Homage to Stephen Sondheim

Titan of the American Musical

Omar Sangare – Founder & Artistic Director of United Solo; Chairperson & Professor of Theatre at Williams College – shares his memory of meeting Stephen Sondheim:

When I walked into Stephen’s home for the first time, I felt that I was walking into a space of music. The light, ambience, and charm of his home revealed the spirit of his life. The warmth of his house gave me the impression that he sought to surround himself with peaceful space for creative work. With that understanding, I was reminded how we can be the maestros of our own environment as we orchestrate zones where we feel safe and comfortable.

In 2020, Stephen was involved in the revival of his musical, “Company” with Patti LuPone, yet the show was cancelled early due to the pandemic. During the trying time, we were all uncertain about the future. At that moment, however, the future was unfolding within hours. Knowing Patti LuPone (The 2011 United Solo Special Award winner), I also realized the intensity of the present time for her and the cast. The show returns in 2021 on Broadway, and I’m sure that this brings Stephen great happiness as he will watch the show in spirit.

Stephen’s musical, “Company” was included by The New York Times, as one of must-see events this season — in the same 2021 Fall Preview our United Solo Theatre Festival in the city was included as well – and it was thrilling for me to see how close we were, both in-person and in-print.

Before getting to know Stephen Sondheim closer, I first became friends with his charming dog. The day I entered Stephen’s home, his poodle ran to me as if we had known each other for years. Perhaps this was a sign for Stephen to trust the person who entered his home. In our interview, both Stephen and his dog were present, sitting comfortably on the sofa.

His beloved dog, the poodle, was silent though, with no objections to what Stephen had to say. It was a meet one, get two, though only one stayed in touch with me via email afterwards. When I sent to Stephen a video recording of the show, I directed as a tribute to his works after he graduated from Williams College, he expressed his gratitude and joy seeing the production of “Our Time: A Collage of Records from Williams” – the show recognized in the review by Michael Miller for The New York Arts.

I am for-my-ever grateful for the work that Stephen and our cast & creative team at Williams Theatre who acknowledge theatre as a peaceful space for progressive dialogue.

Just keep moving on
Anything you do
Let it come from you
Then it will be new
Give us more to see

“Move On” by Stephen Sondheim

With my unending gratitude for Stephen, we now turn to the next chapter in our journey – yet another times for us to share. And so we will! Dear Stephen: thank you for being our inspiration.