Publisher’s Note: This is a post from our “Literary Mansfield” series, the very first series we did here at 1812Blockhouse. This initial post was made back in 2016. Through this series, 1812Blockhouse looks at Mansfielders, past and present, who have contributed to the world of writing in all of its forms. This post, about James Lapine, has been recently updated (see below).
Many Mansfielders know the story of Louis Bromfield, the creator of Malabar Farm who combined a storied career in writing with a foray into the world of sustainable agriculture. Bromfield, a Mansfield native, was the winner of the 1927 Pulitzer Prize in Fiction for his book, Early Autumn. We will have occasion to share some stories about him later in this series.
Fewer might know, however, that a second native son also won a coveted Pulitzer.
In 1985, the Pulitzer Prize for Drama went to the writers of “Sunday in the Park With George.” One of those recipients was the noted Stephen Sondheim; the other winner was Mansfield-born James Lapine. While Sondheim contributed the music, the book was authored by Lapine.
Sunday in the Park With George was a musical dramatization of the Seurat painting A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jette (pictured). It premiered in New York City in May, 1984.
Born on January 10, 1949, Lapine attended Franklin & Marshall College and the California Institute of Arts. He has had a varied career as a graphic designer, photographer, stage director and writer, and also as a teacher at the Yale University Drama School. He also become a movie director, including for the 1991 movie “Impromptu,” starring Judy Davis and Hugh Grant. His most recent film is Custody, a courtroom drama starring Viola Davis, Ellen Burstyn, and others. He collaborated on other works with Sondheim, including the popular musical, “Into the Woods.”
James Lapine has an official website which can be accessed here. On it, he refers to his being born and raised until his early teens here in north central Ohio.
Updated for 2022: In 2021, Lapine published written a book entitled, “Putting It Together,” which delves into the two years between the time he met Sondheim and the launch of “Sunday in the Park with George.” More information is available here.
Photo: Public Domain