Into the Woods

About the Play | Grimm’s Fairy Tales
Study Guide | The Playwright on the Play |
Stephen Sondheim | James Lapine

Into the Woods

Music and lyrics by
Stephen Sondheim

Book by James Lapine
Directed by Gion DeFrancesco

Music direction by
Ryan Heinrich

The 14th Annual John D. Yeck Production

April 18-20, 25-27 2013, 8pm
April 28 2013, 2pm

Gates-Abegglen Theatre
Center for Performing Arts

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About the play

"Total enchantment. A spell-bounding score, witty enough to make old stories fresh for adults, lovely enough to enchant youngsters." –Daily News

"Bewitching... dazzling... triumphant." –New York Post

"Non-stop pure pleasure. A ravishing explosion of color and melody and magic and laughter." –Time Magazine

Into the Woods is a bouncy and bewitching musical fairy tale by Stephen Sondheim and James Lapine. The brilliant book and score interweave the plots from several Grimm Brothers stories to share a contemporary message about dreams, wishes and the power of community. When it debuted on Broadway in 1989, it won Tony Awards for best score and best book, helping it achieve great commercial success.  A 2002 revival featured Vanessa Williams took home a Tony for Best Revival of a Musical. In the summer of 2012, a production in Central Park featuring Amy Adams and Dennis O'Hare proved popular as well.

In the first act we meet the characters we've come to know, each trying to make their dreams come true. Cinderella and Rapunzel seek their Princes. Little Red Riding Hood escapes a Wolf on her quest to help Granny. Jack climbs his beanstalk in search of fortune and glory. Added to the mix are two fresh characters, The Baker and his Wife who yearn for the greatest gift of all - a child. Alas, they've been cursed by the witch who holds Rapunzel captive! To reverse the curse, the Baker and his Wife interact with the others to gather a curious list of ingredients to appease the witch: a slipper as pure as gold, a cow as white as milk, a cape as red as blood, and hair as yellow as corn. The act ends with all the characters fulfilled, and ready to live "happily ever after."

In Act Two Sondheim and Lapine reveal the true humanity of the characters, as they come to realize that having your every wish granted brings complications. Charming princes have flaws, parenting is tough work, and, well, killing a giant can make the giant's wife very angry. Characters come to new understandings about life as their kingdom is threated with destruction. They discover their actions have consequences and in the end they rally together to build a new community across the differences that once divided them.


Grimm’s Fairy Tales

The Brothers Grimm are probably the best known story tellers in the world. Many years have passed since the time Jackob and Wilhelm Grimm released their Children's and Household Tales. The first Volume of Grimm's fairy tales was released in 1812, and the second in 1814. The first edition and was very modest, both in appearance and capacity—there were only 83 fairy tales, compared to the 200 we know today.

The foreword to the collection was signed by the Brothers Grimm on October 18th, 1812. The booklet was highly appraised in this era of spectacular bloom of romance, when the German national consciousness was formed and nationalist aspirations were awakening.

The Brothers Grimm kept updating their collection with newly gathered and recorded fairy tales. In their lifetime the fairy tale collection was translated into almost all European languages, while the German version already had six editions. This was the Grimms first experience of scientific studies and process of folklore and their first major success. For their exceptional scientific achievements modern researchers call them "fathers and founders of German philology."

See more from the World of Tales, including texts of the Grimm Brothers’ famous fairy tales in multiple translations and English, Dutch, French, and Polish Audio files.


Study Guide

Looking to bring a group of students to the show? Check out this handy Into the Woods study guide developed by the Orlando Shakespeare Festival. It frames the show as a way to explore questions about identity and the nature of wishes through plot summary, character descriptions and discussion questions.


The Playwright on the Play:

See Sondheim talk about the play’s widespread popularity in this video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_detailpage&v=seZyx0bNHBA


Stephen Sondheim

Sondheim—the name be-speaks theatrical excitement and applause. He is one of the singularly gifted within the ranks of the Broadway musical elite, a man who has spent his entire career making wonderful music. While Stephen Sondheim may be best known in the public view as a Broadway composer, his musical skills actually go far beyond that rather limited sphere. 

Sondheim has written prolifically and profusely for motion pictures, television dramas, and background songs and scores for legitimate theater, in addition to his extensive catalog of Broadway scores. In fact, Sondheim is one of the very few tunesmiths to have garnered both Tony awards and Oscars for his multi-directional output, not to mention literally countless other accolades for his unique talents. 

Stephen Sondheim was born in 1930 and raised in New York City. He graduated from Williams College in Williamstown, MA, where he began a lifetime of award winning, taking down the renowned Hutchinson Prize for Music Composition, following which he studied theory and composition with Milton Babbitt. 

Sondheim's creativity came into play soon after departing from college when he wrote lyrics for such highly skilled composers as Leonard Bernstein (West Side Story) and Jule Styne (Gypsy) within the two year span of 1957 to 1959. Soon thereafter, in 1962, came one of Sondheim's most notable successes, A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum, in which he created both the music and lyrics. Two years later, a virtually unending series of successful musicals featuring both music and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim, began their collective run extending well into the 1990s. Beginning in 1964 with Anyone Can Whistle, the list includes Follies, A Little Night Music, The Frogs, Pacific Overtures, Sweeney Todd, Merrily We Roll Along, Sunday in the Park with George, Into the Woods, Assassins, Passion and Company.

During the 30-year run, which features a major Broadway entry approximately once every three years, he was also the lyricist for Do I Hear a Waltz and the Hal Prince revival of Candide and organized revue-style anthologies of his works for such Broadway presentations as Side by Side by Sondheim, Marry Me a Little, You’re Gonna Love Tomorrow and Putting it Together

Again, during the same immensely productive 30-year span, Sondheim addressed the motion picture field, composing scores for Stavisky and Reds and songs for Dick Tracy, one of which, Sooner or Later (sung by Madonna) won the Academy Award in 1990 for Best Song. For television, he wrote songs for Evening Primrose, co-authored the film, The Last of Sheila and provided incidental music for the plays The Girls of Summer, Invitation to a March and Twigs.

Sondheim is the owner of five Tony Awards (Best Score for a Musical) for Into the Woods, Sweeney Todd, A Little Night Music, Follies and Company. All these shows also won New York Drama Critics Circle Awards, as did Pacific Overtures and Sunday in the Park with George, the latter also receiving the Pulitzer Prize for Drama in 1985, with music and lyrics by Sondheim and book by James Lapine.

Stephen Sondheim has served on the CounciI of the Dramatists Guild, the National Association of Playwrights, Composers and Lyricists, and served as its president from 1973 to 1981. In 1983, he was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Letters, and in 1990, he was appointed the first visiting professor of Contemporary Theater at Oxford University. In 1993, he was the recipient of the prestigious Kennedy Center honors.

Biography from Songwriters Hall of Fame


James Lapine

James Lapine was born in 1949 in Mansfield, Ohio and lived there until his early teens when his family moved to Stamford, Connecticut. He attended public schools before entering Franklin and Marshall College in Lancaster, Pennsylvania where he majored in History. He went on to get an MFA in Design from the California Institute of the Arts in Valencia, California.

After graduate school, he moved to New York City where he worked part-time as a waiter; a page and tour guide at NBC; a free-lance photographer and graphic designer; and an architectural preservationist for the Architectural League of NY. One of his free-lance jobs was designing the magazine of the Yale School of Drama, Yale/Theater, then edited by Rocco Landesman and Robert Marx. The dean of the School of Drama, Robert Brustein offered Lapine a full-time job designing all of the printed materials for the School of Drama and the Yale Repertory Theatre as well as a faculty position teaching a course in advertising design.

While at Yale, his students urged him to direct a play during the annual January period when both faculty and students undertook a project outside of their areas of study or expertise. At their suggestion Lapine directed a Gertrude Stein play, Photograph. The play was five acts, and just three pages in length. Assembling students and friends, the play was presented in New Haven and came to the attention of director Lee Breuer, who helped arrange for a small performance space in Soho to present the work for three weeks. The production was enthusiastically received and won Lapine an Obie award.

Lapine was approached by Lyn Austin and Mary Silverman to create a new piece for the Music-Theatre Group. He wrote and directed a workshop version of Twelve Dreams which was later presented at the Public Theatre and revived by Lincoln Center Theatre. Lapine eventually left the visual arts for a career in theatre where he has also written and directed the plays Table Settings, Luck, Pluck, and Virture, The Moment When, Fran’s Bed and Mrs. Miller Does Her Thing. He has written the book for and directed Stephen Sondheim’s Sunday In the Park With George, Into the Woods, Passion and the recent multi-media revue Sondheim on Sondheim. He also recently directed Merrily We Roll Along as part of the Encores! series at New York City Center. With William Finn he has collaborated on March of the Falsettos and Falsettoland, later presented on Broadway as Falsettos, A New Brain, Muscle and the soon to be produced Little Miss Sunshine. On Broadway he has also directed Golden Child, The Diary of Ann Frank, Amour, and The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee. He directed Jenny Allen's solo piece I Got Sick and Then I Got Better with Darren Katz. Lapine is directing the fall 2012 Broadway revival of Annie and is producing and directing the upcoming HBO documentary Six By Sondheim. He has directed several other productions off-Broadway as well as three films.

Lapine is a member of the Dramatist Guild Council and for the last eleven years has been a mentor for TDF's Open Doors Program. He is also on the board of Ars Nova Theater. He currently lives in New York City.   

Biography from JamesLapine.com


Stephen Sondheim's Collaborations with James Lapine

Stephen Sondheim and James Lapine was one of the oddest collaborations in the history of Broadway. Despite his enormous success as a composer Sondheim was seriously considering giving up on musical theater when he decided to start working with a director who had very little experience; in fact up until then most of his work had been as a set designer. Despite this the pair produced some of the most original musicals to appear on Broadway.

The collaboration between Stephen Sondheim and James Lapine was a bit of an odd combination but it worked. At the time Sondheim was coming off of many years of collaboration with Hal Prince however their last project together had been a failure. At the time Sondheim gave serious consideration to giving up the theater altogether. However when he met James Lapine he decided to take theater in a different direction. Lapine had little experience in the theater and had actually started his career as a photographer. Nevertheless he had an avant-garde style that combined well with Sondheim.

The first project that Sondheim and Lapine worked on together was Sunday in the Park with George. The show was based on a painting by Georges Seurat. The play was based on the idea that the only thing missing in the painting was the artist himself. It portends to tell the story of Seurat painting the picture however all of the biographical details of his life have been fictionalized. The play actually received fairly mixed reviews; it was, however, a commercial and artistic success. It became one of the very few Broadway musicals to win a Pulitzer Prize for Drama.

Following the success of Sunday in the Park Sondheim and Lapine decided to collaborate again on Into the Woods in 1987. It was the most successful of the musicals that Sondheim and Lapine would collaborate on during their time together.

The next project that the pair would worked was called Assassins which opened off-Broadway in 1990, and with some revision, on Broadway proper in 2004 (where it featured Neil Patrick Harris as Lee Harvey Oswald). On the surface, the play is about the famous presidential assassins. On a deeper level, its about the unrest among people who feel marginalized, and what motivates them to somehow make their mark. The 2004 Broadway run earned 5 Tony Awards. The final project that Sondheim and Lapine worked on was Passion in 1994. Despite being critically acclaimed, Passion was not a great commercial success. In fact it had the shortest run of any winner of the Tony for Best Musical. After this the pair decided to end their collaboration and Sondheim would go back to work with Hal Prince.

Collaboration history from Sondheim on Sondheim

 

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