For over 30 years, the NJ Young Playwrights Contest has been deepening the writing experience for young artists by providing detailed feedback from theatre professionals. The New Jersey Young Playwrights blog continues that mission to provide discussion, instruction and inspiration to interested young writers.
Tuesday, January 7, 2014
Lessons from Sondheim
If you haven't yet seen Six by Sondheim, the HBO original documentary about the life and work of Stephen Sondheim, I highly suggest that you take a look. Or simply do a web search for video of "Sondheim talking" and you are bound to come up with something very interesting and insightful.
In addition to Sondheim's legacy of artistic work is his legacy of educating young artists. In the late 1970s, while in London, Sondheim saw a notice for a young playwrights festival at the Royal Court Theatre under the direction of Gerald Chapman. As president of the Foundation of the Dramatists Guild, Sondheim laid the work for a national young playwrights competition and recruited Chapman to help him launch the first contest in 1981. This program became Young Playwrights, Inc and sparked the rise of similar youth playwriting contests, festivals, and residency programs across the United States. One of these programs was the New Jersey Young Playwrights Contest & Festival, which began in consultation with Chapman and was something of a regional partner with Young Playwrights, Inc in its first few years. Similar opportunities for young playwrights continue to sprout up throughout the country today.
Since watching the documentary a few weeks ago, I've been searching for a clip, or statement that I could share with you. In my research, I found an interview with Sondheim by Rob Weinert-Kendt originally published in American Theatre in April 2011 which I have linked below. In this article, Sondheim talks about his plays, his process, and his influences in a way that also serves as something of a lesson in musical theatre history. I found the section about writing from an "actor's point-of-view" to be particularly interesting as I've often approached my own writing, and the teaching of writers, in the same way. His thoughts on the current state of theatre were interesting, too!
Photo by Richard Termine & from TCG website; linked to article.