Tuesday, May 02, 2006

An Evening With Stephen Schwartz

Last night, for Judy’s birthday, I took her to the Kennedy Center to meet Stephen Schwartz, who wrote my favorite (and I think Judy’s favorite) musical of all time, Pippin. (He also wrote Godspell and Wicked the Musical)

It was a fairly unremarkable evening (for all of you, not for us) until the second act.

During the first half of the evening, this guy interviewed Stephen for 90 minutes about his career, and spent particular time on Pippin (although not enough for our liking), which was very exciting. Stephen even went to the piano and sang “Corner of the Sky”. I don’t think Judy or I breathed for the entire song. Heaven, we were in heaven…

In any event, after the interview was over, and we had appropriately given a standing ovation, the audience was invited to stay for the DC ASCAP Singer-Songwriters Yadda Yadda Showcase. So I asked Judy if we were staying, and she practically freaked out and stomped her foot. “I don’t care if you are, but I’m staying!” OK, I’m sort of staying at your house, so I guess I’ll be staying as well.

So I took advantage of the roof deck view at the center, and then we went back into the atrium for the remainder of the show.

Unfortunately for us, but I guess fortunately for those that love it, this shin dig was sponsored by the Nashville branch of ASCAP (the American Society of Composers, Authors and Producers or some such) and it was all country music… Faith Hill is as country as I get, and that’s a good deal more country than Judy gets.

It would appear, based on his facial expressions that Stephen Schwartz wasn’t much a fan of amateur hour either. He certainly was encouraging enough to each act as they left the stage, but his expression ranged from pained to tired to bored and it was hilarious to watch him during this festival of the area’s *ahem* best talent. One chick who had no business being on stage sang a song called Yellow Roses, with the stunning lyrics “I don’t want no yellow roses, crimson petals will lead me to your lips.” Maybe the song should have been called crimson roses… I dunno. I took notes of all the hokey lyrics.

The real zinger came during this one guy’s song. He’s apparently something of a big cheese in DC music circles, Elliot someone or another, and strolled on stage with a bright white afro and huge mustache, dressed all in white. Judy passed me the following note in the middle of this guy’s slow, quiet love song about his woman leavin’ him and doin’ him wrong: “Mark Twain called. He wants his look back.”

Ok, well, I just totally lost it… I give myself and Judy credit, we kept it all inside and didn’t laugh out loud, but I was chewing on my shirt and shaking all over. I almost fell on the floor. The song lasted another interminable 2 minutes, and when it was over, I figured with the applause, I could just let it all out… Wrong I was… But Stephen seemed to appreciate my laughter ;-)

Anyway, when it was finally over, Stephen held court on the far side of the stage. We got in line. We were immediately swarmed with the singer-songwriters we had been mocking. And Judy immediately felt faint. “I’mgoingtomeetStephenSchwartz, ohmygodwhatamIgoingtosay?” Then she started shaking, and her knees started banging together, and she started freaking out about the fact that her pen might smudge on the ticket stub she was going to ask him to sign. Next thing I know, she’s hurling her backpack around with reckless abandon, smacking it into people and hitting innocent passersby in her quest to find a ballpoint pen that won’t smudge. Her hands are shaking, dirty tissues are flying like a snow storm, and no, she did not have another pen.

So we got talking to a photographer (Big Bruno from http://www.bigbruno.com/) and Judy says, “Hey, can I see your pen?” and Bruno says, “What?” and Judy GRABS THE PEN OUT OF THE GUY’S LAPEL!!! She draws a squiggle on the ticket stub, discovers it still smudges, and says, “Oh well, thanks anyway” and shoves it back into his breast pocket.

Next thing I know, it’s our turn to meet Stephen. Before I even had a chance to do anything, my sister swoops in for the kill. She marches straight forward, hurls her bag onto the stage, thrusts her ticket and pen into Stephen’s hand, and says, “MynameisJudyandit’ssuchanhonortomeetyouandIjustwanttotellyouthatyoutooktwogirlsfromthemiddleofnowhere—ourhometownhas100peopleinit—andturnedusintomusicaltheaterbuffswithPippinandthisismysisterSusan.” And she waves in my direction like Vanna White.

Understandably at this point, Stephen’s a little deer in the headlights, but to his credit, he has signed Judy’s ticket stub “To Judy, Stephen Schwartz” and then I handed him our old, old, old VHS tape of Pippin (with the tasteful $2.99 sticker on it) and he said, “Wow!!! My god!” and then signed the back of it. He shook our hands and Big Bruno took our picture with him and then they pretty much kicked us out of the theater.

Judy marches out with her ticket stub in front of her, almost sobbing that Stephen Schwartz shook her hand and I told her, “why not put the ticket stub inside the book so nothing happens to it on the train?” at which point her eyes glowed red, her neck swiveled 360 degrees and she said “NO! I AM GOING TO HOLD IT AND LOOK AT IT!”

And she held it from Kennedy Center, onto the shuttle bus, into the Metro, over to the car, down to the ATM, over to Wendy’s, into the garage, and into her house, where she pried a picture frame apart, encased it in the frame, and then was so excited, she couldn’t get the frame back together (Joe to the rescue!).

This may have been the best birthday present I ever got her.

2 pearl(s) of wisdom:

Lesley said...

Will I be shunned as a pariah if I confess that I've never heard of Pippin, or Stephen Schwartz?

Kate/Susan said...

You can count on an education when you get here :-)