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The Journal Gazette

Thursday, August 29, 2013 6:12 pm

Guild helps playwrights with business, art

The Associated Press

There are famous names that define Broadway, like Stephen Sondheim, Stephen Schwartz and Terrence McNally.

But few know those award-winning artists are members of the Dramatists Guild of America, a group that represents more than 6,000 playwrights, composers, lyricists and librettists whose work is on Broadway, Off-Broadway and in regional theaters. Many gathered recently in Chicago for the group's annual conference, which saw speeches from theater elites like Steppenwolf Theatre Company artistic director Martha Lavey, "Wicked" writer Winnie Holzman and director George C. Wolfe.

Previous members include Richard Rodgers, Oscar Hammerstein, Eugene O'Neill and Arthur Miller.

Schwartz, known for "Pippin" and "Godspell," appeared with Holzman at the conference to share the nitty-gritty details of how they pair turned author Gregory Maguire's book "Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West" into the decade-running Broadway hit. They covered everything from getting the rights to the book to the writing process, even describing how they worked from outlines and cut certain songs to get to the final version that won a Tony Award for best musical.

In his role as president of the group, Schwartz advocates for writers on issues like compensation, contracts and artistic development. One issue that Schwartz says is particularly important in today's society is censorship. He says he's seeing more examples of schools and communities telling theaters they can't do certain productions.