Encounters with Sondheim

Started by Chris L, Jul 20, 2017, 12:24 pm

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Chris L

Jul 20, 2017, 12:24 pm Last Edit: Jul 20, 2017, 01:41 pm by Chris L
Have you had any sort of encounter with Stephen Sondheim? The encounter could be simply seeing him on the street or writing a letter to him and getting a response. I know our friend @terrimj has, but she's resisting the urge to post here. (Terri was actually invited to his apartment for a meal.)

My sole encounter was seeing him interviewed on stage a few years ago, when @AmyG and I went to see him at UCLA. As always, he was a brilliant speaker, retailing anecdotes that in some cases I'd heard before and in other cases had not. (He was asked about the meaning of the title A Pray by Blecht, his unfinished musical with Leonard Bernstein and John Guare. What deep meaning did that title hold? He looked embarrassed and admitted that it was simply meant to be an Asian pronunciation of A Play by Brecht, reversing the r's and l's, a title that would be considered blatantly racist today.)

I also would have had the opportunity to see Sondheim on stage after the final performance of A Little Night Music at the Kennedy Center in 2002, but my friend Katie and I went to the matinee instead. Later we heard that Sondheim was eating dinner in the Kennedy Center cafeteria at the same time we were, but we never noticed him.

And when I was in New York in 2010, Amy and I walked right past Hal Prince on the street. He was chatting animatedly with someone I didn't recognize, who certainly wasn't Sondheim.

Other anecdotes, large and small, are welcome.
But us, old friend,
What's to discuss, old friend?

KathyB

My encounter with Sondheim took place in 2007 in Colorado Springs. They were putting on a Festival of World Theatre, and SJS was the invited guest for this year. They commissioned a revue called "Beautiful Girls" with Donna McKechnie, Marin Mazzie, Jenn Colella and Zoe Caldwell as the narrator (and Patti LuPone as not-so-secret guest star). I knew I could not afford tickets to the banquet night, so I got tickets to the next night and also tickets to the colloquium at the Broadmoor with Lonnie Price and Paul Gemignani that morning (which were only $15!) Peter Shaffer was in the audience too, although it was a fairly intimate group--maybe 50 people.

Price and Gemignani mainly answered the same sorts of questions we've all heard them answer at Q-and-A sessions like this, but it didn't seem like the same-old-same-old, probably because I was there instead of watching it on TV. When the session was almost over, I heard a familiar voice asking a question from the room entrance, and I turned around and There He Was. I wanted to take a photo, but I forgot that my camera had a delayed shutter, so I ended up taking a photo of my foot. (At least I didn't blind him with my flash.) SJS was most gracious and even answered a few questions himself, then accepted some sort of package from the City of Colorado Springs and left. I admit to following him when he left, at least to the rotunda where he was waiting for a cab, but then I went into the gift shop so I wouldn't feel so much like a stalker. He is much better looking in person than he is in photos (he is the poster child for non-photogenic). I was so excited that I got to see him, if not actually meet him, and if I had one question to ask him, it would be "what was in that package from the City of Colorado Springs?"

Chris L

Quote from: KathyB on Jul 20, 2017, 12:51 pmI admit to following him when he left, at least to the rotunda where he was waiting for a cab, but then I went into the gift shop so I wouldn't feel so much like a stalker.

Maybe I should start a second thread called "Stalking Sondheim." ;)
But us, old friend,
What's to discuss, old friend?

Bobster

I've never met him--I'd be afraid I would come across and appallingly inept and unintelligent--but I've written to him in the past and he's responded.

But it's been decades.

Chris L

Wow, those letters are incredible, @Bobster! I wish I'd had the nerve to write him back when he was reliably answering.
But us, old friend,
What's to discuss, old friend?

fjlumia

've never met him--I'd be afraid I would come across and appallingly inept and unintelligent--but I've written to him in the past and he's responde

I understand your comment absolutely.  The first time I met him I was intimidated.  I did not know he doesn't like compliments, so when i spoke to him he huffed and walked away.  We were at McCarter seeing a very funny version of Into the Woods. 

The next time was at an award ceremony at the Arden Theater in Philadelphia. He was receiving the award.  I was very careful this time and he was gracious and signed a book for me although they had said he would not do that.  We told him about a show we saw at Princeton called Sondheim's Women done by seniors as their project.  It was excellent outlining how Sondheim's women are not flighty unthinking females.  The Cinderella from R&H's show is much different that the Cinderella from Into the Woods, for example..

FIG

Not sure if it can be considered a "meeting" but I ask for his autograph after his birthdays celebrations at BAM, I guess that was in 1997.

And I sat two rows from him during the Wall To Wall Sondheim at Symphony Space. I remember that the first song was the Prologue from Into The Woods performed by children. He cried through the whole thing. And later in the day, when Angela Lansbury showed up, she sat next to him. I really wanted to reach out and touch them, but managed to control myself.

FIG


scenicdesign71

I just now got home from seeing Carousel, where whom should I notice outside the Imperial at intermission but Himself?

At least, I'm 99.99% sure it was him; he was chatting with someone, and I didn't have the nerve to approach.  As with the handful of other times I've randomly crossed paths with the man, I just kept my distance, concentrated on Not Staring, and willed my heartbeat to resume its normal rhythm.

Chris L

It amazes me how I could have lived in the Los Angeles area so long and seen so few celebrities not standing on a stage -- maybe two or three, the most famous of which was John Larroquette, who was shopping for Christmas presents with his wife in a small strip mall where I was shopping for Christmas presents for Amy. They seemed to be on their way to a party. Oh, and there was also the time I found myself sitting in a Starbucks where Terry O'Quinn was waiting to get into the rest room about five feet away from me. I tried not to stare, but Lost had only just finished its run. Appropriately, the Starbucks was at a beach.

And yet New Yorkers always seem to be spotting actors, composers, directors. I mentioned above that when I was there in 2010 I walked right past Hal Prince -- I swear he was Hal Prince, talking animatedly with a companion that I didn't recognize, though Amy didn't see either of them. New York City is a tighter, less sprawling place than LA, so I suppose it's easier to find yourself bumping elbows, or at least sharing breathing space, with the rich and famous. Here, in the sprawl of strip malls and mini-cities, it's easier for the recognizable to slip into the obscurity of the land mass.

I would love to see the Master standing on a street corner, waiting for an Uber (and also find it impossible to imagine him doing so), but in LA that's about as likely as running into Terry O'Quinn again.
But us, old friend,
What's to discuss, old friend?

Gordonb

A million years ago in 1997,  I was in the queue to get into a play, which I think may have been the traverse-staged King Lear with Ian Holm, at what was then the National's Cottesloe (now the Dorfman).  I became aware of a murmuring in the queue and, when I turned round to see what was happening, I spotted a very elegant looking woman in a black trouser-suit with longish grey/blonde hair - none other than Lauren Bacall! It just so happened that I was sitting in the exact opposite seat from her across the stage so I spent most of the time watching her watching Lear!

Back in the 80s and 90s when there were so many of his productions and galas, seeing Sondheim was an almost every day occurrence; I still got the shivers though.

Chris L

I would think that London would be a bit like New York in that it's small and dense enough that the elite could stumble across the non-elite on occasion. (I class you among the elite, of course, @Gordonb!) This in contrast to the vast urban/suburban sprawl that is LA.
But us, old friend,
What's to discuss, old friend?