Stephen Schwartz’s contributions span far beyond what he has written for the stage and screen, through his commitment to fostering the next generation of musical theatre writers and performers and his efforts to promote social justice in America and abroad.
As president of the Dramatists Guild for six years and as a continuing member of the Dramatists Guild Council, he has worked to strengthen and protect the rights of American dramatists, including battling censorship and piracy and improving the relationship between writers and directors, actors and producers.
As a long-standing board member of the ASCAP Foundation, he has served as artistic director of Musical Theatre Workshops in New York and Los Angeles for more than twenty years, nurturing many of the young composers and lyricists working in the theatre today. He has also brought the ASCAP workshop to multiple cities around the country, as well as conducting frequent master classes at universities and regional theatres for aspiring writers and performers.
Internationally, Schwartz has done master classes for musical theatre writers and performers in countries as disparate as Germany, Denmark, Australia, Latvia and Kenya.
In the area of social justice, in 1974 Schwartz and his co-author, John-Michael Tebelak, refused to allow GODSPELL to be performed in then segregated South Africa unless it was with an integrated cast and before an integrated audience. At first, the government of South Africa refused to allow it, but since there was such a strong demand for the show, ultimately they relented, and the show was performed in Capetown, breaking the theatre color barrier for the first time. Schwartz has been quoted as saying:
“When asked about my proudest moment in show business, I often cite what we were able to accomplish in South Africa—the small but real role we played in breaking the policy of apartheid.”
In response to recent teen suicides, he wrote the choral piece ‘Testimony” and helped produce the choral piece ‘Tyler’s Suite,’ both performed frequently in anti-bullying campaigns in schools around the country.
Inspired by Dan Savage’s “It Gets Better” project, “Testimony” is a six-minute choral piece that explores the destructiveness of internalized self-loathing and how, if one can survive it, life can get better. Many of the words are taken directly from interviews contributed to the “It Gets Better” website.
Schwartz on Tyler’s Suite: “The story of Tyler Clementi, the loss of one young man who clearly had so much to offer the world and to those who loved and would come to love him, reminds us that every life lost because of bullying and bigotry is a specific individual loss to us all. This is why I, and the group of gifted collaborators who joined me, came together to bring our talent, time, and energy to the creation of Tyler’s Suite.”
Other charitable work has included organizing the Uprising of Love concert at the Gershwin Theatre to benefit and raise awareness of LGBT people in hostile countries, producing benefits for the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation and the Faustman Clinic, and appearing in benefits for such causes as the Sandy Hook families. Stephen also supports Marriage Equality, the Orphaned Starfish Foundation and the Ackerman Institute’s Gender and Family Project.