About James Lapine
The Ohio native trained at CalArts as a photographer and graphic designer and spent several years plying those trades on the West Coast. Eventually, Lapine headed East when he accepted a position teaching design at the Yale School of Drama. With encouragement from some of his students, he adapted and staged Gertrude Stein's play "Photograph" which caught the attention of a producer who moved the show to Off-Broadway in 1977. Flush from winning an a special OBIE, Lapine staged his "Twelve Dreams", inspired by a case study of Carl Jung, as a work in progress. Two years later, he garnered attention and acclaim for his breakthrough stage comedy "Table Settings", about a zany Jewish-American family. Lapine subsequently collaborated with composer William Finn on "March of the Falsettos", a sort of sequel to Finn's earlier "In Trousers". Centered on a Marvin, a divorced father who has "come out" as a gay man, the musical tackled darker themes than the typical stage fare. From its opening number ("Four Jews in a Room Bitching") through to the poignant closing number ("Father to Son"), the show ultimately explored what makes a family. While Lapine went on to other fruitful collaborations, he and Finn revisited the characters of Marvin, his neurotic wife Trina, his son Jason, the psychiatrist Mendel and Marvin's lover Whizzer in a sequel "Falsettoland" (1990). This time the creators opted to introduce the more serious specter of AIDS. A moving and powerful study of love as well as a paean to family, "Falsettoland" won a strong following. Director-choreographer Graciela Daniele hit on the idea of combining the two relatively short shows into one evening marking the birth of "Falsettos". Lapine and Finn reworked the material slightly and with some of the same cast (Michael Rupert, Stephen Bogardus, Chip Zien) from the earlier productions, took the show to Broadway in 1992 where it won Tony Awards for its book and score.
In between these productions, Lapine also struck up an artistically profitable association with composer Stephen Sondheim. Beginning in 1983, the duo began work on "Sunday in the Park with George", a project that found its inspiration in the unusual, Georges Seraut's pointillistic masterpiece "A Sunday on the Island of La Grand Jatte-1884". The collaborators fashioned a piece that spanned some 100 years, with act one culminating in a recreation of the famous painting and act two a contemporary send-up of the art world. "Sunday in the Park with George" was not a crowd-pleasing show in the vein of its contemporary "La Cage Aux Folles" as it challenged audiences to examine the creation and nature of art as well as its acceptance by the masses. Cited by the Pulitzer committee for the award in drama in 1985, the show proved only a modest success, although it was preserved in a TV production that aired originally on Showtime and later PBS.
Lapine and Sondheim again turned to odd material for their next collaboration "Into the Woods" (1987). Although seemingly inspired by fairy tales, the show owed much to Bruno Bettleheim's "The Uses of Enchantment" as the musical explored the darker territories of responsibility for one's actions that lay behind the "happily ever after" ideal. Effectively mounted by Lapine and well-cast with actor-singers, "Into the Woods" proved to be the pair's most successful collaboration (to date), earning the Best Book and Best Score Tony Awards. It too was filmed (this time with Lapine at the helm) for airing on PBS' "American Playhouse" in 1991.
As a follow-up Sondheim and Lapine originally intended to produce to separate one-act musicals which would serve as commentary on society's preoccupation with beauty. "Muscle" was to focus on bodybuilders while "Passion", based on a Ettore Scola's "Passione d'Amore" which in turn was an adaptation of an obscure Italian novel, would deal with the obsessive love of an unattractive woman. As the work progressed, however, Sondheim and Lapine found their focus drawn to "Passion" which evolved into a full-length intermissionless show about the many faces of love. In his staging, Lapine stripped the material to its bare essentials but brought a painter's eye to the details. Featuring a star-making performance by Donna Murphy, "Passion" received strong reviews and several accolades including the Best Musical Tony but ultimately proved too cerebral and remote for audiences more accustomed to the spectacles of British imports like "Cats" and "Miss Saigon" or the live-action version of Disney's "Beauty and the Beast". (Ironically, Lapine was tapped to direct the stage version of another Disney animated feature "The Hunchback of Notre Dame" in 1999.
In addition to his work in the musical theater, Lapine became a noted stager of dramatic works, including Shakespeare. He enjoyed a spectacular success with a 1982 production of "A Midsummer Night's Dream" starring William Hurt as Oberon. (The production was telecast on PBS.) He also reteamed with Mandy Patinkin for "The Winter's Tale" in 1989 and undertook the staging of the revised version of "The Diary of Anne Frank" in 1997. While he stumbled with the Broadway production of David Henry Hwang's "Golden Child" the following year, he was back in top form as co-conceiver and director of "Dirty Blonde" (1999), a comedy-drama that was part biography of Mae West and a mediation on fame and fandom. When the show moved to Broadway in May 2000, the reviews were nearly all raves.
Like many stage directors, Lapine ventured into the realm of filmmaking. In 1991, working from a script by his wife Sarah Kernochan, he helmed "Impromptu", a romantic romp set in the 19th-century and featuring a roundelay of relationships among such figures as George Sand, Franz Liszt and Eugene Delacroix. The film inverted some of the conventions of period pieces and proved a pleasurable debut. Lapine's follow-up also demonstrated his flair with actors and his ability to mix drama and comedy. "Life with Mikey" (1993) was a comedy vehicle for TV star Michael J Fox who portrayed a struggling talent agent whose attempt to turn a pickpocket into a child star reinvigorates his love for his work. Although he guided TV productions of "Into the Woods" and "Passion", Lapine did not tackle a full-out feature-length project again until 1999's made-for-cable "Earthly Possessions" (HBO) which again showed his flair for handling actors.
|Sarah Kernochan. married on February 24, 1985; won Oscar for co-directing documentary "Marjoe" (1972); wrote screenplay to "Impromptu" (1990); wrote and directed "The Hairy Bird/Strike/All I Wanna Do" (1999)|
|Franklin & Marshall College, Lancaster , Pennsylvania|
|California Institute of the Arts, Valencia , California|
|Designed graphics for the Yale Repertory Theatre|
|Taught design at the Yale School of Drama|
|Worked as a photographer|
|Made theater directorial debut with Gertrude Stein's "Photograph"; also adapted|
|First staged "Twelve Dreams" as a work-in-progress|
|Breakthrough stage work, the play "Table Settings"|
|Began collaboration with William Finn for "March of the Falsettos"; produced Off-Broadway at Playwrights Horizons|
|Enjoyed critical hit with original play "Twelve Dreams", produced at New York Shakespeare Festival's Public Theater; also directed|
|Staged a well-received production of "A Midsummer Night's Dream" at the Delacorte Theater in NYC's Central Park starring William Hurt; co-directed TV version for PBS with Emile Ardolino|
|First collaboration with Stephen Sondheim, "Sunday in the Park with George"; originally staged at Playwrights Horizons; Mandy Patinkin and Bernadette Peters starred; received 1985 Pulitzer Prize for Drama|
|Staged a revised version of the Stephen Sondheim-George Furth musical "Merrily We Roll Along" at the La Jolla Playhouse|
|Reteamed with Sondheim for the fairy tale inspired "Into the Woods"; Peters co-starred as the Witch; won Tony Award for Book of a Musical|
|Staged Shakespeare's "The Winter's Tale" at The Public Theatre with Patinkin featured in cast|
|Second collaboration with Finn, the musical sequel "Falsettoland", following the further adventures of Finn's central character Marvin|
|Directed TV production of "Into the Woods" with most of original Broadway cast|
|Feature directorial debut, "Impromptu", a drama about George Sand; wife Sarah Kernochan penned script; Patinkin and Peters featured in the cast|
|Collaborated with Finn as co-writer of book and director of the Broadway musical "Falsettos" which combined material from the Off-Broadway shows "March of the Falsettos" and "Falsettoland"; received Tony Award for Book of a Musical (shared with Finn); Patinkin eventually played leading role of Marvin on Broadway|
|Helmed second (and to date, last) feature, the comedy "Life with Mikey", starring Michael J Fox and Nathan Lane|
|Wrote and directed the one-act black comedy "Luck, Pluck & Virtue", adapted from Nathanael West's novel "A Cool Million"; staged at the La Jolla Playhouse|
|Third collaboration with Sondheim, "Passion"; wrote script and staged; won third Tony Award for Book of a Musical; originally intended as a one-act to be paired with another piece ("Muscle"), show developed into full-length musical; featured Donna Murphy in star-making performance|
|Revisited "Twelve Dreams", directing and revising script for Off-Broadway staging at the Mitzi Newhouse Theater at Lincoln Center; Donna Murphy co-starred|
|Adapted and staged "Passion" for TV; aired on PBS before release on video|
|Directed the Off-Broadway production of David Henry Hwang's play "Golden Child"|
|Staged the revised version of "The Diary of Anne Frank" starring Natalie Portman; playwright Wendy Kesselman adapted the award-winning original script by Frances Goodrich and Albert Hackett|
|Re-staged "Golden Child" for Broadway; show panned by critics and failed to find audience|
|Reunited with William Finn to co-write book for the musical "A New Brain", loosely inspired by Finn's own medical problems|
|Helmed the HBO original movie "Earthly Possessions", starring Susan Sarandon|
|Wrote book for and directed the stage musical "The Hunchback of Notre Dame", based on the animated Disney film; composer Alan Menken and lyricist Stephen Schwartz added to the song score composed for the feature|
|Play "The Moment When" briefly staged at Playwrights Horizons in a production directed by Michael Lindsay-Hogg|
|With Claudia Shear, conceived "Dirty Blonde", a play about Mae West and two people who idolize her; also staged; show originally produced at the New York Theater Workshop; moved to Broadway in May; earned Tony nomination for direction|
|Re-staged and slightly revised the book to "Into the Woods"; production opened in L.A. before moving to Broadway|
|Directed the musical "The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee"; earned a Tony nomination for directing|