School of Drama establishes two new scholarships with gift from The Frederick Loewe Foundation

The Yale School of Drama has established two new scholarships with a $100,000 gift from The Frederick Loewe Foundation.

The Frederick Loewe Musical Theatre Scholarship will be awarded to a playwriting student who demonstrates particular interest in musical theater composition, and the Frederick Loewe Directing Scholarship in honor of Floria V. Lasky will be given to a student director.

“We are deeply grateful to the Frederick Loewe Foundation for its generous support of professional theater training at Yale School of Drama in the names of two of the American theater’s most accomplished artists and advocates, and for its commitment to the creation of new work,” says James Bundy, dean of Yale School of Drama.

Frederick Loewe (1901-1988) composed the scores for some of the American theater’s most memorable musicals, including “My Fair Lady,” “Camelot,” Brigadoon,” “Paint Your Wago,n” and “Gigi.” Among his most famous songs, written with lyricist-partner Alan Jay Lerner, are “Almost Like Being in Love,” “I Could Have Danced All Night,” and “Thank Heaven for Little Girls.”

Born in Berlin to Austrian parents, Loewe was a musical prodigy by age four. His father was a renowned operetta tenor who originated the role of Prince Danilo in “The Merry Widow.” Loewe studied in Berlin with pianist-composers Ferruccio Bursoni and Eugen d’Albert. At age 13, he was the youngest piano soloist ever to play with the Berlin Philharmonic. The sheet music for “Katrina,” a popular song Loewe wrote when he was 15, eventually sold over one million copies. In 1924, after touring the United States with his father, he chose to stay in the country, hoping to make a career as a concert pianist and write for Broadway.

Instead, for the next decade, he worked at a variety of odd jobs, including cattle punching, gold prospecting, and prize fighting, and playing piano in German clubs in New York’s Yorkville neighborhood and in movie theaters accompanying silent films. During the 1930s, he contributed music to a number of Broadway reviews and shows, none of which met with much success. In 1942, Loewe approached Lerner at the Lambs Club in New York to talk about collaborating on a musical.

In 1947, Lerner and Loewe had their first Broadway hit, “Brigadoon,” followed in 1951 with a more moderate success with “Paint Your Wagon.” In 1956, “My Fair Lady,” starring Rex Harrison and Julie Andrews, opened on Broadway. Often called the “perfect musical,” the show ran for 2,717 performances and the cast album sold more than five million copies. Their 1958 film musical, “Gigi,” won nine Academy Awards. Their last great success, “Camelot,” starring Richard Burton and Julie Andrews, was in 1960.

In 1974, Lerner lured Loewe out of retirement to work on their last venture together, a commercially unsuccessful film version of Antoine de St Exupéry’s “The Little Prince.” Loewe died in Palm Springs, California in 1988.

Floria V. Lasky (1923-1997) was one of the country’s leading entertainment lawyers. She represented Loewe as well as Jerome Robbins, Elia Kazan, Joshua Logan, Tennessee Williams, Jule Styne, Carson McCullers, David Merrick, Mary Martin, Burl Ives, Gypsy Rose Lee, Leland Hayward, Barry Gordy, and more. She also represented The Theatre Guild, The Actors Studio, and The Circle in the Square, among other institutions, and also negotiated the Broadway productions of such classics as “Oklahoma,” “My Fair Lady,” “The Sound of Music,” West Side Story,” “Fiddler on the Roof,” “Carousel,” and “Peter Pan.” The daughter of Polish immigrants, she was born in the Bronx in 1923, started Hunter College at age 14, and graduated first in her class from New York University Law School, where she was editor-in-chief of the Law Review.

“The Frederick Loewe Foundation is delighted for the opportunity to make a meaningful contribution to the advancement of the American theater, especially the American musical theater, which is one of the foundation’s main priorities,” said its director in announcing the gift to Yale. “It is particularly pleasing to make this announcement on the day [April 8] that a new production of Lerner and Loewe’s beloved musical ‘Gigi’ opens on  Broadway.”

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