Arthur Laurents

  • Share
  • Read Later

The first time I met Arthur, he had come backstage to tell me he liked my performance in Sunset Boulevard. And he made a point of telling me that he never came backstage. When I eventually worked with him on Gypsy, he allowed me to interpret my character in a way that was different from past interpretations. Arthur really trusted his actors, and he became unbelievably joyous in watching them develop and come to own their roles. Ego was replaced with an enthusiasm to discover and rediscover. Gypsy was 50 years old and he knew it like the back of his hand, but it was a brand-new experience for him nonetheless.

The stories about me being banned from his shows are true. I accepted a role in Jolson Sings Again but later turned down the offer. Arthur called and yelled at me and told me I had sunk his play. I was crying at the end. But when we started working on Gypsy years later, it was all in the past. He said he didn't remember it. And fine! I didn't want to remember it either.

Arthur, who died May 5 at 93, was a front runner in American musical theater. He'll be remembered for his daringness. Political correctness and fear sometimes hamper art. There's a lot of that today. But Arthur had something to say, and by God, he was going to say it.