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Former BAM President Credited With Reviving Theater Dies at 87

By Alexandra Leon | February 13, 2017 5:37pm
 Harvey Lichtenstein in 1987. The former Brooklyn Academy of Music president, who is credited with reviving the performing-arts venue in the '60s, died at 87.
Harvey Lichtenstein in 1987. The former Brooklyn Academy of Music president, who is credited with reviving the performing-arts venue in the '60s, died at 87.
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Brooklyn Academy of Music/Rob Kinmonth

FORT GREENE — Harvey Lichtenstein — former Brooklyn Academy of Music president who is credited with turning the performing-arts venue into a cultural hub in the 1960s — has died at 87.

He died Saturday at his home in Manhattan, according to the New York Times. Lichtenstein had a stroke seven years ago and his health had been declining over the past few months, his son told the newspaper.

In 1967, he took over as BAM's president and executive producer at a time when the theater was financially strapped and the surrounding Fort Greene neighborhood was in the midst of an economic depression, according to BAM’s website.

He is known for transforming the crumbling performance space by adding cutting-edge programming in dance, drama and music.

Under Lichtenstein's leadership, the theater was rebranded with the BAM acronym and the Next Wave Festival was established, bringing several contemporary performers to the space, the institution said.

The roster of performers during his tenure includes Laurie Anderson, Pina Bausch, Peter Brook, Merce Cunningham, Philip Glass, Meredith Monk, Jerzy Grotowski, Mark Morris, Steve Reich, Twyla Tharp, and Robert Wilson.

During his time at BAM, the theater was renovated and expanded, including the 1987 addition of the Majestic Theater, now known as the BAM Harvey Theater.

After leaving BAM in 1999, Lichtenstein became the director of the BAM Local Development Corporation, an organization charged with creating a cultural district around the theater, according to BAM. He led the construction of nearby cultural institutions like the Mark Morris Dance Center, Theater for a New Audience’s Polonsky Shakespeare Center and the BAM Fisher Building.

A Brooklyn native, Lichtenstein attended Brooklyn Technical High School and became a dancer after graduating from Brooklyn College, the institution said.

He studied under celebrated modern dancers like Pearl Lang, Martha Graham and Sophie Maslow. By the 1960s, he was an arts administrator with management positions at both the New York City Ballet and the New York City Opera, according to BAM.