Zev Buffman (who spelled his last name "B-u-f-m-a-n" in his South Florida days) is president and CEO of the RiverPark Center in Owensboro, a picturesque Kentucky town on the banks of the Ohio River southwest of Louisville. Though the town is home to only 55,000 or so souls, RiverPark boasts a state-of-the-art 1,479-seat theater, a place where Broadway touring shows come to get their act together before hitting the road.
The not-so-little theater that could has just scored again: This week, the three nominees for best play at this year's Edgar Allan Poe Awards are works that premiered at the International Mystery Writers' Festival in Owensboro last June. David Foley's If/Then, Joseph Goodrich's Panic or Stuart M. Kaminsky's Books will be named best play when the Edgars are bestowed at New York's Grand Hyatt Hotel on May 1.
Buffman, who began his career as a producer and entrepreneur at the Coconut Grove Playhouse, is the man who brought touring Broadway to South Florida from the late 1970s to the early 1990s, when he left for California. He also an experienced Broadway hand, the guy who persuaded Elizabeth Taylor to make her Broadway debut in The Little Foxes, and then (unfortunately) talked her into an onstage reunion with ex-hubby Richard Burton in Private Lives. And it's clear, from his statement about the Edgars, that he's still got his P.T. Barnum mojo working.
"The Edgar Awards are the Tony, Emmy and Oscar awards for mystery work," Buffman exults. "For the International Mystery Writers' Festival to sweep that category in its first year is unprecedented."
This year's Mystery Writers' Fest runs June 12-22, and it features a lost Agatha Christie play, Chimneys, as well as Kaminsky's world premiere Sherlock Holmes mystery titled The Final Toast. For more info, check out the festival on the web.