Sam Underwood Talks about Sir Peter Shaffer's Memorial with Show-Score

Show-Score | By Robbie Block | Mar 13, 2017

We've had some questions about our inspirational memorial planned for Sir Peter Shaffer on April 3rd, so we sat down with Actor extraordinaire Sam Underwood, for a quick Q&A!

Sam Underwood and the Official Poster for Sir Peter Shaffer's Memorial Sam Underwood and the Official Poster for Sir Peter Shaffer's Memorial | By Dennis Golonka and Paula Scher

Stars of the stage and screen will gather Monday, April 3rd to celebrate the life and legacy of Sir Peter Shaffer, the much-beloved English playwright and screenwriter known for such iconic works as "Equus", "Amadeus", and "Lettice and Lovage". 

The memorial promises to be unforgettable, with special performances you won't see anywhere else! Featuring a welcome address from Alec Baldwin, and tributes from stars around the world! From Sir Ian McKellen to Sir Tom Stoppard, it is sure to be a knight to remember.

Already, over 200 Show-Score members are planning to attend, but we wanted to make sure everyone knew just how amazing this event will be.

We sat down with event organizer and actor Sam Underwood, to find out just what we can expect from the memorial, as well as to learn a little more about Sir Peter Shaffer.

Tickets for the event can be purchased here. And if you are going to the event, let us know in the comments!

Alec and HIllaria Baldwin, Sir Peter Shaffer, Sam Underwood and Ben Holbrook | Photo Courtesy of FTP

What inspired you to hold this event for the public?

Sam: Peter loved New York theater audiences. Their embrace of Peter’s epic language and spectacle was very special to him. Everyone recognizes Peter’s name when you mention “Equus” or “Amadeus”, but I wanted to pay tribute to Peter’s legacy by presenting excerpts of some of his perhaps lesser produced works, such as “The Private Ear”, “White Liars” and “Lettice and Lovage”. Not only do I want to share these other witty, heartbreaking and complex plays with audiences, but I would also like to give as rounded a portrayal of who the man was behind the plays.

What do Peter’s Plays mean to you?

Sam: These plays made me feel closer to Peter, gave me a more intimate insight into his dream’s - and his ghost’s. It has been a delight to delve into these play’s, and discovering the threads that unite all of his work - unbridled passion, and the inability to find it in our day to day lives.There is a particular relevance and poignancy in Peter’s work - questions for society that, even back when his plays were first produced, seemed vibrant and rooted in the national dialogue. Bringing these questions, stories and characters into today’s political and social climate is our way of continuing Peter’s living legacy.

What Plays will we see at the event that we may not of heard about?

Sam: Peter balanced out his intense characters and vivid stories with a delightful sense of humor. It was a cornerstone of his personality - that unique British wit. You will hear excerpts from plays like “Black Comedy” with its incredible physical comedy sequences; the eccentric tour guide from ”Lettice and Lovage” and “The Public Eye”, following a Private Detective who’s techniques are a little - well - unorthodox. Other more quiet, poignant character explorations like “The Private Ear”, following a first date that goes terribly wrong, and “White Liars”, exploring the secrets people live, will offer the audience a window into the young playwright, Sir Peter Shaffer. It thrilled me to no end to discover that Peter’s craftsmanship for the epic spectacle was as evident in his more intimate pieces. The company will also be presenting a tapestry of "Royal Hunt of the Sun". This was a play Peter always wished to see on stage again. The story about “Ruin and Gold” follow’s the Spanish invasion of the Inca kingdom in Peru. I believe in this climate of civil unrest, oppression, and fear of the “other”, the themes explored in this play, hit very deeply across the world right now.

What can we expect to see at the event?

Sam: The evening will consist of some live and video tributes from special guests, but what you will see on stage will be moments from Peter’s work you may not be familiar with. It will be a representation of the universality and international relevance of Peter’s work.

  • Alec Baldwin, who I had the pleasure of playing Alan to his Dysart will be welcoming the audience to the event - no doubt with a story!

  • Juliet Mills, who was in the original production of Peter’s very first play, “Five Finger Exercise” will be joining us live onstage to pay tribute.

  • Anne Bobby, who starred in the Roundabout Theatre Company’s revival of “Black Comedy”, will be astounding you with her portrayal of the flamboyant tour guide, Lettice Douffet in “Lettice and Lovage”.

  • Playwright, John Guare (“Six Degree’s of Separation”, “The House of Blue Leaves”) will also be paying tribute to his dear friend and colleague with a reading from one of Peter’s last plays, “The Gift of the Gorgon” - a passage that has always stayed with me when it comes to what the power of theatre was, is, and should continue to be.

  • Other guest tributes to be announced soon.

  • Besides the words - the music! Peter loved music. Opera. Bach. And it was also an intrinsic part of nearly everyone one of his plays. To help breathe life back into his works,  

What is the Fundamental Theater Project?

Sam: Fundamental Theater Project is a company of immigrants, and Peter was one of the finest New York had to offer. When I worked with Peter on “Equus” (many new pages…), I described to him my dream of creating a safe space for international artists to work and bring cultures crashing into one another in creative ways. His support for FTP was incredible. We, as artists impacted and inspired by his writing, are proud to keep his legacy alive. Last year, we presented the first Peter Shaffer Award for excellence in playwriting to Ben Holbrook, and after the memorial, Ben will present this years award to Aisha Josiah. This award is a promise to the playwright from us, to produce their work. Peter loved nothing more than seeing his plays mounted, his words spoken, and his characters brought to life - we want to give the same delight to the future Shaffer’s of our generation.

Any last thoughts?

Sam: I hope you leave the theater dying to see revivals of all these works, and asking what else he wrote that we haven’t seen. Unfortunately, we only have 2 hours!

Who: You, other Show-Score members and a gaggle of celebrities
What: A night of performances to honor Sir Peter Shaffer
Where: The American Airlines Theater
When: April 3rd at 5:00pm
How: Tickets can be purchased here and cost just $10!