Elizabeth Wilson, one of America's most successful career actors and a Theatre Hall of Famer, will be saluted with the Jerome Lawrence Award, in a small Kansas town that celebrates a hometown playwright.
The still-active actress will receive the award Friday, April 20, at a dinner performance during the 31st Annual William Inge Theatre Festival in Independence, Kansas, located at Independence Community College, William Inge's alma mater.
The Jerome Lawrence Award is periodically presented to an outstanding individual who has made major contributions to both the William Inge Theatre Festival and the professional theater on a national level.
The award is named for Jerome Lawrence, co-writer of "Inherit the Wind," and "Auntie Mame," who was a great friend of William Inge and a founding father of the Inge Festival. Lawrence enjoyed honoring his fellow playwrights and often stated that there are only two places in the world that honor the birthplace of a playwright: Independence, Kansas, and Stratford-upon-Avon, England. The 2012 Inge Festival, April 18-21, honors great American playwright David Henry Hwang.
Elizabeth Wilson's first Broadway play was in William Inge's "Picnic." She performed as the mother in the national tour and as a school teacher in the film. Wilson admired Bill Inge, describing him as "a complicated, brilliant and dear man." That is why she has such a connection and love for the Inge Festival, where she has performed as a guest artist for a number of years.
At age 90, Elizabeth Wilson is still an active performer. This last summer she spent two months in London filming "Hyde Park on the Hudson," which tells the story of President Franklin D. Roosevelt (played by Bill Murray). Wilson portrays FDR's 83 year-old mother, Sara Delano Roosevelt. Elizabeth was flattered when she had to be "aged-up to" appear old enough for the part.
Elizabeth Wilson arrived in New York from Grand Rapids, Michigan, in 1942, and studied with Sanford Meisner at The Neighborhood Playhouse. Her first job came in 1945 with the U.S.O., where she toured Japan, the Philippines and New Guinea for a year. "What an adventure!" she recalls.
Wilson's career includes numerous Broadway productions: "Waiting in the Wings," "A Delicate Balance," and "Ah, Wilderness," among many She earned a Tony Award for her performance in the New York Shakespeare Festival's production of "Sticks and Bones" as well as two Obies and numerous more honors.
Her various film and television credits include: "The Graduate," "9 to 5," "The Addams Family," "Grace Quigley" with Katherine Hepburn; "Child is Waiting" with Judy Garland; and over thirty more. In 2007 she was inducted into the Theatre Hall of Fame.
While the Jerome Lawrence Award is an evening highlight, the Gala Dinner features Broadway and professional performers in full song, with the musical entertainment directed by Luke Yankee, Los Angeles-based director and long-time friend of the Inge Festival. The Musical Director is musician Paul Baker, who joins the Inge Festival for the 10th time.
The William Inge Center for the Arts is known as sponsor of the annual William Inge Theatre Festival, which is the Official Theatre Festival of the State of Kansas. The 31st annual Inge Festival takes place April 18-21, with Honoree David Henry Hwang in attendance all four days. Tickets are available online at www.ingecenter.org.