Harvey Fierstein Donates $2.5 Million to New 'Theatre Lab' at the New York Public Library

The lab will be named after Fierstein, and will be built in what is current an office space.

By: Jun. 15, 2021
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Harvey Fierstein Donates $2.5 Million to New 'Theatre Lab' at the New York Public Library

The New York Public Library for the Performing Arts announced today that it will establish the Harvey Fierstein Theatre Lab, creating a new dedicated educational space in the building, thanks to a $2.5 million donation from theatre legend Harvey Fierstein. Fierstein has also named the Library for the Performing Arts as a beneficiary of the Harvey Fierstein Trust, securing his legacy as a major supporter of the library's ongoing efforts in documenting, collecting, and preserving the performing arts, and inspiring the next generation of artists.

"As the son of a librarian it's only natural that I'd be drawn to this project," says Harvey Fierstein. "The recent pandemic proved that there is no substitute for live theatre but what we do onstage exists only in that moment and then is gone. The New York Public Library for the Performing Arts' collections of photos, recordings, scripts and live video capture offers a unique way to preserve a glimmer of theatre's magic. My hope is that this new Theatre Lab will provide a space to not only revel in the past but inspire artists to create the theatre of tomorrow."

The Harvey Fierstein Theatre Lab will become a hub of theatre education, offering a window into the Library's archives and encouraging young people to learn about and appreciate theatre in all its many forms. The programs and activities developed for the Lab will inspire creativity and promote literacy, building students' knowledge of the world of theatre and familiarizing them with the free resources and collections available at the Library for the Performing Arts.

Free programming for the Theatre Lab will provide a variety of educational opportunities for formal class visits, afterschool and weekend teen programs, professional teacher development, research seminars, workshops, panel discussions, interviews, and demonstrations by theatre professionals representing all aspects of theatre arts.

The Theatre Lab will occupy what is currently a 770 square-foot meeting room and office on the Amsterdam level of the Library for the Performing Arts. It will be designed and outfitted as a flexible space for students and teachers from middle school through graduate school. The collections within the Billy Rose Theatre Division -- including scripts, set models, photographs, costumes, and lighting designs, plus recordings from the Theatre on Film and Tape Archive (TOFT) -- will provide an unending set of resources for students, teachers, theatre professionals and theatre lovers to study and explore. The Lab's offerings will be free to the public and will be offered during the school day, after school and on weekends.

"We are thrilled to have the opportunity to create a unique platform for theatre learning, and are deeply grateful to Harvey for his generosity, support, and enthusiasm," said Jennifer Schantz, the Barbara G. And Lawrence A. Fleischman Executive Director of The New York Public Library for the Performing Arts. "The Harvey Fierstein Theatre Lab will be an incubator of creativity and embody the Library's mission to inspire lifelong learning using the Theatre Division's unparalleled archives. The Lab will be one of the only theatre education programs in New York City that finds its source of inspiration from archival collections, and will help ensure that all students have access to materials, recordings, and resources that showcase the magic of live theatre."

This announcement marks a major highlight in the Theatre Division's 90th anniversary year. Founded in 1931, the division is celebrating this milestone with the special donate-what-you-can benefit I'm Still Here: A Virtual Benefit for the Billy Rose Theatre Division, streaming on Broadway On Demand June 23, 2021. For details visit StillHereAt90.com. Fierstein will be among the many Broadway stars participating in the event.

Harvey Fierstein won two Tony Awards for Torch Song Trilogy (Best Play, Best Actor) which was recently revived on Broadway, starring Michael Urie. He has also written the Tony-winning hit Kinky Boots (Best Musical), as well as La Cage aux Folles (Tony and Drama Desk Awards), Newsies (Tony nominated), Casa Valentina (Tony nominated), A Catered Affair (12 Drama Desk nominations), Safe Sex (Ace Award), Legs Diamond, Spookhouse, Flatbush Tosca, Common Ground and more. He recently wrote teleplays for NBC's live TV broadcasts of "Hairspray" and "The Wiz." He also revised the book for Funny Girl, which ran to critical acclaim in London. His political editorials have been published in the New York Times, TV Guide and the Huffington Post, and broadcast on PBS's "In the Life." His children's book, The Sissy Duckling (Humanitas Award), is now in its fifth printing. As an actor, Fierstein is known worldwide for his performances in films including Mrs. Doubtfire, Independence Day, and Bullets Over Broadway, on stage in Hairspray (Tony Award), Fiddler on the Roof, La Cage aux Folles, and on television shows such as "How I Met Your Mother," "The Good Wife," "Cheers" (Emmy nomination), "The Simpsons," "Family Guy," and "Nurse Jackie."

Fierstein's career is well documented throughout the Billy Rose Theatre Division's holdings, in scripts, photographs, and recordings in the Theatre on Film and Tape Archive. As with all the Library's materials, access to these materials is free and open to the public.

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