Theatre Hall of Fame Inducts Durning, Fichandler, Kiley, Rabb & Cohen Feb. 1

News   Theatre Hall of Fame Inducts Durning, Fichandler, Kiley, Rabb & Cohen Feb. 1
 
At a Feb. 1 ceremony at Broadway's Gershwin Theatre, followed by a gala dinner at a 51st Street restaurant, the Theater Hall of Fame announced this year's annual inductees.
Left to right: Tony Randall with Theatre Hall of Fame inductee Charles Durning; inductees Harvey Schmidt and Tom Jones.
Left to right: Tony Randall with Theatre Hall of Fame inductee Charles Durning; inductees Harvey Schmidt and Tom Jones. Photo by Photos by Aubrey Reuben

At a Feb. 1 ceremony at Broadway's Gershwin Theatre, followed by a gala dinner at a 51st Street restaurant, the Theater Hall of Fame announced this year's annual inductees.

This year's inductees are:
Alexander H. Cohen
Legendary Broadway producer Cohen has been in the business for 57 years, beginning with Angel Street in 1941. The list of names Cohen has worked with over the years reads as a virtual "Who's Who" of Broadway history. Among the shows he's produced are: Beyond the Fringe, Good Evening, The Homecoming, Sir John Gielgud in Ages of Man, Richard Burton's Hamlet, and Jerry Lewis in Hellzapoppin'. Cohen recently starred in an Off-Broadway memoir of his long career, Star Billing.

Charles Durning
Durning received the Tony Award for his role in Tennessee Williams' Cat on a Hot Tin Roof. He's currently on tour co-starring with Julie Harris in The Gin Game following a run at NY's National Actors' Theatre. The tour began Oct. 27 and continues to May 1999. Durning got the Hall of Fame news in Baltimore. On Nov. 9 he won a Joseph Jefferson Award for Best Actor for the tour. Other stage credits include: Inherit the Wind, In the Boom-Boom Room, and That Championship Season.

Zelda Fichandler
Co-founder of the respected regional theatre, Arena Stage in Washington D.C., which Fichandler ran for 49 years -- a national record. During her tenure, Fichandler won the first-ever Tony Award given to a regional theatre.

Tom Jones & Harvey Schmidt
Composer and lyricist of the longest-running musical in the English language, The Fantasticks. Other musicals by the duo include: 110 in the Shade, I Do! I Do!, Celebration, Mirette, and Grover's Corners. Richard Kiley
Probably best known as playing Don Quixote in Man of La Mancha. Kiley won his first Tony Award for the musical Redhead and received Tony nominations for No Strings and Arthur Miller's All My Sons.

Ellis Rabb
Actor, director and producer, Rabb is most renowned as founder and artistic director of the APA Theater and the APA-Phoenix, the revered classical repertory theatres of New York. He received a Tony for directing Royal Family and a Tony nomination for You Can't Take It With You. As an actor, he played major roles in all 37 of Shakespeare's plays.

Robin Wagner
Prolific, Tony winning set designer for On the Twentieth Century, other designs (most of them Tony nominees) include Jesus Christ Superstar, Dreamgirls, Jelly's Last Jam, A Chorus Line, Hair and Angels in America.

Also honored in this year's ceremony was long-time theatrical lawyer, Edward Colton, who received the Hall's annual Founders Award. Colton negotiated hundreds of contracts and served as a negotiator for the Dramatists Guild for several years.

The Theatre Hall of Fame was founded in 1971 and is housed in the upper lobby of the Gershwin Theatre, where the names of the members are lettered in gold by their year of election. These eight new members join the 372 names already enrolled.

New members of the Hall of Fame are selected each year by an electorate made up of 250 members of the American Theatre Critics Association, members of the Hall of Fame, and selected other critics and theatre historians. To be considered, a candidate must have at least five major theatre credits over a span of at least 25 years.

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At this year's event, hosted by Joy Abbott (George Abbott's widow), Jane Alexander (Honour) introduced Fichhandler, who stressed in her speech the advantages and pitfalls of producing theatre outside New York. Edward Hamilton read an introductory bio of late actor Rabb. Rabb's ex wife, actress Rosemary Harris, accepted on his behalf. Honoree Richard Kiley also did not attend, due to "a flu bug."

Karen Ziemba, who starred in 110 in the Shade at City Opera, introduced composers Schmidt and Jones, each offering anecdotes about the early years of their career together. (They mentioned, as well, that upcoming projects include the long-aborning, Our Town-based Grovers Corners, and the Oklahoma-based Roadside. )

John Heilpern, critic for the New York Observer, lauded set designer Wagner's work, tracing a pattern of stripped-down simplicity from Hair to Dreamgirls to Angels in America. Lincoln Center head Bernard Gersten introduced fellow producer Cohen, who used much of his speech to urge the renaming of Broadway theatres after Broadway legends. Closing the ceremony, National Actors Theatre founder Tony Randall praised his friend and colleague Durning as one of the most natural of all actors, reminding the assembled that before succeeding in Hollywood, Durning had played more than 200 theatre roles in New York -- including 30 at the Public Theatre alone. For his part, Durning fondly remembered Joseph Papp's belief in him, marveled at his own good fortune, and capped the evening with a heartfelt nod to his grown children, sitting in the audience.

-- By David Lefkowitz and Sean McGrath

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