individual parts of the play had previously been performed in 1978, and 1979, in 1981 the three part play was first performed in uptown NYC, before it transferred to the Actor’s Playhouse where it ran for 177 performances. In June 1982 the show moved to a Broadway theatre where is continued for another 1230 outings.

Fierstein played the lead character, and the cast also included a young Matthew Broderick who received wide acclaim for his performance as Beckoff’s adopted son David. Broderick would follow this role up with more stage work in Neil Simon’s Biloxi Blues and Brighton Beach Memoirs.

Broderick was soon cast in big Hollywood films including War Games, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off and Project X, but he reunited with Fierstein in 1988 for the film adaptation of Torch Song Trilogy. 

Also on this day in history

Actor and composer Ivor Novello was born on this day in 1893. He was one of the most popular British entertainers of the first half of the 20th century. He wrote the song Keep the Home Fires Burning which was enormously popular during the first World War.

In the 1920 he was a screen star in the era of silent films, and a theatre star in the West End creating many popular musicals. He died suddenly in 1951 aged 58, just a few hours after he’d been performing on stage.

Born David Ivor Davies, he came from Cardiff where his father was a rent collector for the city, and his mother was a singing teacher. His homosexuality was an ‘open secret’ in theatrical circles.

In 1955 the Ivor Novello Award for songwriting was launched, it was of the most prestigious songwriting awards in the world.

OIP Staff This post was first published on 15th January 2020, and has subsequently been updated.