David Rothenberg, author and activist, to speak at library


David Rothenberg spent his professional life as a press agent and producer of more than 200 plays, guiding Broadway’s brightest stars through the rough terrain of media glare. His production of a prison drama in 1967 led him to found the Fortune Society, one of the nation’s leading advocacy and service organizations in criminal justice.

He recounts that life in a memoir, “Fortune in My Eyes: A Memoir of Broadway Glamour, Social Justice, and Political Passion,” which he will discuss on August 2 at 7 p.m. as part of the Friday Night Dialogues at the Library.

As a publicist, Mr. Rothenberg represented some of the boldest names in the last half of the 20th century, from Bette Davis and Mary Martin to the Blue Man Group. He also served as a press agent for Richard Burton’s “Hamlet”; the original production of “Hair”; the British play, “Beyond the Fringe”; John Gielgud’s “The School for Scandal”; Harold Pinter’s “The Birthday Party”; and plays by Edward Albee and Tennessee Williams.

In 1967, Mr. Rothenberg used his life savings to produce “Fortune in Men’s Eyes,” written by Canadian playwright John Herbert, a gritty drama about what happens to a kid who goes to prison and the horrors he endured while incarcerated.

It was the nucleus of the Fortune Society, which would change his life forever, thrusting him into the Attica prison riot, political campaigns, civil rights sit-ins and a Central American civil war.

Mr. Rothenberg conceived, directed and co-authored “The Castle,” based on the work of the Fortune Society, sat on the New York City Human Rights Commission and hosted a weekly radio program on WBAI in New York for nearly 40 years. This multi-layered life is recounted in his searing memoir.

Copies of “Fortune in My Eyes” will be available for purchase and signing. The program is free; donations are appreciated.

Coming up: On August 9, best-selling author Sylvia Day will read from her latest book, “Entwined with You” on August 16, Rory Kennedy will be at the library to screen and discuss her film, “Ethel.” And on September 6, Bill Persky and Tom Leopold return with more “Laughter after Labor Day.”