Back to All Events

LITQUAKE FESTIVAL | The extraordinary rise and fall of actor M. B. Curtis

Lady Liberty - Cover Art.jpg
An outstanding new biography of one the the most talented characters of his time
— Barry Moreno, historian & author, the Bob Hope Memorial Library at Ellis Island, Statue of Liberty National Monument

A lecture by Richard Schwartz, followed by a book signing

in partnership with LITQUAKE FESTIVAL 2017

Full Festival Schedule



In his latest book, The Man Who Lit Lady Liberty: The Extraordinary Rise and Fall of Actor M.B. Curtis (RSB Books, April 2017, $29.95 HC, Distributed by Heyday Books), author and historian Richard Schwartz tells the fascinating life story of Jewish immigrant actor M.B. Curtis. Curtis rose to stardom as the first American Jewish actor to portray a Jewish character on an American stage, using his charisma and comedic talents to overcome common stereotypes and prejudices of the time. Industrious, influential, and daring on and off stage, Curtis lived the highs and lows of celebrity in late 19th c. America, often chasing his ideals of freedom and democracy through grand, dramatic gestures.


Richard Schwartz is a historian and the author of Eccentrics, Heroes, and Cutthroats of Old Berkeley; Earthquake Exodus, 1906; Berkeley 1900; and The Circle of Stones. Originally from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, he graduated from Temple University with a bachelor’s degree in English Literature (’73). An outdoor enthusiast and animal lover, Schwartz worked on a Pennsylvania Dutch farm for two years before heading west to find higher mountains. He now lives in Berkeley, California, where he works as a building contractor and documents early Native American sites in the Bay Area. The Man Who Lit Lady Liberty (April 2017) is his fifth book and was recently selected by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences Margaret Herrick Library to be included in their collection.


Litquake, San Francisco's annual literary festival, was founded by Bay Area writers in order to put on a week-long literary spectacle for book lovers, complete with cutting-edge panels, unique cross-media events, and hundreds of readings. Since its founding in 1999, the festival has presented close to 8000 author appearances for an audience of over 165,000 in its lively and inclusive celebration of San Francisco's thriving contemporary literary scene. Litquake seeks to foster interest in literature, perpetuate a sense of literary community, and provide a vibrant forum for Bay Area writing as a complement to the city's music, film, and cultural festivals.  2017 Dates: 10/6-14.


Why you should attend: Trained and based in San Francisco during his stardom, Curtis later lived in Berkeley for years. He donated generous sums of money to civic projects and built the Peralta Hotel, the largest hotel in the Bay Area at the time (1891).


LITQUAKE FESTIVAL | The extraordinary rise and and fall of actor M. B. Curtis
A lecture and book signing by Richard Schwartz
Tuesday October 10, 2017
6:00PM – 7:30PM
Museum of Performance + Design
893B Folsom Street, San Francisco
Admission at the door: General $12 | Senior/Students $9.50 | Members/Passes: FREE
or online: tickets link
ALL public
Info: | 415.741.3531 |
Earlier Event: July 20
Third Thursday Networking Mixer