Born in Evansville, Indiana, Sater attended Washington University in St. Louis as an undergraduate. Due to an apartment fire Sater was forced to jump from his balcony and damaged his spine, as well as several other limbs. The months spent recovering from his injuries and burns inspired Sater to teach himself Ancient Greek and seriously pursue the arts, and he went on to study English literature at Princeton University.
After completing his graduate program, Sater took a position with a New York literary agent, but continued to write plays on the side. It was during this time that he joined the Soka Gakkai International, a lay Nichiren Buddhist organization. His membership has proved important to his life beyond spirituality, as it brought Sater together with both his future wife, and his future creative partner, Duncan Sheik.
Soon after meeting, Sater collaborated with Sheik on his play Umbrage, with Sheik providing the music for Sater's lyrics. To produce Sheik's third studio album Phantom Moon, Sater gave Sheik lyrics and Sheik set them musically, cooperatively producing the album. They returned to stage to produce Nero at the Magic Theatre in San Francisco, California, with book and lyrics by Sater and music by Sheik. The project remains in active development, most recently workshopped with New York Stage and Film at the Powerhouse Theater at Vassar College in July 2008, starring Idina Menzel, Lea Michele, and Michael Arden, under the direction of Daniel Kramer.
Sater and Sheik continued their stage work with Spring Awakening, a musical interpretation of German playwright Frank Wedekind's play of the same name. In 2007, Sater won two Tony Awards for his work on Spring Awakening. He won the Tony for Best Book and Best Musical Score, the Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Lyrics, and the Outer Critic Circle Award for Best Lyrics. The pair received the 2007 Grammy Award for Best Musical Show Album and, in addition, The Dramatists Guild Hull-Warriner Award, the Outer Critics Circle, the Drama Desk, the Lucille Lortel, New York Drama Critics' Circle, the Drama League Award, and the 2008 London Critics' Circle and Laurence Olivier Awards for Best Musical. Spring Awakening recently concluded its second national tour, and has opened internationally in over 35 countries, including Australia, Sweden, Japan, Israel, Serbia, Brazil, Korea, Argentina, Norway, and Great Britain (in London, at the Lyric Hammersmith and Novello theaters). Productions were scheduled for eighteen countries around the world throughout Europe, Asia, and South America.
This article's factual accuracy may be compromised due to out-of-date information. (April 2013)
Sater and Sheik are currently at work on a musical adaptation of the Hans Christian Andersen story "The Nightingale." The piece, also called "The Nightingale," will be presented in a Page to Stage production at La Jolla Playhouse in the summer 2012 (directed by Moises Kaufman, and produced by Dodgers Theatricals). The show has previously been workshopped at the O'Neill Musical Theatre Conference, La Jolla Playhouse, American Conservatory Theater, New York Theatre Workshop, and New York Stage and Film.
Sater has also worked with System of a Down's Serj Tankian on a musical version of Prometheus Bound, directed by Diane Paulus, which opened at the American Repertory Theater on March 4, 2011 to mixed reviews. The A.R.T. partnered with Amnesty International on Prometheus Bound, dedicating each week of performance to a different prisoner of conscience around the world. “The Hunger”, a single from the show recorded by Shirley Manson, has been released on iTunes, with all proceeds going to Amnesty International.
Sater worked with Burt Bacharach on a new musical, called Some Lovers, based on the short story The Gift of the Magi by O. Henry. The musical had its regional premiere at The Old Globe in November/December 2011. British vocalist Rumer recorded a single from the show as part of a special Christmas album, also featuring Bacharach’s Alfie.
In 2011, Sater and Sheik received a commission from the National Theatre: Connections and created a new musical based on Alice in Wonderland titled Alice by Heart. The show premiered at 25 regional theatres around the UK, and was performed at the National Theatre in June 2012. The Lyric Hammersmith and Flying High Theatres held performances in June 2012, both of which Sater attended.
Sater is also co-creator and executive producer, with Paul Reiser, of recent pilots for both NBC and FX, and has developed two projects for HBO, and another for Showtime. He has also worked on a feature film with Jessie Nelson. In 2010, he completed a draft for Sony Picture’s upcoming remake of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang.
Further recorded songs include: Trash (Play) Ragdoll (Lucy Woodward) Some Lovers (Rumer) Come In Ogni Ora (Karima, Burt Bacharach) Just Walk Away (Karima, Burt Bacharach) Something That Was Beautiful (Mario Biondi) The Hunger (Shirley Manson, Serj Tankian) Another Heaven (Yisabel Jo)