George C. White, founder and former executive director of the Eugene O’Neill Theater Center in Waterford called it a “family affair.”
Repeated references to the theater community as “family” and “home” marked the touching love-fest which was the 2012 Theater Hall of Fame Ceremony in New York Monday night.
White was one of eight inductees who received this year’s honors year in front of a crowd that included composer Stephen Schwartz, actors Rosemary Harris, Frances Sternhagan and Fritz Weaver, White’s family and a contingent from the O’Neill Center, including executive director Preston Whiteway and National Playwrights Conference artistic director Wendy Goldberg.
Estelle Parsons presided and presenters were Meryl Streep, Liza Minnelli, Jane Alexander, Phylicia Rashad, Brian Murray, Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Donald Margulies and Brian Dennehy, who gave White his medal. Dennehy was both sincere and very funny in his comments about White’s varied and long career, his love of sailing and his long marriage to Betsy White. Of White’s establishing so many theater institutions over his half century of accomplishment, Dennehy remarked, “I’m surprised he didn’t create the Theater Hall of Fame.”
Margulies, who lives in New Haven, spoke of director Daniel Sullivan’s deft hand at staging plays; Rashad talked of producer-director Woodie King Jr.’s influence to generations of artists; Alexander referred to Elliot Martin as being “the last of the gentlemen producers;” Murray was droll in both presenting and accepting for Tyne Daly (who was in London in “Master Class”); the widow of Paul Sills recounted the beginnings of his “Story Theater” and “Second City” in Chicago; and Minnelli ended her intro to Vereen with a few notes of a song. (Vereen’s acceptance was the most emotional: “Hey, Mom, I’m up on the wall!” said a clearly thrilled Vereen, referring to the scores of legendary names engraved in the walls around him.)
The evening ended with Streep speaking about Ann Roth’s epic career as a costumer and how she helped Streep and others discover the layers of their characters far beyond the fabric that enveloped them.
She also gave the O’Neill Center --where she worked the summer after she graduated fro the Yale School of Drama in 1976 -- a lift-out quote from the theater gods: “I learned more in six weeks at The O’Neill that I got from three years at Yale.”Copyright © 2015, CT Now