The Trouble With Harry

Gay playwright Jon Marans tackles the Mattachine Society -- with the help of Ugly Betty star Michael Urie -- in his new play, The Temperamentals.

BY Robert Hilferty

May 01 2009 12:00 AM ET

the TEMPERMENTALS Xlarge (Michael Portainiere/FollowSpotPhoto.com) | ADVOCATE.COM

Your 1996 Pulitzer-nominated play,
Old Wicked Song,

integrates music extremely well. Is there music in the new
play?

Definitely. When Hay worked for the Communist Party, he taught
a music class because he believed in music as political
theater. A lot of music was actually code. When the slaves
would sing "Swing Low, Sweet Chariot," for instance, the
chariot referred to the underground railway. And the gay world
in the '50s was jam-packed with code. So I use "Sleepers,
Awake" by Bach and even composed a bawdy, silly little song
for the show, just like the Mattachine members did.

In addition to coming away humming your tunes, what do you
hope the audience to leave with?

To really understand a piece of history nobody really knows
that should be honored, remembered, and studied. Almost no gay
guys today know who Harry Hay was or the Mattachine
Society.

You're a very political guy, buddy.

Well, I did grow up in D.C. My father is the most published
angry-letter writer in the D.C. area. He writes 1,000 letters a
year. People think he's an organization, not a person.

Tags: Theater

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