WNPR

Eugene O'Neill Theater Center Gets Government's Highest Arts Award

Sep 22, 2016

The Eugene O'Neill Theater Center in Waterford has received the National Medal of Arts, the highest honor for artists bestowed by the U.S. government.

The award for the Eugene O'Neill Theater Center was sandwiched between awards given to Mel Brooks and composer Philip Glass.

In prepared remarks, an announcer from President Obama's office said, "For over 50 years, the Eugene O'Neill Theater Center has nurtured award-winning playwrights, directors, and actors, enriched the craft of stage production, and delighted audiences with exceptional programs."

Founded in 1964, the Eugene O'Neill Theater Center bills itself as the "launchpad of the American Theater."

Michael Douglas, Meryl Streep, and John Kransinski are just a few actors who got their start there. So did the musical Avenue Q, which was developed at the Eugene O'Neill Theater Center in 2002.

It later went onto Broadway before winning three Tony Awards, including best musical.

The center also helped launch the career of playwright August Wilson, whose Pulitzer-Prize-winning play "Fences" premiered there in 1983.

The National Medal of Arts is awarded by the President to individuals and groups who help define America's cultural legacy. It was accepted on Thursday by Preston Whiteway, executive director of the Eugene O'Neill Theater Center.