Tonight marks the 2015 Theater Hall of Fame Ceremony, held at 7:30pm at Broadway’s Gershwin Theatre and hosted by Estelle Parsons. The ceremony will be followed by a late supper at The Palm.
This year’s inductees are playwright Tony Kushner, songwriting partners Lynn Ahrens and Stephen Flaherty, director Julie Taymor, director Robert Falls, actor Stacy Keach, lighting designer Ken Billington, Broadway publicist Merle Debuskey and, posthumously, actor Roger Rees. Presenters for the evening include Susan Stroman, Brian Dennehy, Alfred Uhry, Thomas Schumacher, Linda Emond, Rick Elice, Philip Birsh and Harris Yulin. Terry Hodge Taylor produces the annual event.
James M. Nederlander, Earl Blackwell, Gerard Oestreicher and L. Arnold Weissberger founded the event in 1971, honoring Lifetime Achievement in the American Theater. To be nominated, a theatre professional must have 25 years in the Broadway/American theatre and five major credits.
Here’s a bit more on this year’s inductees:
Playwright Tony Kushner won Tony Awards for both parts of Angels in America. He was also awarded the Pulitzer Prize in Drama for the first part of Angels, Millennium Approaches.
Songwriting partners Lynn Ahrens (lyrics) and Stephen Flaherty (music) won the Tony Award for Best Original Score for Ragtime. Their numerous other musicals include Once On This Island, Rocky and My Favorite Year.
Director Julie Taymor won Tony Awards for Best Direction of a Musical and Best Costume Design for the Disney hit The Lion King.
Robert Falls, artistic director of the Goodman Theatre, won the 1999 Tony Award for Best Direction of a Play for the revival of Death of a Salesman.
Stage and screen star Stacy Keach was Tony-nominated for his performance in Indians.
Lighting designer Ken Billington won the 1997 Tony Award for Lighting Design for the revival of Chicago.
For nearly a half century, from the Golden Age of the stage to the mid-1990s, Merle Debuskey was a top theatrical press agent, representing over 550 plays and musicals. He worked with Arthur Miller on the original production of The Crucible, with Lorraine Hansberry on A Raisin in the Sun, and with Michael Bennett and Joseph Papp on A Chorus Line. The tale of Debuskey’s life is told in the biography “The Gentleman Press Agent: 50 Years in the Theatrical Trenches” by Robert Simonson.
The late Roger Rees, who won a Tony Award for his performance in The Life and Adventures of Nicholas Nickleby, was most recently on Broadway opposite Chita Rivera in The Visit.
Photo: Roger Rees.