Ladies and gentlemen, Miss Helen Hayes."
No phrase uttered in the American theatre was more likely to lead to a long standing ovation than that one. The stage actress, whose career spanned roughly eight decades, would have been 100 years old this coming October 22. To celebrate her career and spirit, the Helen Hayes Performing Arts Center in Nyack, NY, is launching a celebrity-filled gala on that night, with her son, James MacArthur, serving as honorary host.
Already scheduled to pay homage are Loni Ackerman, Barry Bostwick, Ellen Burstyn (Sacrilege), Arlene Dahl, Charles Durning (The Gin Game), Tovah Feldshuh, Julie Harris (The Gin Game), William Hurt (Hurlyburly), Donna Murphy (The King and I), Bernadette Peters (Song and Dance), David Shire, Elaine Stritch (Company) and cast-members of the current Broadway revue, Swing!. Further notables are expected to be announced shortly, and there's even an unconfirmed rumor that the producers are tempted to do the evening in New York City.
Film and audio clips will be shown at the centennial celebration, which will be followed by a champagne and dessert reception. Details are still being worked out for the evening, but the theatre can be reached at (914) 358-6333. Ticket prices are $100 (show only) and $150 (show and reception).
Hayes made her stage debut at age five and starred in such Broadway hits as To The Ladies, Victoria Regina and Mary of Scotland. In 1958 she starred in Eugene O'Neill's A Touch of the Poet at what had been the Fulton Theatre but was newly christened "The Helen Hayes Theatre." That theatre was destroyed in 1982 to make way for the Marriot Marquis Hotel, and a neighboring theatre was re-named the Helen Hayes. The comedy Dirty Blonde now plays at the Broadway Hayes venue. According to press materials from the Hayes Center, Hayes once said, "I hope some day to have a little theatre in Nyack named after me -- the place where I have been happiest."
-- By David Lefkowitz