Local company creates art for Sondheim in New York
Fairfield’s Creative Edge Master Shop has been commissioned to create a granite and stainless steel monument celebrating New York Times Square Theatre District.
Jim Belilove, president of Creative Edge, called Fairfield’s Way Off Broadway executive and artistic director Randy West when he realized one of the elements to be fabricated was an art piece acknowledging the New York theater named for Stephen Sondheim.
“It’s an entire New York theater district map laid in the ground,” said West. “It will be installed in a park in New York in November. Jim called me when he got the order, then he invited me to the shop to view it before crating it for shipping.
“While the Sondheim theater referred to in the artwork is about the New York roundabout theater, this monument is crafted in Fairfield, which is home to the first sanctioned theater to be named after Stephen Sondheim.”
It was West who approached Sondheim in 2007 to ask if he would let his name be used for Fairfield’s performing arts center built in the Fairfield Arts & Convention Center. Since then, Sondheim also has approved his name for a theater in London’s West End and the third one in New York City.
“It’s really exciting Creative Edge is producing this artwork that millions of people traveling to New York will see,” said West. “And included in the monument is a piece celebrating Steve Sondheim’s theater in New York. It’s another bridge built between Fairfield and New York.”
West’s relationship with Sondheim goes back more than 35 years, when West worked as theater manager in Phoenix, Ariz.
West had previously taught musical theater at Redlands University in California, and a few of his former students visited New York to attend shows.
“They knew I was new in Phoenix and maybe needed some connections,” said West. “My students called up Stephen Sondheim one day while in New York and told him their professor had worshiped at the altar of Stephen Sondheim and it was my birthday coming up.
“I received a happy birthday wish on embossed stationery signed by Sondheim, and on my birthday, he phoned me,” said West.
Eventually, Sondheim and playwright George Furth came to Phoenix and collaborated with West as director to re-work the musical, “Merrily We Roll Along.”
The three men stayed in contact throughout the years and West and Furth worked on three more musicals before West moved to Fairfield in 2000.
“Stephen Sondheim was a mentor and I consulted and contacted him about projects through the years,” said West. “I stayed friends with him and he’s been a conduit to me.”
Hawthorne Direct was searching for a creative director when West was working in California. He was hired and moved to Fairfield with his wife and two sons.
In 2004, he was approached to help with fundraising for the proposed arts and convention center.
“We put together a show, ‘Opening Night’ and performances helped create momentum to have a convention center. I served on the board three years while still working at Hawthorne Direct.
“A consultant said the building idea was so big, it needed something that would drive money into the building and the idea for having a performing arts center gained ground,” said West.
He visited Iowa’s two professional theater troupes, seeking advice, support and ideas.
“The naming committee approached me and asked if I would ask Stephen Sondheim to lend his name to the performing arts center,” said West. “I didn’t really have a vision about what it would be, so I thought about what would appeal to Sondheim.
“I told him we would create a mentoring program for performing arts,” said West. “I told him the resident company would follow a commitment to developing new musicals, a commitment to training the next generation of musical theater professionals and attempt to become known as a force in musical theater in the Midwest.
“Sondheim said if his name could help that happen, the Fairfield theater could have it,” said West.