Director Harold Prince chatted with Lincoln Center Theater's Ira Weitzman before a crowd of about 120 Dec. 9, at the first winter Platform Series event sponsored by LCT.
Among other things, Prince confirmed at the free Q&A gathering that Stephen Sondheim had been asked to write the score of Parade, opening Dec. 17 at the Vivian Beaumont Theater, but turned it down, according to Prince, because the subjects of anti-Semitism, race, Southern vengeance against the North and lynching were too dark for Sondheim's taste following Sondheim's lugubrious romantic musical, Passion.
Prince then turned to Jason Robert Brown, who had worked with his daughter, Daisy Prince, on Songs for a New World. Parade, now in previews, is based on a notorious 1912 Georgia murder case involving an (innocent) Leo Frank and a child named Mary Phagan.
Prince also revealed that "I don't particularly care for workshops," the process of spending a lot of money on readings and rehearsals just to see if something works. "What it does is add years to the life of creating a show," he said. "I [could've been] here with you guys doing the show two years ago and I would have made the same journey, but we had to take two years to do workshops." In the past, Prince said he would simply gather people in a room to read a piece (as was the case when Hugh Wheeler's A Little Night Music book was read) to test its viability.
He doesn't prefer going out of town to test and work on a show, either, he said. There's no privacy to the out-of-town process anymore and little point to testing a show in a pressure-free province when "minutiae" about the show, the creators or the process is immediately reported back to New York by "every wire service and jackass magazine." Prince amiably chatted about his much-reported beginnings under the wing of producer-director George Abbott, his first time as a stage manager and his belief that non-profit theatre partnering with commercial producers is a good thing, because when theatre is solely investor-driven, "that's no good for an art form."
Fielding questions from the audience and Weitzman, Prince said he was proud of his work on Andrew Lloyd Webber's Phantom of the Opera, but his reputation, he hopes, is based on his darker and more conceptual works: Cabaret, Follies and Company.
Lincoln Center Theater's Platform Series, a schedule of free, pre- performance chats with artistic personnel of Lincoln Center Theater shows, began its winter season 6:30 PM Dec. 9 with the Prince chat.
Prince's legendary career includes directing Company, Follies, A Little Night Music, Evita, Cabaret, Phantom of the Opera, the 1995 revival of Show Boat and more.
Platform Series events (through Jan. 27, 1999 for this slate) are held between matinee and evening shows on Wednesdays, 6:30 PM to 7:15 PM in the lobby of the Vivian Beaumont, 150 West 65th Street, in Manhattan.
Admission is free and open to all. However the limited lobby seating is first-come, first-served, beginning at 6 PM.
Upcoming discussions include:
Jan. 13, 1999: Parade book writer Alfred Uhry
Jan. 20, 1999: Far East (previews begin Dec. 11 at the Mitzi Newhouse) playwright A.R. Gurney
Jan. 27, 1999: Parade composer-lyricist Jason Robert Brown.
Speakers are subject to change. Some Platform Series transcripts are available for $2 in LCT's lobby shop. The Platform Series is made possible by The Charles E. Culpepper Foundation.