Torch Song: Coming Soon to Easthampton
Tonight, I got a behind-the-scenes look at a new production by Easthampton Theater Company when four actors read the first act of Harvey Fierstein’s Torch Song, coming up January 26- Feb 4, in Old Town Hall’s Blue Room.
It was fun to see the amount of acting that still goes on when you’re reading a script, and interesting too, that the set for this scene they were rehearsing was a gigantic bed the size of the stage. The show brings out 11 wigs, a fabulous drag queen with appropriately drag queen outfits, and a look at gay relationships and a host of other hot buttons from a 1970s lens.
The show has a bit of authenticity too… because Jason P. Hayes, whose the wig and hair designer and for this production, costumes, too, has a direct connection to Harvey himself. He has worked on Hairspray and many other projects with Fierstein as well as having a long Broadway and TV resume. He is helping to make the Easthampton show tune into the vibe of the wildly popular original show, Torch Song Trilogy, which was three hours long. This is a shorter version at two hours.
Jason Hayes and director Jason Rose-Langston talked about the show and how it fits into today’s culture. Rose-Langston explained the process they used.
“For the first almost two and a half weeks of our rehearsal process, we just did workshopping of the characters, the relationships, talking about the scenes, yeah, just a bunch of actors and the director around, the table everybody giving their own input. Everybody has voice. No bad, no ideas or bad ideas. And that really helps to flush out the characterizations early and to see where the actors want to take the characters as well because they have to live in it ultimately on stage.”
Jason Hayes was excited to discover that Easthampton Theater Company was doing Torch Song, he immediately reached out. The writer’s strike had sidelined many of his projects, anyway.
“I emailed and I said I would love to volunteer. Because I was very impressed that a smaller regional theater in such a rural area was tackling such an iconic queer piece of theater like Torch Song, so I wanted to volunteer my services.”
You said you’re in costumes and wigs. Are there a lot of wig changes in this?
“I have ten wigs in the show. Wrangling ten wigs. Yeah, so I have ten wigs for the show. [Jason’s being a little modest because he, he is actually a professional wig designer and wig constructor]. I’ve spent the last thirty years designing. I designed Harvey’s last show for Broadway, Casa Valentina.”
Tell us about some of the costumes. What are the most exciting or fun costumes that you’ve worked on for Torch Song?
“There are some incredible pieces. cause at the top of the show you have Arnold actually in full drag. So he delivers the first monologue, finishing his makeup. So some of those costumes have been on RuPaul’s Drag Race that he’s wearing. And the earrings that he’s wearing came from Top of Show, were originally, I used them on Cate Blanchett, when she did a benefit performance. These earrings touched Cate’s ears! Yeah, yeah, so he’s wearing Cate Blanchett.”
Jason Rose-Langston, director:
“Yeah, there’s a real weird right wing fear about these, about people in drag. They put a dress on him and he’s much more scary. We can color our hair, we can even, we can use hair plugs. We can do all kinds of things to change our appearance.
But God forbid we should touch gender, right? Yeah, exactly. The other, the other thing that drew me to this show is my professional life. I’m a psychotherapist, I practice in Easthampton. And I’ve had a specialty in treating transgender people for about 20 years now. So I’ve been steeped in gender theory that entire time.
And to find a piece of theater that was speaking to these issues, in the 70s. It’s, it’s pretty incredible.”
Director Jason Rose-Langston continued. “You know, the issues of bi erasure still relevant today.
The issues of gay adoption, which takes place in the second act, still relevant today, the issues of mothers and sons when they’re in their acceptance of each other, still relevant today. So the audience will be getting wigs and costumes, drag singers and dancers, and a little bit of all these touch points that the third act, which is really important, when his mother comes to visit and his mother represents all of these attitudes about homosexuality that existed then, that existed then and were normalized, alright, and now here exists on the margins as far as like, as far as like having those attitudes about homosexuality.”
Torch Song, Easthampton Theater Company. Jan 26, 27, Feb 2, 3 7:30 pm. Jan 28, Feb 4 2 pm Produced by Michael O. Budnick and Jason Rose-Langston. Blue Room, Old Town Hall, Easthampton.