Vivek Tiwary

Vivek Tiwary: Award winning producer who brought punk to Broadway – ’96 Penn

Vivek Tiwary described his younger self as a, “scrawny Indian weirdo running around New York City’s Lower East Side, saying ‘I’m going to write a punk rock album and put it on a Broadway stage’.” Ironically, he wasn’t far from the truth. 

By the time he was 40, he won 25 Tony Awards, a Grammy, and wrote a New York Times best seller. And yes, in 2010 he did produce a punk musical, Green Day’s American Idiot.

Pilam Penn was a unique fit for his creative pursuits

In the 80s and 90s, Penn was a fixture of the Philadelphia music scene and always marched to the beat of their own drum. Magnet Magazine wrote, “UPenn’s branch of Pi Lambda Phi is no ordinary fraternity, but its members wear their Greek letters as proudly as they wear their guitar straps and Chuck Taylors.”

Vivek said, “our chapter was a very creative place. Our rule for parties was no cover bands, only original music. So being the social chair was like being a booking agent.” 

Tiwary embraced the chapter’s alt music reputation, “we were part of the music scene in Philadelphia. Our events would bring out tons of people, including non-students who just loved music.”

While other Penn fraternities were blowing their social budgets on cover bands, Vivek learned the concept of ‘work with what you got’ to stretch budgets and offer things other than money that have value to the performer. “You have to be resourceful to hit your creative dreams. I learned that through Pi Lambda Phi. The whole experience really helped sew my interest in working with musicians in the future.”

He brought contemporary music to Broadway

Early in his career, Vivek worked for well-known music labels including Mercury/PolyGram, MTV, and VH1. But he found sound and stage more appealing.

In 2004, he produced his first Broadway play, A Raisin In The Sun, and in turn established the Tiwary Entertainment Group. And the hits kept coming. He produced and financed such groundbreaking work as The Addams Family, A Little Night Music, and both of Mel Brooks’ musicals The Producers and Young Frankenstein

In spite of naysayers, he thrived in the business by thinking outside the box saying, “when we wanted to make American Idiot and Jagged Little Pill into Broadway hits, people said ‘that’s not how it’s done,’ but I said, ‘why not?’ I want to do it that way. And the rest is history.”

His latest production, the Alanis Morrisette musical, Jagged Little Pill, debuted in 2018. It received 15 Tony Award nominations including Best Musical, and won a Grammy. 

Not to be bound by entertainment medium, Tiwary wrote The Fifth Beatle a graphic novel which tells the account of Brian Epstein, the manager of The Beatles. It was a New York Times Best Seller.

In a 2014 TedTalk he discussed The Fifth Beatle and why it was so important to him.

He stills carries Pilam with him

Pilam appealed to Vivek because, “it was a very different fraternity. Band parties were unique and special. We regularly got noticed in news magazines as a unique venue to experience good music. We took pride in that recognition.”

Vivek also recalled the strength of brotherhood when he needed it most. “My father unexpectedly passed away over spring fling in college. When they found out, the brothers were immediately there to help. Unbeknownst to me, they created a schedule to ensure that I was never alone unless I was in class or sleeping, so I’d always be with brothers and friends. That was brotherhood.”

He hasn’t forgotten his Pilam roots. At his office among stacks of graphic novels and Beatles paraphernalia is a poster advertising U Penn’s 1995 Spring Fling concert, which Tiwary orchestrated as an undergrad, booking Sonic Youth, The Roots, and George Clinton.

Article written by Shawn Mahoney (Temple University, ’92)