The New York Public Library for the Performing Arts Honors the Legacy of American Composer Stephen Sondheim with Display of Personal Letters

By Douglas Reside, Curator, Theatre Collection
December 1, 2021
The New York Public Library for the Performing Arts
Photograph of Stephen Sondheim sat at a piano

Stephen Sondheim. Photograph by Friedman-Abeles (Firm).  NYPL Digital Collections, ID: TH-51787

The New York Public Library for the Performing Arts honors the legacy of late American composer Stephen Sondheim with a small pop-up installation from the archives of the colleagues and friends of the legendary artist. Sondheim, who died on November 26, 2021, made an indelible impact on the history and tradition of American musical theatre.

The installation can be found in a newly created exhibition nook on the first floor of the Library for the Performing Arts at 40 Lincoln Center Plaza. The display includes a selection of letters that Sondheim wrote to prominent colleagues such as Harold Prince, Peter Stone, Boris Aronson, and Richard Rodgers. Additionally, the installation features pieces of set models and sketches for musicals Sondheim wrote with James Lapine, Into the WoodsPassion, and Sunday in the Park with George. The library also preserved original negatives taken at rehearsals of several musicals such as West Side Story–these images are also on display. 

The show is curated by Doug Reside, curator of Library for the Performing Art’s Billy Rose Theater Division, who shared personal reflections about Sondheim, as well as highlights from the collections, in an essay on NYPL’s website.

The Library for the Performing Arts, a New York Public Library research center dedicated to preserving and making accessible collections related to dance, recorded sound, and theater, has a multitude of material related to Sondheim in its archives. Sondheim was also named a New York Public Library Library Lion, honored for his contributions to the cultural landscape, in 2013.