Nathan Lane was honored last night at The Eugene O’Neill Theater Center’s 15th Annual Monte Cristo Awards at the Edison Ballroom in New York City. Lane received the Monte Cristo Award in recognition of his outstanding achievements and contributions to the American theater.
The evening featured tributes to Lane from Matthew Broderick, Brian Dennehy and Susan Stroman as well as performances by Jason Simon, Tim Shew, Bobby Creighton, Patrick Page, Carson Elrod, puppeteer Tyler Bunch and Jenni Barber.Additional attendees included Joe Grifasi, Marin Ireland and Hal Prince.
"I realize I must be getting older because in the last few years, I have received a couple of Lifetime Achievement Awards. I guess this is what happens when you’ve been acting on stage this many years. But it is a little disconcerting. It’s not because I’m don’t appreciate the gesture, but as Hilary Clinton might say, ‘I’m not quite done yet.’"
Lane went on to discuss his recent experience working on THE ICEMAN COMETH, one of Eugene O’Neill’s most famous works.
"It was the highpoint of my acting career, and for that, I am forever grateful. O’Neill has got his hooks into me, and he won’t let go. If you want to shake things up for yourself as an actor and find out what you’re made of, I highly recommend (acting in an O’Neill play)," he said.
The Monte Cristo Award was presented to Lane by O’Neill Trustee and actor Brian Dennehy. Directed by Marc Bruni and hosted by O’Neill Center Executive Director Preston Whiteway, the program featured stage acts by Patrick Page, Carson Elrod and Tyler Bunch; a tribute video from Jesse Tyler Ferguson; musical adaptations by Jenni Barber, Jason Simon, Robert Creighton and Tim Shew; and remarks by Lane’s friends and colleagues, including Susan Stroman and Matthew Broderick, paying homage to one of America’s most iconic stage, television & film stars.
"When you work with Nathan, he gives you 100 percent. He comes in with his lines down because he wants to play; because he wants to take chances; because he wants to be challenged. He’s not afraid to fall on his face," Stroman said of her time working with Lane on THE PRODUCERS. "As a director and choreographer, you look for these kinds of performers who are fearless. That’s whom you want to surround yourself with. Nathan Lane is really one of a kind. There is nobody like him. He can lift one eyebrow and make you laugh – and life the other eyebrow and make you cry."
Nathan’s recent co-star Brian Dennehy shared how invested the audiences were in Nathan’s performance as Theodore Hickman in THE ICEMAN COMETH earlier this year.
"I was there for every performance, 20 feet away from him – listening, moved, dazzled – and the audience was, as well," Dennehy said. "I will always be grateful to have been a part of it; to have been a witness to one of the greatest theatrical experiences and chilling performances I’ve ever been a part of."
Lane’s long-time colleague and friend Matthew Broderick reflected on his nearly 20-year history working with Lane.
"Even after all this time – a thousand performances or maybe more – I still find stepping onto a stage with Nathan to be absolutely thrilling," Broderick said. "Anyone in this room who has
worked with him will tell you, you start rehearsal, and it’s electric. And Nathan’s laser-like precision and atomic clock timing are exhilarating. And you know this is a precious, rare opportunity to mix it up with a great one – a DiMaggio, a Merman, a Gleason."
Support for the 15th Annual Monte Cristo Award provided by Bisno Productions & Scott Yagoda, Disney Theatrical Productions, Catherine Zeta-Jones & Michael Douglas, Roy Furman, Joyce & Seward Johnson Foundation, Ruth & Stephen Hendel, Heather Henson, Jujamcyn Theaters, Laurie Connor & Chip Meyrelles, Nederlander Producing Company, The Shubert Organization, Bernie Schilberg – Prime Materials Recovery, Sally Speer, and Pat Daily & Tom Viertel.
The Monte Cristo Award is presented to a prominent theater artist each year in recognition of a distinguished career exemplifying Eugene O’Neill’s "pioneering spirit, unceasing artistic commitment, and excellence." Past recipients of the Award include Meryl Streep, Christopher Plummer, Michael Douglas, James Earl Jones, Harold Prince, Kevin Spacey, Neil Simon, Jason Robards, Jr., Edward Albee, August Wilson, Zoe Caldwell, Brian Dennehy, Karl Malden, Arthur and Barbara Gelb and Wendy Wasserstein.
Founded in 1964, the Eugene O’Neill Theater Center is the country’s preeminent organization dedicated to the development of new works and new voices for American theater. In the bold tradition of its namesake 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 to more than 2,500 emerging artists. Scores of projects developed at the O’Neill have gone on to full production at other theaters around the world, including Broadway, Off-Broadway, and major regional theaters.
The O’Neill owns and operates the Monte Cristo Cottage as a museum open to the public. The childhood summer home of Eugene O’Neill, the Cottage is a National Historic Landmark. Photos Courtesy Getty Images