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Student Blog: Thank You, Mr. Sondheim, For Bringing Me Here


Stephen Sondheim was truly a pillar of musical theatre, and the lives he touched were countless, including my own.

Student Blog: Thank You, Mr. Sondheim, For Bringing Me Here It's common knowledge that most of us who now work in the arts were at the bottom of the food chain in grade school- we were "dorks," we were "weirdos," we were....well, I can't really say everything we were called, as not every nickname was as refined as the first two examples. I was no exception to this, and I had some rather dark and difficult times because of this treatment. I was the smallest of my classmates with wild and frizzy hair, constant acne, and a voice that was much too big for my physical size, all of which combined themselves with my obvious passion for the performing arts to make me a target for torment. Theatre gave me that escape, being a community where not only could I slip into someone else's skin for a while, but also a community where I was accepted while in my own skin. Stephen Sondheim, of course, has always been an essential part of theatre, and he very quickly became an essential part of my life as I delved deeper and deeper into this art form.

My first exposure to Sondheim was Sweeney Todd at the age of eleven on Pandora Broadway radio, almost immediately followed by Company and Follies. His music was so outlandish, and yet it held so much appeal and created another level of depth to the text, and this drew me in like a moth to a flame. I scoured his scores in the way that a lost traveler scours a map, closely analyzing his patterns and never resting until I understood why every note and lyric was there. I wanted nothing more than to bring his writing to life, and it was through my transfixion with his work that I realized how deeply my passion for theatre ran, even at a young age. The desire that his work created within me, the desire to perform his work and to create my own, was strong enough to propel me through times where I struggled to see a reason to even be alive. Sondheim made it seem as though everything had a place and that anything was possible, and that helped me to believe that I truly had a place in the world, no matter how I looked or sounded or thought.

Now, at the age of nineteen, I am lucky enough to have performed in Sweeney Todd (which I hope will be one of many more Sondheim shows I do), as well as to have performed and accompanied performances of individual pieces from his shows. One of my goals is to portray the role of Desiree Armfeldt in A Little Night Music one day, as that is one of the roles from his shows that I have been and continue to be particularly intrigued by, what with just how much complexity lies within her text. Performing any of his work is always a special treat for me, particularly because there are always so many colors to it that I'm always just dying to explore and analyze to no end. Sondheim has and will always remind me what theatre is: something limitless, something that's always changing and growing in every direction, and of course, something where absolutely everyone has a place. May his memory be a blessing always.

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From This Author Student Blogger: Meredith Muirhead