"Pipe Nights were established to honor an artist's contribution to society," said The Players executive director John Martello in an earlier statement. "Audra is a shining example of talent and activism. We look forward to an evening celebrating her accomplishments."
McDonald is the 100th recipient of such a night since 1901 and the first since 2010 (Sir Roger Moore). The black-tie event began with cocktails at 6 PM followed by dinner at 6:45 PM.
Expected guests included Lansbury ( Mame, Dear World, Gypsy, Sweeney Todd, Blithe Spirit), four-time Tony winner Zoe Caldwell ( Slapstick Tragedy, The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie, Medea, Master Class), Tony winner Phylicia Rashad ( A Raisin in the Sun), two-time Tony nominee Christine Andreas ( Oklahoma!, On Your Toes), Porgy and Bess director Diane Paulus and Tony-nominated director Kenny Leon ( Fences).
Pipe Nights began at The Players as a men's cigar evening. By 1936, Pipe Nights had evolved into testimonials honoring artists for their contributions to the American stage. Past recipients of Pipe Nights include Charlie Chaplin, John Barrymore, Frank Sinatra, Carol Burnett, Mary Tyler Moore and more. McDonald, who starred as Bess in The Gershwins' Porgy and Bess, won her first Tony Award in 1994 for Carousel, in which she played the role of Carrie Pipperidge. In 1996 she took home the Featured Actress Tony Award for her performance as Sharon in Master Class. She also received Featured Actress Tonys for Ragtime, in which she played Sarah, and A Raisin in the Sun, for the role of Ruth Younger. The 2012 Tony was her first Best Actress Tony Award.
The Players is located at 16 Gramercy Park South (East 20th Street off Park Avenue).