Sag Harbor, NY's's prestigious Bay Street Street Theatre is honoring one of its more famous friends and trustees April 4, by naming its stage after her. From that day forward, it will be known as the Elaine Steinbeck Stage, and the first order of business on that newly named stage will be a champagne reception, followed by all-star salute to the widow of the late Nobel Prize-winning novelist, John Steinbeck.
Ragtime director Frank Galati, who won a Tony for his 50th anniversary production of Steinbeck's classic Pulitzer Prize-winning novel The Grapes of Wrath, and Gary Sinise, who played Tom Joad in that venture, will participate in the program, along others who've had their work presented at the Bay Street like Betty Comden and Adolph Green, Edward Albee and Terrence McNally. Also featured are Charles Busch, E.L. Doctorow, Roddy McDowall and Elaine Stritch.
Dinner at Sag Harbor's American Hotel will follow the show. Tickets for the reception, salute and dinner are $500 and $150 for the reception and salute only. Proceeds from the event will help inaugurate Bay Street's Fund for the Future.
"I started to cry, then started to laugh," said Mrs. Steinbeck about learning of the stage dedication. "I've never been more surprised! Nothing's ever been named for me before. I hope John enjoyed getting his Nobel Prize as much as I enjoy getting this."
She was born in Austin, TX, and graduated from the University of Texas there, then went to New York City, where she became one of the first women stage managers on Broadway. Among her credits are the original production of Rodgers and Hammerstine's Oklahoma! and the classic Paul Robeson-Uta Hagen-Jose Ferrer Othello. She and Steinbeck moved to Sag Habor in 1950 shortly after they married, and she has lived there ever since. Since its founding in 1991, the Bay Street Theatre has had an active supporter in Mrs. Steinbeck, who serves on its Board of Trustees, co chairs (with Adrianne Cohen) its Patron Committee and hosts its annual Summer Gala Benefit. Of particular note, she has offered treasured personal items belonging to her husband to the theatre's all-important fundraising auctions.
Bay Street Theatre, now in its seventh season, is a not-for-profit professional theatre located in Sag Harbor on the Long Wharf. Its intimate performance space features 299 seats and has a thrust stage. Several productions that world-premiered there have moved on to other venues in New York and elsewhere.
Mrs. Steinbeck said she feels "especially happy" about this tribute. "I love Sag Harbor more than ever. It will be fun going down Main Street, because when you get to the bottom you see the windmill on the left and the big bronze plaque with John's picture, and on the right you see the Bay Street Theatre which has honored me by naming the stage after me."
For further information on attending the All-Star Salute on April 4 -- or to charge tickets by phone -- call the Development Department at (516) 725-0818.
-- By Harry Haun