Hirschfeld knew of the honor before he died on Jan. 20 at the age of 99. Throughout his seven-decade-plus career, Hirschfeld captured in elegant ink lines most of the great stars and great shows of the American theatre. Most of his work was seen in the New York Times. Over the years, he became as iconic a figure as any actor or playwright. The Martin Beck Theatre on Broadway will be named after him later this year. Ming Cho Lee, perhaps the most respected and revered of living American set designers, designed his first Broadway set in 1956. Since then, he has envisioned scenic designs for more than two dozen Broadway productions, among them The Shadow Box, for colored girls...., The Best Man, The World of Suzie Wong, as well as many productions for the New York Shakespeare Festival. His design of a mountain for K2 is one of the most famous pieces of set work in theatre history.
Uta Hagen is regarded as one of the fiercest and most commanding female presences ever to grace the American stage. She played Nina in The Seagull opposite the Lunts; Desdemona to Paul Robeson's Othello; and Ophelia to Eva Le Gallienne's Hamlet. She replaced Jessica Tandy as Blanche in the original A Streetcar Named Desire; was Odets' original lead in The Country Girl; and created Martha in Albee's Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?. She also has a imposing reputation as a theorist ("Respect for Acting") and acting teacher.
The National Medal of Arts is the nation's highest honor for artistic excellence. The Medal is given by the President to those who have made extraordinary contributions to the creation, support, and growth of the arts in America.