Arthur Laurents passed away on May 5, 2011 at the age of 93. He was best known for his work as librettist on Gypsy and West Side Story, but was also well known as a playwright, having won a Tony Award® for Hallelujah, Baby! in 1968. Later as a director, he was Tony-nominated for Gypsy in 1975 (and the 2008 revival) as well as the original 1984 La Cage Aux Folles. He made his Broadway debut in 1945 with Home of the Brave, but in the late 1940s Mr. Laurents successfully tried his luck as a screenwriter in Hollywood. Film credits include Hitchcock's "Rope," "Anastasia," with Ingrid Bergman, and "The Turning Point," with Anne Bancroft and Shirley MacLaine. His screenplay for "The Way We Were," with Robert Redford and Barbra Streisand, was adapted from his novel by the same name.
In 2010, he established an award for emerging playwrights, to be funded through the Laurents-Hatcher Foundation, a tribute to his relationship with Tom Hatcher, an aspiring actor when they met. The couple remained together for 52 years until Hatcher's death in 2006. Mr. Laurents' play Two Lives was written about their relationship. The first recipient of the Laurents-Hatcher award was Jeff Talbott, an unproduced New York City playwright. His play, The Submission, was presented by Off-Broadway's MCC Theater last fall.
To mark the one year anniversary of his passing, BroadwayWorld spoke with his close friend and the literary executor of his estate, David Saint. Saint is currently directing the National tour of WEST SIDE STORY. He served as the Associate Director on the 2009 Broadway production, working side by side with his close friend and trusted mentor.
Mr. Laurents chose you to be the literary executor of his estate. I'm sure that is both a huge honor and a heavy responsibility.
Yes. It's a huge responsibility and a great privilege. And actually, the timing of your call is interesting because Arthur wrote a last memoir which he finished literally a week before he died. I am editing that as well and this past weekend I just finished the final edit and sent it off to the publishers. May 5th will be one year since he died and it was quite a busy year for me. And just reading the memoir very closely again the last few days with the final edit has really brought him back in so many ways. I still can't believe he's gone in a way.
How did you first become associated with him?
We met years ago, way back in the early 90's. We were in Seattle together, I was directing a play and he was doing a workshop of another play of his. We had met earlier than that through Ann Meara originally and so I knew him a little socially, but we really got to know each other in Seattle. A few months later he sent me a script and said he wanted me to direct it and that was of course thrilling, and then we continued to just become better and better friends and work together. I think I worked with him all together 11 or 12 times - a lot of plays, musicals. It was probably the most exciting relationship of my professional life. He was such a huge mentor to me and I learned a great deal from him.
Well that brings me to my next question which I'm sure is a difficult one to answer. What was the most important thing he taught you?
Oh boy. I could write a book. In fact I may! I think one of the big things was to find the honesty in the work and to find the honesty in yourself. He dealt remarkably honestly with people and sometimes in this business that is rare. A lot of people will say "Oh tell me what you think", but they really don't want to know what you think. They want to hear praise or they want to hear unvarnished rapport and Arthur never believed in that. He believed in telling the truth. If you asked him what he thought about something he would tell you. It was intimidating to a lot of people but what I found out was that after years of dealing with him and dealing with other folks, I much prefer dealing with him because I always knew where I stood.