Thursday, June 17, 2010
The O'Neill Gets a Tony
Congratulations to the Eugene O'Neill Theater Center for their well-deserved Regional Theater Tony Award! The Regional Theater award has always been one of the more interesting ones to me, because it acknowledges great theater outside of New York City, and as an O'Neill alum, I'm especially partial to this one. The O'Neill is an umbrella organization for several other programs, the most famous probably being the National Playwrights Conference, the National Theater Institute, and the National Music Theater Conference. If you've ever read Long Day's Journey Into Night, you can head over to O'Neill's summer boyhood home, the Monte Cristo Cottage, where the play is set. The Center itself is a magical place. (It really needs a better website, though.)
It was fitting for the O'Neill won this year, because a revival of August Wilson's Fences won a Tony, as did lead actors Denzel Washington and Viola Davis. Fences was the first major success for Wilson, and it was developed at the O'Neill, as were several of his other plays. (It's also probably my favorite of his plays, although there are a few I still need to read.)
Preston Whiteway's acceptance speech for the O'Neill can be seen here (2010 Creative Arts Winners). I delayed this post, hoping video of Michael Douglas' segment on the O'Neill during the main ceremony would be put online, but alas, it hasn't been. (Meanwhile, Douglas' wife, Catherine Zeta-Jones, also nabbed a Tony, for best actress in a musical.)
I was saddened to see that the great South African-born actor Zakes Mokae died (apparently back in September 2009). While he did extensive character roles in film and TV (his episode on The West Wing stands out), it's hard to think of him separate from his pioneering work with South African playwright Athol Fugard.
As for the rest of the Tonys, host Sean Hayes did an excellent, funny job, as did most of the presenters. I'm interested to read or see one of the other big winners, Red. Meanwhile, Angela Lansbury – who's 84! - received a special honor, and made some nice remarks about the importance of studying one's craft, training, and the generosity of scholarships. I hadn't known she fled London as a young woman with her family and came to New York City, all due to WWII. There, a special scholarship for Brits in her situation allowed her to continue her training. It's further testimony for the cause - Support the Arts! Good things will happen.