The Center for Fiction welcomed two of the most influential American theatre-makers, James Lapine and Anna Deavere Smith, for a conversation on craft and collaboration. James Lapine (Sunday in the Park with George, Into the Woods), three-time Tony award winning librettist, director, playwright, and screenwriter chronicles a two-year odyssey of creation in his book, Putting It Together: How Stephen Sondheim and I Created “Sunday in the Park with George,” with a treasure trove of conversations between Lapine, Sondheim, and the production team, personal photographs, sketches, script notes, and sheet music. Obie-Winning playwright and actress Anna Deavere Smith (Twilight: Los Angeles, 1992, Fires in the Mirror) pioneered the art form of “verbatim theatre,” and has used theatre and film to reveal the effects of inequality and discord on American communities.
Lapine and Smith joined us to discuss a new theatrical collaboration, Putting it Together, and the art of interview-based storytelling. A book signing with Lapine followed the event.
Photos by Kelsie Lynn Bennett
Putting It Together: How Stephen Sondheim and I Created "Sunday in the Park with George"
By James Lapine
Published by FSG
A behind-the-scenes look at the making of the iconic musical Sunday in the Park with George, Putting It Together chronicles the two-year odyssey of creating the iconic Broadway musical Sunday in the Park with George. In 1984, James Lapine, then a fledgling playwright and director, met Stephen Sondheim, already a legendary Broadway composer, and the two decided to turn Georges Seurat’s masterwork Sunday on the Island of La Grand Jatte into a musical.
Through Lapine’s recollections, conversations between Lapine, Sondheim, and the original cast and crew of the production, and a treasure trove of personal photographs, sketches, script notes, and sheet music from the making of the show, the two Broadway icons lift the curtain on their beloved musical. Putting It Together delves deep into the making of Sunday in the Park with George and the story of how a Broadway icon went off-Broadway with a neophyte nineteen years his junior to create a Pulitzer Prize– and Tony Award–winning smash hit.
James Lapine is a preeminent director, playwright, screenwriter, and librettist. He is the recipient of three Tony Awards for Best Book of a Musical (Passion, Falsettos, Into the Woods), as well as nine Tony Award nominations, five Drama Desk Awards, a Pulitzer Prize in Drama, and a Peabody Award, among other honors. He has also been inducted into the Theatre Hall of Fame and is a recipient of the Mr. Abbott Award for lifetime achievement in theater.
Anna Deavere Smith
Anna Deavere Smith
Anna Deavere Smith is an actress, teacher, playwright, and the creator of the acclaimed On the Road series of one-woman plays, which are based on her interviews with diverse voices from communities in crisis. A recipient of the National Humanities Medal from President Obama and two Obie Awards, her work has also been nominated for a Pulitzer and two Tonys. On screen, she has appeared in many films and television shows, including Philadelphia, The West Wing, Black-ish, and Nurse Jackie. She is University Professor in the department of Art & Public Policy at NYU, where she also directs the Institute on the Arts and Civic Dialogue. In 2019, she was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.