WATERFORD, CONN.: The Eugene O’Neill Theater Center has announced that it will present the 21st Monte Cristo Award to its founder, George C. White, who spent 37 years as president of the O’Neill and chairman of its board of trustees. A gala evening in celebration of his legacy will be held at the Gotham Hall in New York City on Mon., April 11.
The O’Neill annually bestows its Monte Cristo Award on a prominent individual whose work has had an extraordinary impact on American theatre. Past recipients include John Logan, Judith Light, Meryl Streep, Michael Douglas, Nathan Lane, Christopher Plummer, James Earl Jones, Jason Robards Jr., Zoe Caldwell, Brian Dennehy, Karl Malden, August Wilson, Wendy Wasserstein, Edward Albee, Neil Simon, Harold Prince, George C. Wolfe, Arthur and Barbara Gelb, and Lin-Manuel Miranda, as well as Michael Douglas, who will present White with the honor at this April’s gala.
“We are so glad to be able to give this year’s award to our founder,” said O’Neill executive director Tiffani Gavin in a statement. “As the man who started it all, he was unquestionably the honoree to celebrate at our first in-person Monte Cristo Award gala in two years.”
“George’s vision, tenacity, and willingness to take great risks for the sake of art and artists is no less than extraordinary, and it means a great deal to all of us to pay tribute to his outstanding legacy with the Monte Cristo Award,” said Tom Viertel, O’Neill Board chairman, in a statement.
George C. White was raised in Waterford, Conn., and graduated with a B.A. from Yale University and an MFA from the Yale School of Drama. In addition to his responsibilities at the O’Neill, White served as co-chairman of the theatre management program at the Yale School of Drama, and regularly directed plays in such venues as the Actors Theater, the Guthrie Theater, the Hartman Theater, the Annenberg Center, and the Hedgerow Theater. He was the founding chairman of the Sundance Institute, served as a member of the Tony Awards Nominating Committee, and served on the following boards: National Arts Council, Metropolitan Opera Guild, Arts and Business Council, New Dramatists, Center for Inter-American Relations, International Theater Institute, Connecticut Commission on the Arts, American Soviet Theater Initiative, Camargo Foundation, and Save Venice.
White’s contributions to theatre extend beyond U.S. borders. Beginning in 1972, he spearheaded cultural exchange efforts in such countries as Australia, People’s Republic of China, Russia, and Brazil. In 1984 he directed a production of Eugene O’Neill’s Anna Christie in Beijing, and in 1987 he directed Meredith Willson’s The Music Man in that same city. He continues to lecture throughout the world on behalf of the U.S. Information Agency. For these international accomplishments he was awarded the Royal Swedish Order of the Polar Star from King Carl Gustaf and the French Republic’s Chevalier des Artes et des Lettres. Of particular note are the numerous theatrical exchanges that he initiated in Russia since the Cold War days of the early 1980s. He was inducted into the Theater Hall of Fame in 2013.
The Eugene O’Neill Theater Center, dedicated to the development of new works and new voices for the American theatre, was founded in 1964 and is the recipient of two Tony Awards and the National Medal of Arts. The O’Neill has been home to more than 1,000 new works for the stage and thousands more emerging artists. O’Neill programs include the National Playwrights Conference, National Music Theater Conference, National Critics Institute, National Puppetry Conference, Cabaret & Performance Conference, and National Theater Institute. In addition, the O’Neill owns and operates the Monte Cristo Cottage as a museum open to the public.
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