5/27/11 - love is more powerful than understanding

In today's excerpt - Alan Jay Lerner comments on the unhappy ending of his long-term Broadway collaboration with Fritz Loewe, a relationship through which they had both achieved stratospheric success, yet one that came to an unclimactic end during the production of their last smash musical hit—Camelot:

"By the end of [tryout] week Fritz and I were seeing less and less of each other. Irritations and differences between us that had been long forgotten and were of little consequence at the time had now become the subject of questions by interviewers. Our replies traveled from mouth to mouth and by the time they reached us they were unrecognizable distortions. If we had stayed steadfastly and constantly together as we always had in the past we would have laughed, rowed, or shrugged but in the end gone on about our business. We did not. I do not know why we did not. I may have thought I knew then but whatever I thought, I am certain I was wrong. I have a feeling the reason was far more insidious, something of which neither of us was aware and which affected each of us in different ways. I have a feeling it may have been too much success.

"Success, as I mentioned earlier, can be a creative stimulant. It encourages reaching in and reaching out. But it can also take the concessions of collaboration and call them compromise. It can embitter as often as it elates and inflates and it can weaken as much as it toughens. It can magnify faults and unearth a few new ones and its only virtue is when it is forgotten. Perhaps I was too disdainful of the words of others and Fritz too vulnerable. Perhaps I misinterpreted our differences as lack of support and he misinterpreted mine as heroics. Perhaps. Perhaps not. I will never know. Too much was never said. In the end we were a little like the couple being discussed in one of Noel Coward's early plays. 'Do they fight?' said one. 'Oh, no,' said the other. 'They're much too unhappy to fight.'"

"Fritz, as I had expected he would, had made up his mind that for him Camelot was the end of the line. Only sixty, and a vigorous one at that, both vertically and horizontally, the certainty of struggle far outweighed the uncertainty of success, and even success now seemed superfluous. His health was good and he liked it that way. He loved Palm Springs and he loved the French Rivera. He decided to devote his energies to conserving them.

"There were no formal farewells, no goodbyes, nothing to mark the end of the long voyage we had been on together. He went to Palm Springs. I went to Europe. And that was that.

"It was not until two years later that I understood for the first time what our partnership had truly meant. I had begun to write a new musical. The discovery that overwhelmed me was less a creative one than a personal one. I realized that over the years, Fritz and I had unconsciously built an invisible fortress around our collaboration. When the drawbridge was up, it protected us against the brickbats of humanity and our personal lives seemed far away and lost the sharp outline of reality. Fritz joked about my problems and I, his. Marital difficulties, for instance, lost a good deal of their anxiety when Fritz would say: 'You are a funny little boy. You build a nest and then shit in it.'  Whether it was true or not was of no consequence. We laughed and were soon feverishly working. And nothing else mattered.

"I cannot imagine not writing and I shall undoubtedly go on doing so until there is either no more theatre or no more me. But one thing is certain: there will never be another Fritz. No relationship will ever be as close, both professionally and personally. For me there will never again be exactly the same creative exhileration. Writing will never again be as much fun. A collaboration as intense as ours inescapably had to be complex. But I loved him more than I understood or misunderstood him and I know he loved me more than he understood or misunderstood me."


Alan Jay Lerner


The Street Where I Live


W.W. Norton & Company


Copyright 1978 by Alan Jay Lerner


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