Musical Theater Stephen Schwartz

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					                     Musical Theater: Stephen Schwartz

THE KENNEDY CENTER   Friday, March 4
                     Grades 9-12
                     11 a.m.-12 p.m.
                     Curriculum Connections: Language Arts
                     National Standards for Music: 4, 6, 8 & 9 and Theater: 6 & 8

                     A Tale About Talent
                     Each year, there are hundreds of kids who see their
                     first musical and decide that the lights on Broadway
                     are just waiting for them. Truth is, only a handful of        About the Program
                     these hopefuls will realize their dream. How do you
                     go from being one of those wide-eyed kids to                  In this never-before-seen interview, Academy
                     becoming the next wonder on the Great White Way?              Award®, Grammy® and Tony® winner Stephen
                     Ask composer/lyricist Stephen Schwartz. Before the            Schwartz talks with Michael Kerker, director of
                     tender age of 25, he had three hit musicals playing on        Musical Theater at ASCAP, about his Tony
                     Broadway simultaneously—Pippin, Godspell, and The             Award®–winning Broadway musical, Wicked,
                     Magic Show. And that was just the beginning.                  ―the most complete—and completely
                                                                                   satisfying—new musical in a long time‖ (USA
                                                                                   Today). Stephen Schwartz also discusses his
                     Stephen Schwartz was born in New York City in                 other musicals, including Godspell, Pippin, and
                     1948. After his parents took him to see a show called         the Baker’s Wife, and students hear a few of his
                     Shinbone Alley, he announced to his family that the           well-known songs performed.
                     ―musical theater bug‖ had bitten him. But like most
                     children, he disliked practicing the piano. To solve this
                     problem, Schwartz’s clever parents bribed their son with tickets to see a musical on Broadway. As an adult, he
                     admits this is the reason he writes for musical theater rather than composing pop songs.

                     During high school, Schwartz studied piano and composition at Juilliard School of Music and later graduated
                     from Carnegie Mellon University in 1968 with a B.F.A. in Drama. In time, Schwartz added The Baker’s Wife, Mass,
                     Working, Captain Louie, and Children of Eden to his successful resume.
                     After making his mark in New York, Schwartz looked to Hollywood and began working in film. Schwartz
                     collaborated with composer Alan Menken on scores for such famous animated features as Pocahontas,
                     The Hunchback of Notre Dame, and The Prince of Egypt. For these films, he would place three Academy Awards® on
                     his mantel alongside four Grammy Awards®.

                                                       The Writing Process
                                                       For Schwartz, the process starts with an assignment—a play, a film, or perhaps
                                                       a song for himself. There is a problem to be solved, or a story to be told, or
                                                       simply an idea for a song. Sometimes music is suggested, or a title, some lines,
                                                       or a mood. Schwartz believes that the melodies come from the story you are
                                                       attempting to tell. It is ―an instinctive, unconscious process, and part of writing
                                                       is to find a way to get out of your own way and just let it come through you.‖
                                                       Writing good lyrics is ―unpredictable, but inevitable…it shouldn’t be so strange
                                                       that it feels forced, but you don’t want to know where it’s going.‖ When writing
                                                       for musical theater, Schwartz prefers to start with a title. A song title helps him
                                                       ―conceptualize‖ a song before the first piano keys are even touched. Next,
                                                       comes the melody, and finally, the lyrics, which Schwartz says, ―should cling to
                                                       the silhouette of the music.‖

                      Mentors Matter
                      ―My style of writing has been influenced by sort of scavenging the pieces of music that I’ve heard and it’ll just be
                      a moment‖ that may inspire him, admits Schwartz. Some of the composers and songwriters who have influenced
                      him include Beethoven, Laura Nero, James Taylor, and Sting. Schwartz studies their unusual chord choices and
                      finds them to be unique and compelling. Very often, Schwartz will incorporate a triple rhyme near the end of a
                      song. He attributes this to an old Ella Fitzgerald song, ―Keep My Love Alive,‖ by Richard Rodgers and Lorenz
                      Hart that he heard as a young boy. Even as a child, Schwartz had begun to gather bits and pieces from a variety
                      of musical mentors.
Background Information

                                      Godspell is a celebratory musical that playfully highlights parables told in the Gospel
                                      according to Matthew and other books of the New Testament. Interspersed between
                                      them are a variety of modern songs set primarily to lyrics from traditional hymns. The
                                      stories and musical numbers are performed by a small troupe of actors in clown make-up.
                                      The musical opened Off-Broadway in 1971 and moved to Broadway in 1976. It was also
                                      adapted for film in 1973.

   Pippin is loosely based on the historic account of King Charlemagne and his son. The musical
   opens with a troupe of actors headed by the Leading Player preparing for a performance. The
   Leading Player announces to the audience that they will be performing ―Pippin: His Life and
   Times,‖ a magical and mysterious tale of a prince in search of fulfillment as he tries to lead an
   extraordinary life. Though the story is about royalty in the distant past, the actors’ costumes
   represent several different and undetermined time periods giving the musical a unique and
   universal edge. Pippin premiered on Broadway in 1972.

                                      The Baker’s Wife is based on a 1938 French film. It deals with the adult themes of love and
                                      fidelity fit for more mature audiences. The musical takes place in a small village in 1930s
                                      France where the residents lead ordinary and routine lives. It opens with the song
                                      ―Chanson‖ sung by the local café owner’s wife. The song describes living a quiet life from
                                      day to day with nothing changing until an event occurs, sometimes unexpectedly, that
                                      makes life suddenly quite different. The village experiences just that when a new baker
                                      arrives in town with his young and beautiful wife. The Baker’s Wife first toured the United
                                      Sates in 1976. Unfortunately it never reached Broadway but in 1981 it was mounted in
                                      London’s famous West End theater district to much critical acclaim.

   Wicked is loosely based on the novel Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the
   West by Gregory Maguire. It is a parallel story to the classic children’s book and 1939 film
   The Wizard of Oz but from the perspective of the witches in the Land of Oz. The musical
   opens with Glinda the Good addressing the people of Oz after the death of the Wicked
   Witch of the West. The tale immediately flashes back to a time before Dorothy arrived in
   Oz when the witches were close friends. Wicked opened on Broadway in 2003 and is still
   running. The musical has been wildly successful. It began touring North America in 2005
   and has also been produced internationally.
                  List of Works                                                         List of Awards

Butterflies Are Free, title song (play and movie), 1969              3 Oscars®: Pocahontas, The Prince of Egypt
Godspell, music and new lyrics, 1971                                 4 Grammys®: Godspell, Pocahontas, Wicked
Mass, English texts (with Leonard Bernstein), 1971                   4 Drama Desk Awards: Godspell, Working, Wicked
Pippin, music and lyrics, 1972                                       Golden Globe Award: Pocahontas
The Magic Show, music and lyrics, 1974                               2 Broadcast Film Critics’ Awards: Pocahontas, The Prince of Egypt
The Baker’s Wife, music and lyrics, 1976                             Songwriters Hall of Fame
The Perfect Peach, (children’s book), 1977                           Broadway Hall of Fame
Working, adaptation, four songs, direction, 1978
Personals, music, three songs, 1985
Captain Louie (children’s show), music and lyrics, 1986                       Lifetime Achievement Awards
Rags, lyrics, 1986
                                                                      Oscar Hammerstein Award
Children of Eden, music and lyrics, 1991
                                                                      Southeastern Theatre Conference
Pocahontas, lyrics, 1995
                                                                      ASCAP Foundation President’s Award
The Hunchback of Notre Dame, lyrics, 1996
                                                                      Paper Mill Playhouse
Reluctant Pilgrim, CD of eleven songs, 1997
                                                                      MAC Board of Governor’s Award
The Prince of Egypt, music and lyrics, 1998
                                                                      Kaufman Center Honors
Geppetto, music and lyrics, 2000 (renamed My Son Pinocchio)
                                                                      New England Theatre Conference
Uncharted Territory, CD of eleven songs, 2001
                                                                      Goodspeed Musicals
Wicked, music and lyrics, 2003
                                                                      Wayne State Apple Award
Mit Eventyr/My Fairy Tale, music and lyrics, nine songs, 2005
                                                                      Richard Rodgers Award
Seance on a Wet Afternoon, music and libretto, 2009
                                                                      Emerson College

Instructional Activities

    Listen Up, Write It Down
    Listen to the original cast album of Godspell or Pippin. Write down your response to
    each song. (Listen only to the words and music; try not to learn the play’s plot.) Then,
    watch the DVD of the play. Write down your reactions to the same songs when per-
    formed within the context of the play’s story? How does an actor portraying a charac-
    ter affect the experience? Compare your two lists.
    Is There a “Schwartz Sound”?
    Watch or listen to Pocahontas, The Hunchback of Notre Dame, and The Prince of Egypt. Do
    you hear any similarities in the words or music? Do all the songs appear to be written
    by the same composer/lyricist? If so, how so? If not, why not?
    What If?
    Imagine that the producer of Wicked has approached you to write next year’s theater
    hit. Like Wicked, the producer is looking for the ―story behind‖ a famous children’s
    classic book or fairy tale. Your task is to choose the book or tale and write a descrip-
    tion of the play’s storyline. Then, write titles for three of the characters’ songs. Try               Glinda and Elphaba from Wicked
    your hand at some of their lyrics.


    Stephen Schwartz Biography: De Giere, Carol. Defying Gravity. (Applause Theatre and Cinema Books, New York) 2008.
    Stephen Schwartz NPR Morning Edition Interview:
    Stephen Schwartz official site:
    Stephen Schwartz fan site:
    American Society of Composers, Authors, and Publishers website:
    Archived performance/discussion from the 2004-2005 Performing Arts Series season:

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