Feature Stories

VIDEO: James Lapine on life in the theater

Writer-director's collaborations with Stephen Sondheim are classics of American theater

At a recent Masterclass event sponsored by the Los Angeles Philanthropic Committee for the Arts, Michael Hackett, chair, UCLA Department of Theater, interviewed James Lapine, a giant of the American theater. In 1982, writer-director Lapine and composer and lyricist Stephen Sondheim launched one of the most celebrated partnerships in the history of American musical theater when they began working together on the path-clearing production that became “Sunday in the Park With George.”

Several other Sondheim/Lapine projects followed, including “Into the Woods” (1987), for which Lapine won both the Tony Award and the Drama Desk Award, Best Book of a Musical. and “Passion” (1994). Their most recent collaboration is the revue “Sondheim on Sondheim” (2010), which won the Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Musical Revue.

Lapine has also directed several other musical and also non-musical dramas, including “Dirty Blonde” (2000), nominated for the Tony and Drama Desk awards for Best Direction of a Play.

In 1991 Lapine directed his first film, “Impromptu,” from a screenplay by his wife, Sarah Kernochan. The story revolves around the romance of George Sand and Chopin, and starred Judy Davis and Hugh Grant. He directed the film version of the Anne Tyler novel, “Earthly Possessions” (1999) for television, with Susan Sarandon starring.

Lapine’s most recent project was writing the book and directing a musical adaptation of the Oscar-winning film “Little Miss Sunshine” at the La Jolla Playhouse.