Magazine article The Sondheim Review

Studying Sondheim

Magazine article The Sondheim Review

Studying Sondheim

Article excerpt

New Jersey symposium explores facets of Sondheim's creativity

Phillip Sprayberry told the audience at the opening of "The Sagacious Stephen Sondheim" that he collected the word "sagacious" years earlier, waiting for the right moment to use it. It's an adjective that means "having or showing keen mental discernment and good judgment; shrewd." Sprayberry, who coordinates media relations for William Paterson University (WPU) in Wayne, N.J., felt that it captured the essence of Sondheim - the creative force around which he organized a symposium on Feb. 14 and 15, 2008.

Prompted by WPU's engagement of Sondheim for a public appearance on Feb. 15, as part of its Distinguished Lecturer Series, Sprayberry assembled two days of panel discussions, presentations, lectures, demonstrations and even a movie screening. His co-chair was Diane Nottle, deputy editor for classical music and dance in the culture news department of The New York Times.

The event included an excursion into nearby New York City to see a preview performance of the Roundabout Theatre Company's revival of Sunday in the Park with George at Studio 54. The two-day gathering attracted roughly 100 participants, with attendees coming from 17 states, Canada and Australia. Among those present were Dr. Cornel West, professor of religion at Princeton University. (West's admiratin for Sondheim was documented in TSR's Fall 2006 issue). The symposium's keynote address came from Ted Chapin, president and executive director of the Rodgers & Hammerstein Organization and author of Everything Was Possible: The Birth of the Musical "Follies."

Attendees could listen to academic papers by professors, directors and graduate students. Dr. Korey Rothman, visiting assistant professor of theatre at the University of Maryland, discussed "Another National Anthem: Stephen Sondheim and the Making of a National Icon." Dan Blim, a doctoral candidate at the University of Michigan, spoke on "Loaded Guns, Loaded Questions: Sondheim's Assassins Recon-sidered." Peter Purin, a doctoral student at the University of Kansas, spoke about "An Analytical Approach to Performing Company: Sondheim's Musical Roadmap." Occasional TSR contributor Patrick M. Horan's "Art Isn't Easy: Stephen Sondheim and the Musical Theatre Art Song" was presented. (A version of his essay is on page 29.)

The symposium featured several panels of experts. …

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