Last night, the Eugene O’Neill Theater Center honored Meryl Streep with the Monte Cristo Award, one of the most prestigious acting awards in the country. The ceremony was a homecoming for Streep, since the Center is where the 18-time Oscar nominee began her career as an actress after graduating from the Yale School of Drama.
According to the Eugene O’Neill Center’s site, the Monte Cristo “celebrates a theater artist who exemplifies the great playwright Eugene O’Neill’s pioneering spirit, his unceasing artistic commitment to excellence, and accomplishment.”
Among the night’s highlights were:
–Streep gracious, optimistic, feminist take on her career: “Like the O’Neill, every venerable old lady, like the O’Neill and me, doesn’t like to think of themselves as a larded old institution. No matter how many tributes we’ve gotten, no matter how many successes we’ve launched, we like to think that new work will come to us, and that our best work is ahead of us, and that because of places like the O’Neill that foster new work, it’s possible.”
–Playwright Tony Kushner revealing that the line “There are four points on a compass, and I’ve been pricked in every direction” from his translation of Mother Courage and Her Children came from Streep’s improvisation
—Doubt writer and director John Patrick Shanley praising Streep’s dedication and professionalism: “She is a nun — she lives a life of service” and “It’s just nice to see somebody behaving so well for so long”
—August: Osage County playwright Tracy Letts on the short shrift given to the actress’s hard work: “Sometimes, I feel when they’re discussing Meryl they imbue her with mystical qualities: She’s a magician, a witch, god-given. She is a good actress because she works really, really hard”