Tonight I was fortunate enough to see ‘A Conversation with Stephen Sondheim and Frank Rich’ at Lincoln Center. Stephen Sondheim, the composer and lyricist. And Frank Rich, an Op-Ed Columnist for the New York Times. It was a really fascinating discussion about Sondheim’s early work and a lot about his recent revivals and latest creations. There was less talk about all that happened in the middle, which is probably the meat of his career, but I was none-the-less ‘stoked’ (and I feel that is the correct term) to be there.
Perhaps the best part of the event was simply hearing the stories about the relationships with his many collaborators and friends. While his referring to Leonard Bernstein as ‘Lenny’ and Richard Rodgers as ‘Dick’ kind of rubbed me the wrong way, it made me realize that artists lead lives. How silly that sounds. But it’s hard to step back and think about successful figures who are often in the public eye and think about them having conversations and arguments and ideas in their daily lives. And, with Stephen Sondheim sharing these stories, those small quirks and behaviors become as fascinating as the art they created. While successful artists leave their work as a legacy, it’s their character that we rarely hear about it. All those people whose work you admire, what do you know of them? It’s ironic that we have to define artists by what they’ve created rather than who they are. Because, for me, it’s their character I want to get at. How did you become someone who created that?
Unfortunately, I don’t think Frank Rich asked the right questions for me to learn enough about who Sondheim really is and, in some way, I think the picture above may say more about him than this conversation did tonight. There was never the question ‘why did you make that’ and ‘why did you make it that way’? Hmm. Oh well…