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Herb Schapiro

Writer, Lyricist
( b. Jan 20, 1929 Brooklyn, New York, USA - d. Oct 17, 2014 Brooklyn, New York, USA ) Male

Herb Schapiro was a writer and teacher whose idea to create a stage play from the collected essays of poor city kids resulted in a hit musical, The Me Nobody Knows. Called "a dark and lovely rock-folk musical" by the New York Times critic Clive Barnes when it opened at the Orpheum Theater Off Broadway in May 1970, The Me Nobody Knows tells the stories, largely in their own words, of a dozen children, mostly black or Puerto Rican, and what it was like for them to grow up poor in New York City.

In December of that year, the show moved uptown to Broadway, where it ran for nearly a year, joining Hair, the celebrated musical with which it shared a contemporary score and immersion in the culture of young people.

The show was inspired by an anthology of writing by New York City schoolchildren edited by Stephen M. Joseph, a teacher. Mr. Schapiro read the book, "The Me Nobody Knows: Children's Voices From the Ghetto," and immediately envisioned its coming to life as theater.

At the time, as a playwright, he had had a few plays produced, including Kill the One-Eyed Man, an adaptation of a Gogol short story, and he was teaching in New Jersey. One of his interests was bringing theater to places where it was not much available; he had put on performances in prisons and in down-and-out urban settings. The Me Nobody Knows began as a short nonmusical film that he made in Trenton's streets, the parts performed by local residents.

Afterward he enlisted a composer friend, Gary William Friedman, with whom he had written a show on an environmental theme, to write songs, and a producer, Jeff Britton, with whom Mr. Friedman had been working on a stage adaptation of "Androcles and the Lion." The director was Robert H. Livingston. Lyrics were written by Will Holt and Mr. Schapiro.

The Me Nobody Knows won an Off Broadway Obie award. Its Broadway incarnation was nominated for five Tonys, including best musical, but Company, with a score by Stephen Sondheim and a book by George Furth, swept the musical awards that year. The Me Nobody Knows ran for nearly 400 performances on Broadway and was produced in theaters across the United States and in other countries. In 1980, it was made into a television special that appeared on Showtime.

Mr. Schapiro's theater projects were often motivated by social causes. His stage plays included The Love Song of Saul Alinsky, about the radical Chicago-based community organizer. Two decades after The Me Nobody Knows, he, Mr. Friedman and Mr. Britton collaborated on Bring In the Morning, a musical in the same mold, based on writing produced in a New York City program, Poets in Public Service, by older teenagers -- students, hospital patients, addicts in rehab and unwed mothers. It ran Off Broadway in 1994.

Source: The New York Times obituary

ProductionsDate of Productions
The Me Nobody Knows
[Musical, Original]
  • Adapted by Herb Schapiro
  • Original idea by Herb Schapiro
  • Additional lyrics by Herb Schapiro
Dec 18, 1970 - Nov 14, 1971
1971 Tony Award® Best Book of a Musical
The Me Nobody Knows [nominee]
Book by Herb Schapiro
Find out where Herb Schapiro and are credited together