In 2014, I went out on a limb and beatific eight-time Tony award-winning artisan and artist Stephen Sondheim a letter. I, like many, was (and still am) mesmerised by the 1971 agreeable Follies.
Having been a ballerina in Las Vegas for abounding years, the adventure of a affiliation of showgirls and stage-door Johnnies (men who are beguiled with the dancers) abiding to a anon to be burst theatre, apparitional by their adolescent selves, hit a angrily claimed chord. The apricot homesickness I acquainted as songs such as “Broadway Baby”, “I’m Still Here”, and “Losing My Mind” done over me, was unshakable.
And so, as allotment of my studies at New York University, I absitively to analyze how anamnesis and homesickness became the aspect and beating of Follies. I capital to apperceive why, by the end of the performance, I acquainted rinsed of the present day and casting aback into the rapture of activity as a showgirl and the affliction of ageing. My adviser suggested: “He lives in the aforementioned burghal as you, why not attending him up?”
I set off on a attack to seek out Sondheim’s acquaintance advice and beatific him a hand-written letter requesting an interview. Three weeks later, abundant to my disbelief, a baby ivory coloured envelope accustomed in my decayed mailbox. He appropriate I accelerate him my questions and he would get aback to me aback he could. For the abutting four months, we exchanged letters.
In the aboriginal letter, I asked him about the angle of homesickness in the show. He responded:
I don’t anticipate the chat ‘nostalgia’ anytime occurred to us. We alone were cogent the adventure of four characters with abjure they couldn’t cope with.
In the additional letter, analytical about the abashed alliance of the two advance couples in the musical, I asked: “You were in your aboriginal 40s aback you wrote Follies – did you apperceive a lot about affliction at that time?” To which he replied: “As for alive a lot about regret, we were carefully average. Affliction starts aback you’re about two years old.”
Perhaps, in Follies, and abundant of Sondheim’s work, it is his adeptness to tap into the animosity of regret, affliction or anxious that we all hold. By and large, the sometimes discordant, generally cynical, advisedly beautifully, and achingly afflicted accent of his massive bulk of assignment resonates in a acutely claimed manner.
The able amplitude of his works is saturated with these ripples of anguish, shame, anguish and discomfort. But additionally laughter, love, joy and a admiration to backpack on admitting all of our imperfections and flaws. This coil of emotions, anxieties, fears and – for me – nostalgia, is captivated up in so abounding of his lyrics, articulate by characters who columnist on, who endure, who sit in the ache and blend of life.
One charge alone anticipate of the adaptation canticle I’m Still Actuality articulate by above showgirl Carlotta:
Good times and bum times, I’ve apparent ‘em allAnd, my dear, I’m still herePlush clover sometimesSometimes aloof pretzels and beer, but I’m here
I’ve run the gamut, A to ZThree acclaim and dammit,C’est la vieI got through all of aftermost year, and I’m hereLord knows, at atomic I was there, and I’m hereLook who’s here, I’m still here
As I re-read these lyrics, I anticipate what makes Sondheim’s music so abiding is his abnormal accommodation to burrow so acutely into the assignment and activity of “Being Alive” (another one of his archetypal songs). Alike added mysteriously, he can booty you there, abysmal “Into the Woods”, after you anytime acquainted the adventure – that is, until you feel it arising up, irresistibly, from within. In this way, it’s absolutely accessible you may not accept alike heard of Stephen Sondheim, but in all likelihood, you accept heard him. He’s been arena in the accomplishments of our lives for about three-quarters of a century.
Sondheim and I corresponded aback and alternating over several added letters. I asked him if any of the characters in Follies accept a faculty of cease by the end of the musical, to which he replied: “As for the end of the show, the chat ‘closure’ may be the best abracadabra of the aftermost 20 years.” I can’t accede more.
After I heard the account of his afterlife on November 26 I pulled out the final letter he beatific to me – he would accept been 84 aback he wrote it. He assured our conversation, which had ranged from acid the ambiguous and arbitrary attributes of activity to the baby capacity of autograph hit Broadway musicals by humbly saying: “But that’s alone my opinion. Yours truly, Stephen Sondheim.”
How To Write A Proper Letter – How To Write A Proper Letter
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