NEW YORK (NYT NEWS SERVICE).-
Harvey Fierstein may be a multiple Tony Award-winning performer and writer. But he is also the son of a librarian, who still sometimes heads to the reading room when he needs to do homework.
In 2005, when he was preparing to play Tevye in a revival of Fiddler on the Roof, he visited the New York Public Library for the Performing Arts at Lincoln Center to watch a recording of an earlier Broadway revival featuring Zero Mostel, which is included in its famed Theater on Film and Tape Archive.
And dont tell anyone, but Ive also used the library, he said, dropping his famous Brooklyn molasses-spiked-with-gravel voice, for pleasure.
Now, Fierstein has donated $2.5 million to create a new theater lab at the librarys Lincoln Center campus, a dedicated educational space where students and the general public will be able to attend programs drawing on its vast holdings of photographs, scripts, recordings, set models, costumes and other materials.
Live theater is live theater you do it and thats it, said Fierstein, 67. Without a library collecting this stuff, our whole history disappears.
The lab, which will be named for Fierstein, is to be built in what is a 770-square-foot office space. In a statement, library director Jennifer Schantz said it would be an incubator of creativity that embodies the librarys mission to inspire lifelong learning using the theater divisions unparalleled collections.
The performing arts library holds material from shows Fierstein wrote or performed in, including Torch Song Trilogy, La Cage aux Folles, Kinky Boots and Hairspray. But as it happens, his personal papers are elsewhere.
In 2005, before a home renovation, Fierstein placed his personal archive at Yale University. So I needed to also do something for the performing arts library, he said.
In addition to the $2.5 million donation, the library has been named a beneficiary of the Harvey Fierstein Trust, which will allow it to receive additional support in the future.
Fierstein said he hoped the lab would help people re-imagine what theater can be after the pandemic, which shuttered the entire industry. He recalled how over the years, every time he did a revival of Torch Song Trilogy, for which he won his first two Tonys in 1983, he would call the downtown experimental theater La MaMa to ask if he could use their rehearsal space, which he described as a kind of spiritual home.
I would ask, Can I borrow your basement? he said. I thought of it as a kind of womb. Thats what I think of this space as a womb for something wonderful. You just dont know whats going to be born out of it.
https://www.nytimes.com/2021/06/15/arts/harvey-fierstein-nypl-theater-lab.html" target="_blank">The New York Times.