Harvey Forbes Fierstein, born in Brooklyn on June 6, 1954, grew up solidly middle class. His father Irving manufactured handkerchiefs; his mother Jacqueline (Jackie) was a school librarian. While his older brother Ronald, his one sibling, was the prototypical all-American boy, Harvey Fierstein was more artistic almost from the start. At eleven, he was a founding member in the Gallery Players Community Theater, and he also performed as a drag queen in his teens. Although he appeared in the Andy Warhol production Pork in the early 1970s and acquired other performing experience, Fierstein swerved somewhat from the theater by earning a B.F.A. in art from the Pratt Institute as one step toward fulfilling his parents’ hopes that he would become a teacher and have the security they thought a career in education could provide. However, their son had other plans.
Very shortly, the young Fierstein wrote a series of one-act plays, which were first performed separately for the famous experimental theater company La Mama. When performed together, they became Torch Song Trilogy (1981), “which catapulted Fierstein to fame” (Furnish 44). Fierstein quickly followed this triumph with another, the libretto to the highly successful musical version of La Cage aux Folles (1983). For these two works, Fierstein would receive almost every accolade the New York theater could bestow including an Obie (1982); Tony Awards (1983) as best actor and for best play for Torch Song Trilogy; the Tony Award for best book of a musical for La Cage aux Folles (1984); and various other awards for those plays and for his civil rights work for gays.
Alas, his subsequent work for the theater was less well received, and Fierstein has not presented a play of his own since his bad luck of the late 1980s, a decade that began so promisingly for him as an actor and a writer. Safe Sex (1987)