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by alice robb

"new york is my love," said tony award-winning writer steven sater, best known for writing the lyrics and book of broadway rock musical spring awakening.

the writer divides his time between los angeles and new york city. though his wife and two children live in l.a., in a big house with a full-sized refrigerator and a yard, he opts to work out of his apartment in the dakota building.

"it's very tiring and i'm away from my family a lot," he said of his bi-coastal life. still, it affords him the flexibility to work with top artists from around the country and the world.

sater is currently collaborating with legendary composer burt bacharach.

"he is spectacularly talented, and it's the dream of a lifetime for me to be writing with him," sater said. "we write in a very traditional manner. i give him a lyric first, then i go to his house and he plays it for me and we sit around a piano."

this contrasts with the more modern method he uses with duncan sheik, his collaborator on spring awakening and other projects. "when i write songs with duncan, we write by email. i email him a lyric, he emails back an mp3," explained sater.

sater won the 2007 tony awards for best book and best musical score for spring awakening. he writes for television and movies as well as theater. in addition to the bacharach collaboration, he is working on a new version of chitty chitty bang bang for sony pictures and workshopping three new shows with duncan sheik, including the nightingale, a musical based on the hans christian anderson story.

sater grew up in indiana and attended washington university in st. louis before moving to the east coast to study english literature at princeton.

"i felt at home the first time i came to the upper west side," he said. "i make much more use of the cultural life of new york than i do l.a. in new york, i go out. i'm at the theater, i'm at museums, i go to concerts."

he enjoys being within walking distance of the theater district, lincoln center and the new york public library for the performing arts, where he often goes to watch videotapes of old shows.

the health-conscious vegan writer has no trouble finding food to his taste close to home. some of his favorite neighborhood restaurants include josie's, cafe dell'arte, telepan and cafe luxembourg.

sater selected lea michele to star in spring awakening when she was just 14, and has remained close with her throughout her rise to stardom on the hit fox tv series glee.

the two recently enjoyed a vegan dinner together on the west side.

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