Congratulations, Stephen Schwartz! Schwartz received an honorary Tony award last night! In light of this recent event, Defying Gravity: The Creative Career of Stephen Schwartz, from Godspell to Wicked author Carol de Giere has contributed a blog post in honor of the award recipient!
By Carol de Giere, author of Defying Gravity: The Creative Career of Stephen Schwartz, from Godspell to Wicked (Applause 2008) and The Godspell Experience (Scene 1 Publishing, 2015).
Famed Broadway and film composer-lyricist Stephen Schwartz (Pippin, Wicked, et. al.) is not short on recognition by awarding agencies. A glass case in his home is filled with golden Grammy trophies, Oscar statuettes, plaques and various other symbols representing the way his achievements have been honored. Some are remembered in photos, like his star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in recognition and images from receiving an honorary Doctor of Fine Arts degree this year at Carnegie Mellon University where he originally received his B.F.A. in 1968.
His new honor this Tony Award season is an unusual one. He receives the 2015 “Isabelle Stevenson Award” (named for the late president of the American Theatre Wing, Isabelle Stevenson). This award is presented annually to a member of the theatre community who has made a substantial contribution of volunteered time and effort on behalf of one or more humanitarian, social service or charitable organizations.
Although Schwartz received Tony nominations for Godspell, Pippin, Working, Rags, and Wicked, his award from the American Theatre Wing is not for his many achievements but for his years of contributions to help writers around him and for donating his time to important causes. They honor “his commitment to serving artists and fostering new talent through his work with ASCAP Musical Theatre Workshop, ASCAP Foundation and helping develop new partnerships as President of the Dramatists Guild,” according to a press statement.
Also, he recently served as President of the Dramatist Guild for six years. In that position he worked “…to strengthen and protect the rights of American dramatists, including battling censorship and piracy and improving the relationship between writers and directors, actors and producers,” the press statement adds.
As I was writing his biography, Defying Gravity, I noticed innumerable situations in which he helped other writers with some aspect of their new musical, especially during the annual workshops at ASCAP that he has led for over twenty years. In addition, he regularly performs for benefit concerts organized by friends. He helped with last fall’s Uprising of Love concert at the Gershwin Theatre to benefit and raise awareness of LGBT people in hostile countries. The list goes on.
His award doesn’t mark any kind of ending. Schwartz, now 67 years old, still has many irons in the fire, including a new stage musical Emanuel and Eleonore, scheduled to open in Vienna in the fall of 2016, a stage musical version of the DreamWorks film The Prince of Egypt, and several movie projects, among other things. He took time to write a Foreword to my new book The Godspell Experience, reflecting on his first major success: writing the score for Godspell at age 23.
An online newsletter The Schwartz Scene follows this artist’s ongoing efforts. http://www.theschwartzscene.com/