Waterford, CT (November 7, 2023) — Last night, the Eugene O'Neill Theater Center presented the 22nd Monte Cristo Award Gala to award-winning playwright and screenwriter Lynn Nottage. Nottage, who was in residence at the O'Neill in 2006 while working on her play Ruined, is the first (and remains the only) woman to receive two Pulitzer Prizes for Drama – the first for Ruined, and the second for her 2015 play Sweat. The gala evening was held at Capitale in New York City.
The O'Neill annually bestows its Monte Cristo Award on a prominent artist whose work has had an extraordinary impact on American theater, in memory of its namesake. The annual gala event supports the O'Neill's mission to develop new work and new artists for the stage.
"Sometimes art is there to sooth us, sometimes it is there to entertain us, sometimes it is there to enlighten us. Sometimes art truly is a lifeline – it is there because it is the only way we can comfort and process and shine light on injustice. Theater can be a refuge but it can also be a loud speaker amplifying the complexities of our human experience," said Nottage. "I wrote those first words of my play Ruined at the O'Neill Theater Center. I had an overstuffed life and it was really hard to push out all of this noise, and I needed a space where I could sit and conjure a play that I knew was going to be difficult and painful and in that room in Connecticut, it provided me with safe space. Ruined exists because I was given a desk and a quiet place to write a play in Connecticut, and that play really became a rallying cry for a community that was much larger than I ever imagined. It shifted the way in which I would think about making theater moving forward. I feel indebted and thankful that I had that short period of time where I could escape and invest in my practice."
The celebratory evening, directed by Seret Scott, began with remarks from the Eugene O'Neill Theater Center's Executive Director Tiffani Gavin and featured a line-up of special performances celebrating Nottage's work. The performances included a reading of Poof! by Tonya Pinkins and Joyce Sylvester; a performance of "Event The Night Has Ears" from Mlima's Tale, performed by Justin Hicks; a scene from Ruined read by Quincy Tyler Bernstein and Jason Bowen; a scene from Intimate Apparel read by Stacey Sargeant and CJ Wilson and a monologue from Crumbs from the Table of Joy performed by Gabby
Beans. The night concluded with an unforgettable performance of "I'll Be There" from MJ: The Musical featuring Max Chambers, Bre Jackson and Ilario Grant. In a very special moment, Nottage's daughter Ruby Aiyo Gerber, presented the 22nd Monte Cristo Award to her mom.
Notable guests for the evening included: Michael Douglas, O'Neill Board Chairman Tom Viertel, Carlo Alban, Krystal Joy Brown, Mario Cantone, Angel Desai, Jerry Dixon, Ben Durocher, John Jellison, Isabel Keating, Chalia La Tour, Jevares Myrick, Michael Potts, Laila Robbins, Ryan Spahn and others.
The evening's Gala Committee included: Michael Douglas & Catherine Zeta-Jones, Stephen & Ruth Hendel, David Henry Hwang, Genia Kaplan Quinn & Dr. Bruce Quinn, Dominique Morisseau, Senator Chris Murphy (CT), The Nederlander Organization, Tom Viertel & Pat Daily, and Constanza Romero Wilson.
O'Neill Executive Director, Tiffani Gavin, said, "Lynn is one of the greatest storytellers of our time – artfully weaving the stories of the African-diaspora into our shared American story. She is a torchbearer who gracefully captures the world in motion and leads her audiences to places unfamiliar and to meet people that are often overlooked. She is an advocate for gender and racial parity in our industry, a challenger of the status quo in the American Theater, and a proud Brooklynite. She is the real deal and deserving of all of the honors she has received and more. Her extraordinary career is a clear reflection of the spirit, commitment and excellence that the Monte Cristo Award represents."
About Lynn Nottage
Lynn Nottage is a playwright and a screenwriter, and the first woman in history to win two Pulitzer Prizes for Drama. Her recent work includes the libretto for Intimate Apparel the Opera [LCT] , the book for MJ The Musical [Broadway] and Clyde's [Broadway, 2st]. Other work includes The Watering Hole (Signature), Floyd's (Guthrie) the book for the musical The Secret Life of Bees (Atlantic Theater), Sweat (Pulitzer Prize, Obie Award, Susan Smith Blackburn Award), which moved to Broadway after a sold out run at The Public Theater, Mlima's Tale (Lortel Award Nomination, Outer Critics Circle Nomination), By the Way, Meet Vera Stark (Drama Desk Nomination, Lilly Award), Ruined (Pulitzer Prize, Obie Award, Lortel Award), Intimate
Apparel (American Theatre Critics and New York Drama Critics' Circle Awards for Best Play), Fabulation, or the Re-Education of Undine (Lortel Award Nomination, Drama Desk Nomination, Obie Award), Crumbs from the Table of Joy, Las Meninas, Mud, River, Stone, Por'knockers and POOF!. She has also developed This is Reading, a performance installation at the Franklin Street, Reading Railroad Station in Reading, PA. She was a writer and producer on the first season of Netflix series She's Gotta Have It, directed by Spike Lee. Nottage is an Associate Professor at Columbia University School of the Arts, and the recipient of a MacArthur "Genius Grant" Fellowship, Steinberg "Mimi" Distinguished Playwright Award, Doris Duke Artists Award and PEN/Laura Pels Master Playwright Award, among others. She is also a member of the Dramatists Guild.
About the Monte Cristo Award:
The Monte Cristo Award is presented to a prominent individual each year in recognition of a distinguished career exemplifying Eugene O'Neill's "pioneering spirit, unceasing artistic commitment, and excellence," and furthering the American theater.
Past recipients of the Award include actors Geroge C. White, John Logan, Judith Light, Meryl Streep, Michael Douglas, Nathan Lane, Christopher Plummer, James Earl Jones, Jason Robards, Jr., Zoe Caldwell, Brian Dennehy, & Karl Malden; playwrights August Wilson, Wendy Wasserstein, Edward Albee, & Neil Simon; directors Harold Prince & George C. Wolfe; and Arthur & Barbara Gelb and Lin-Manuel Miranda.
About the Eugene O'Neill Theater Center:
The Launchpad of the American Theater, the O'Neill is the country's preeminent organization dedicated to the development of new works and new voices for the American theater. Founded in 1964, and named in honor of Eugene O'Neill, four-time Pulitzer Prize-winner and America's only playwright to win the Nobel Prize in Literature, the O'Neill has been home to more than 1,000 new works for the stage and thousands more emerging artists. Scores of projects developed at the O'Neill have gone on to full production at theaters around the world. O'Neill programs include the National Playwrights Conference, National Music Theater Conference, National Critics Institute, National Puppetry Conference, Cabaret & Performance Conference, and National Theater Institute – which offers six credit-earning undergraduate training programs. In addition, the O'Neill owns and operates the Monte Cristo Cottage as a museum open to the public. The O'Neill is the recipient of two Tony Awards and the National Medal of Arts. www.theoneill.org.
Twitter: #ONeillMCA (@O'Neill_Center)
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