Stephen Sondheim Dashes Through the Rain With Jason Robert Brown as a Power Outage Delays His Award Ceremony

News   Stephen Sondheim Dashes Through the Rain With Jason Robert Brown as a Power Outage Delays His Award Ceremony Philadelphia's Arden Theatre Company was forced to delay its June 1 inaugural Master Storyteller Award presentation for Stephen Sondheim due to a power outage. While a storm raged, Sondheim and fellow composer Jason Robert Brown waited in a nearby restaurant as Arden's team worked in overdrive to find a replacement venue. 

Stephen Sondheim at the Master Storyteller Award presentation
Stephen Sondheim at the Master Storyteller Award presentation Photo by Mark Garvin

Playbill.com spoke with Arden producing artistic director Terrence J. Nolen about the event and how he broke the news to Sondheim.

Around 100 guests, including Sondheim and Brown, who was invited to present the award, were attending a pre-ceremony reception at Zahav restaurant when the news came through that the theatre's power had completely failed. In the lobby of the theatre down the road, more than 250 people had already arrived to try to catch a glimpse of the celebrated Into the Woods composer.

It was just after 7 PM, with the ceremony scheduled to take place at 8 PM. A last-minute decision was made to move the event a few doors down to the company's education building, specifically, to the scene shop, the largest room available.

"So [imagine me] walking into the room to tell Stephen and Jason that we were going to be holding the inaugural Master Storyteller ceremony in the scene shop…," sighed Nolen. "But he [Sondheim] was incredibly gracious," he continued. "He was saying, 'I can't believe you're not hysterical."

The staff at the Arden quickly put together a stage at the new location, moving over 250 seats, lights and other equipment in the pouring rain. Along with the guests, both Brown and Sondheim dashed over together in the storm.

When the ceremony and tribute concert finally began at around 9 PM, Sondheim commented to the crowd that if his ship was going down, he'd want Terry Nolen as his captain.

"It ended up being an amazing event and amazing ceremony," said Nolen.  "Stephen Sondheim has been recognized and celebrated in many events throughout the world, I'm sure ours is the only one that was held in a set shop."

Arden Theatre Company producing artistic director Terrence J. Nolen and Stephen Sondheim
Arden Theatre Company producing artistic director Terrence J. Nolen and Stephen Sondheim Photo by Mark Garvin

To learn more about Arden Theatre Company's master storyteller award visit ArdenTheatre.

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