Harit Allan Buchman is the founder and artistic director of The Culture Project, a non-profit, SoHo-based theater house known for producing political dramas like The Exonerated.
Born Sidney Blume, Buchman was adopted as a baby by a well-off Connecticut couple (and renamed), and attended the New England School of Stringed Instrument Technology to study piano tuning. His began his career as a concert piano technician, spending 12 years tending to the pianos at the Manhattan School of Music before starting up his own piano restoration firm. (Side note: Buchman once wanted to purchase a piano previously owned by Napoleon, but was thwarted by a U.S. embargo on ivory.) During a downturn in business in the early '90s, Buchman rented out part of his restoration space to the Riverside Shakespeare Company, and was inspired to get involved in theater himself.
In 1996, he incorporated The Culture Project in his factory on West 91st Street; its first project was Women Center Stage, a series of productions dedicated to women's contributions to the arts. In 1999, he moved the venue to a former lumberyard on Bleecker Street, and three years later it had its first bona fide hit in The Exonerated, starring Kristin Davis, Mia Farrow, Kyra Sedgwick and Richard Dreyfuss. The play earned Buchman a Drama Desk award, and sold out more than 600 performances.
Since then the Culture Center has kept up its focus on political and socially progressive works: It was the original home of Sarah Jones's Bridge and Tunnel in 2004, and more recently it's hosted a number of plays that are implicit or explicit indictments of the war in Iraq, including Eve Ensler's Treatment, Elliot: A Soldier's Fugue, and New Yorker staffer Lawrence Wright's monologue My Trip to Al-Qaeda. In 2007, Bushman transplanted the Culture Project to 55 Mercer Street. Speaking to the New York Times about choosing a downtown location for The Culture Project: "On the Upper East Side, if an interesting person walked by, it would be a notable experience for a week."
Buchman (pronounced "Bushman") had three daughters with a woman he speaks little about. His first daughter, who was put up for adoption, is in the National Guard. His second daughter Jhardene (who went by Chitra) died of AIDS in 1993 after suffering from anorexia, bulimia, and alcoholism. His third, Tara, lives in Connecticut. Buchman used to be a follower of yogi Sri Chinmoy, and says he now follows "a religious path that encourages celibacy."
[Image via Getty]