Four-time Tony Award winner Harvey Fierstein has donated $2.5 million to the New York Public Library for the Performing Arts' Billy Rose Theatre Division, a gift that will establish the Harvey Fierstein Theatre Lab.
The lab, set to be constructed in what is currently a 770 square-foot meeting room and office space, will become a hub for theatre education, allowing high school- and collegiate-level students and teachers a place to engage with the library's expansive archives. Free programming in the space will have opportunities for class visits, after-school and weekend programs for teens, professional development, research seminars, workshops, panel discussions, interviews, and demonstrations.
"As the son of a librarian it’s only natural that I’d be drawn to this project," says Fierstein. "The recent pandemic proved that there is no substitute for live theatre but what we do on stage 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 be an incubator of creativity and embody the Library's mission to inspire lifelong learning using the Theatre Division's unparalleled archives," adds the library's Executive Director Jennifer Schantz. "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."
The move comes as the library's theatre division, founded in 1931, marks its 90th anniversary year. A virtual benefit for the division will stream on demand June 23, with Fierstein set to make an appearance.