Harvey Fierstein will keynote Jewish Book Festival

Harvey Fierstein

By Cate Marquis, Special to the Jewish Light

The St. Louis Jewish Book Festival has announced some hot news, especially for theater fans. “Torched, you might say,” quipped Marcia Evers Levy, executive director of the St. Louis Jewish Book Festival, referring to “Torch Song Trilogy,” one of the Broadway hits by theater great Harvey Fierstein. He will be the keynote speaker Nov. 3 for opening night of this year’s festival, which runs through Nov. 17.

Fierstein has won Tony Awards as both an actor and a playwright for “Torch Song Trilogy,” as well as for writing the book for “Les Cage Aux Folles.” He is famous for his musical comedy roles in Broadway shows such as “Hairspray,” and appeared in films such as ‘”Bullets Over Broadway” and “Mrs. Doubtfire.” He received a Tony nomination for writing the book for the Broadway hit “Newsies.” He co-wrote the current Broadway hit “Kinky Boots” which won six Tonys this year, including the coveted Best Musical award.

Getting a legendary star like Fierstein as keynote speaker is quite a feat. Levy described how the deal came about.

“As with all good stories in the Jewish community, Jewish geography and ‘who knows who’ really helped. I was fortunate enough to know an agent who knew Harvey’s brother. So that’s the route we went,” she said. The agent called Harvey’s brother, the brother called Harvey and put the invitation to him. “We were fortunate enough that he was interested because it is not something he does very often. And we’re just thrilled!”  

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The format for Fierstein’s keynote appearance will be a Q&A, with Mike Isaacson, executive producer of the Muny, asking the questions. “It will be an on-stage interview in front of an audience. Then Harvey will take questions from the audience as well,” Levy said. “I think (Isaacson) was very excited. I’m looking forward to sitting down with him and talking to him about the event and planning out everything. We’re just very excited that he has agreed to do the interview for us and will be part of it.”

Fierstein is not on a book tour but he does have a book that is coming out in paperback in January 2014. “Following (Fierstein’s) presentation, there will be a signing. We will have his book for sale, and people can purchase it and he will sign it for them,” Levy said.  “We will have the hardcover of it and we will pre-sell the paperback. It’s an adorable children’s book…called ‘The Sissy Duckling’ and it’s about a little duck who is just not as brave as the rest of the ducks.  Of course, he’s written so many other things, it’s just so easy to have him at our festival.    

“We have a great schedule this year,” Levy said about the 2013 festival. Other authors to be featured include Martin Fletcher, Randy Susan Meyers, Lynn Povich, Letty Cottin Pogrebin and Fania Oz-Salzberger and Amos Oz.

“It’s the 35th year of the festival,” Levy continued. “There’s something for everyone  . . . fiction, non-fiction, sports, romance, history comedy…It is definitely two weeks not to be missed.”

Tickets to the opening night event are $40. For tickets to that as well as to the entire festival and individual events, call 314-442-3299 or go to www.stljewishbookfestival.org.