Before her movie breakout role in "The Deer Hunter" in 1978, for which she received her first of 17 (and counting) Oscar nominations, Meryl Streep was a hard-working New York stage actress who appeared in productions both on Broadway and at some of the city's most prestigious nonprofit theater companies.
She performed in Central Park numerous times as part of the New York Shakespeare Festival. She sang in an off-Broadway musical production of "Alice at the Palace." She paid her dues in plays by Chekhov, Brecht and Arthur Miller.
In April, Streep will be recognized for her contributions to stage acting with the 14th Monte Cristo Award, presented by the Eugene O'Neill Theater Center, which is located in Connecticut. A gala dinner will be held in Streep's honor in New York on April 21, 2014.
The award is being given in recognition of Streep's "monumental achievements and contributions to the American theater," the center said.
The center noted that one of Streep's first professional jobs after graduating from the Yale School of Drama was at the O'Neill’s National Playwrights Conference in 1975, acting in five plays over six weeks.
In a statement, Streep said, "I'm honored to receive this award from an organization so vital to the discovery and support of new artists and work for the American theater, including my friend and Yale classmate, Wendy Wasserstein."
Previous recipients of the award include Wasserstein, Christopher Plummer, James Earl Jones, Harold Prince, Kevin Spacey and Jason Robards.
Streep has returned to the stage occasionally over the years, most notably in collaboration with the Public Theater in Central Park. She performed in Chekhov's "The Seagull" in 2001 and played the title role in Brecht's "Mother Courage" in 2006.
The three-time Oscar-winning actress will next be seen in the big-screen adaptation of "August: Osage County," the epic family drama by Tracy Letts that won the Pulitzer Prize for drama in 2008.