Why do I write? I believe it’s because from early childhood, I heard, learned, and adored Broadway show tunes. My parents’ stories of attending performances of “Oklahoma!” and “South Pacific” enthralled me. Their records permeated our childhood, and I can still here my Dad chuckling over “Poor Jud is Dead” and “There is Nothing Like a Dame.” The lyrics were amazing bits of art: compact, character-laden evocations of a time and place.
Before I ever saw a Broadway show, I imagined it all, mostly through the words of Oscar Hammerstein, one half of the team of Rodgers and Hammerstein. His words created worlds for me. Later, I would discover Rodgers and Hart, Cole Porter, the Gershwins, Sondheim, and many others – and Oscar would be joined in my pantheon by other great lyricists such as Lorenz, Cole, Ira, and Stephen.
But Oscar was my first teacher. When I later learned that he was also Stephen Sondheim’s teacher, and that Sondheim frequently visited Hammerstein’s farm in Bucks County, PA, I imagined the house, the setting, and how those early sessions went.
So it was a joy to discover that Hammerstein’s farm is now a bed & breakfast. My friend Marcia, who lives nearby, took me there recently, and the owner graciously took us through the house, at a lull between seasons when the rooms were unoccupied. I was able to see where Oscar wrote, where Stephen slept, and the meadow outside Oscar’s front porch that inspired his immortal line, “There’s a bright golden haze on the meadow…” http://www.highlandfarmbb.com/
What worlds he brought to me, through the power of words.
I took the photo that illustrates this blog in Sondheim’s guest room. The light, the desk and chair, the bit of bedpost. Could there be any more perfect place to be a writer?