By the point Bella Abzug was sworn into the Home of Representatives in 1971, a teenage Harvey Fierstein was donning drag in golf equipment and acting at La MaMa. He stayed in his native Brooklyn to pursue his BFA as Abzug held workplace a borough away.
“She wasn’t our consultant,” remembers Fierstein of the oft-hat-wearing Ladies’s Motion stalwart, “however I noticed her by way of the Jewish eyes of the neighborhood. We had all of the Jews up and down the block, and they’d all hang around on the stoop and speak about Bella.”
The 2 crossed paths as Fierstein’s profession flourished. Their mutual good friend Shirley MacLaine introduced her backstage following performances of Hairspray; a photograph from a 1983 Human Rights Marketing campaign occasion reveals the 2 with Jesse Jackson and Patti LaBelle. Now he’s even nearer—to the purpose of changing into her—in Bella Bella, at the moment working Off-Broadway at Manhattan Theatre Membership.
The Tony winner’s new play sees the late politician locking herself in a lodge toilet as outcomes from the 1976 main for the U.S. Senate pour in. Abzug misplaced the Democratic nomination by lower than one %; had she gone on to win, she would have develop into New York’s first feminine senator. The election as an alternative ended her political profession.
Her tribulations additionally ring acquainted, with techniques used towards her echoing all through the 2016 presidential election. Opponents decried sexism ought to Abzug ask ladies to vote for her and construed the staunch Zionist’s anti-war statements into an anti-Israel stance.
“Are you able to think about getting away with that?” Fierstein asks, recognizing that such campaigns are nonetheless used towards the likes of Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib. “Would this be occurring to 2 congressmales?”
“[Abzug] says nearly all of the voting public is feminine, so ladies have the ability to vote in their very own candidates. However what do they do? They vote the best way males inform them to. I feel there’s a really attention-grabbing argument to be made there.”
Fierstein hopes the present will assist finish this perpetuation. If not with him in a hat, with another person. “If the present goes properly, I’ll supply it to be executed in live performance by Bella’s associates [like MacLaine or Lily Tomlin] to lift cash for ladies candidates across the nation.”
His intentions mirror the downtown initiatives he pursued throughout Abzug’s time in workplace: “It will have the sensation of one thing underground. ‘I used to be born for revolution. I used to be born to combat the institution.’ These are her personal phrases. I would like it to have that feeling.”
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Harvey Fierstein Meets the Press Forward of Bella Bella Off-Broadway