This is the edited transcript of a talk on lyrics given by Stephen Sondheim at the 92nd Street Y that first appeared in The Dramatists Guild Quarterly, Autumn 1971. The Dramatist deeply appreciates this opportunity to reprint it, with Mr. Sondheim’s kind permission. We also extend our thanks to the many music publishers and their representatives who have given permission to print the quotations from lyrics and to those who researched the copyright lines.
Mr. Sondheim was introduced to the audience at the 92nd Street Y by Lehman Engel, who characterized him as an artist with “a full grounding in the culture of the past, an awareness of the present, and a feeling of responsibility for the future,” in a musical theatre which he described as “the most collaborative of all possible efforts.” Mr. Sondheim responded by naming all his own collaborators—Leonard Bernstein, Arthur Laurents (four times), James Goldman (twice), Burt Shevelove, Larry Gelbart, George Furth, and Richard Rodgers—in addition to Harold Prince as his most recent producer/director at that time. He then proceeded with the following informally structured and “random” talk.