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Authors Night: Celebrating Stewart Lane’s "Blacks on Broadway, African Americans on the Great White Way"

Lee Fryd

Bonnie Comley introduced her author to those who paid to attend a private dinner party for Stewart Lane's coffee table tome, "Blacks on Broadway, African Americans on the Great White Way," one of many following Authors Night, to support the East Hampton Library. "He wrote two plays and four books. This is his second history book on theater. He received six Tony Awards, multiple, multiple, multiple nominations, an Olivier, and three Drama Desk Awards. But his passion is really preserving theater and the history of theater. His book, 'Blacks on Broadway,' sold out tonight! He's also my husband, Stewart Lane," shared Comley.

Bonnie Comely, Stewart Lane, Leah, Frankie, and Lenny Lane. (Photo: Rose Billings)

Stewart never lets grass grow under his feet anywhere except his sprawling East Hampton estate. Besides the plays he brings to Broadway, and the Palace Theater which he co-owns, he has projects: BroadwayHD, to bring the theater experience to the big screen, "A Moment in Time," a musical he wrote incorporating the songs of John Denver, advising numerous theater related charities, not to mention co-owning the Palace Theater. His last book tackled "Jews on Broadway." Among his friends who bought tickets to celebrate: the Watermill Center's Robert Wilson and the Parrish's Terrie Sultan.

"The American Theater is a direct reflection of our culture, our heritage and who we are," Stewart told the two long tables. "When you think of us as a backwater nation that doesn't start to become really mature until, say, 150 years later in the 1920s, people were writing plays and musicals that were becoming recognized on a world wide basis. When I first started writing about history I thought maybe the African American contribution would be like the Jewish one, which is about late 19th Century. But the African American contribution goes back much further than that, even to colonial days."

Daughter Leah Lane addressed the evening's raison d'être: "The funding for East Hampton Library is different from most other libraries because most libraries have government funding. However, 60 percent of the monies spent on the East Hampton library has come from donations." She discussed the importance of giving back. "So donate guys! Let's do it," advocated Lane. "Tonight we are at one of the largest East Hampton Library dinner parties ever: over 600 guests at 25 homes that have raised $200,000. At each dinner party, the host pays for all the food and expense. So 100 percent of your donation goes to the Library." She noted that one of the newest Library additions has been a hit with all ages. "The new children's wing was completed in June and has gotten rave reviews from children, parents, grandparents alike," said Lane. "Libraries don't just preserve the wisdom of the past they contain the seeds of a better future."

For more information about the East Hampton Library, visit www.easthamptonlibrary.org

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