In April of 1994, at a Capitol Hill ceremony in the FOLGER SHAKESPEARE LIBRARY which featured remarks by Robert MacNeil, Tony Randall, and Susan Stamberg, the SHAKESPEARE GUILD announced a new award that would preserve the heritage of Sir John Gielgud and pay tribute to the actors, directors, producers, and writers who are doing the most to perpetuate his legacy and that of the poet whose work he did so much to convey to succeeding generations of Shakespeare enthusiasts.
The GUILD returned to the Folger in 1996 to bestow its inaugural GIELGUD AWARD FOR EXCELLENCE IN THE DRAMATIC ARTS on Sir Ian McKellen. It remained in that setting for salutes to Sir Derek Jacobi in 1997 and Zoe Caldwell in 1998. In 1999 the GUILD held its first GIELGUD event in New York, honoring Dame Judi Dench at Broadway’s BARRYMORE THEATRE. In 2000 the GUILD crossed the Atlantic for a toast to Kenneth Branagh in London’s historic MIDDLE TEMPLE HALL. The GUILD repaired to the U.K. once more in 2004, joining the ROYAL SHAKESPEARE COMPANY and the ROYAL ACADEMY OF DRAMATIC ART for a GIELGUD CENTENARY GALA at the West End theatre that had been renamed for Sir John a decade earlier. More recent GIELGUD festivities have placed the spotlight on Kevin Kline (in 2002 at LINCOLN CENTER in Manhattan), Lynn Redgrave (in 2003 at the NATIONAL ARTS CLUB in New York), Christopher Plummer (in 2006 at the NAC), Michael Kahn (in 2007 at the BRITISH EMBASSY in Washington), Patrick Stewart (in 2008 at the NAC in New York), and F. Murray Abraham (in 2010 at the NAC. On Sunday, October 19, 2014, the Guild presented a posthumous award to Sir Donald Sinden as part of last year's UK Theatre Awards ceremony at the Guildhall, a historic edifice in the City of London. Sir Donald's son, producer Marc Sinden, accepted the trophy from its designer, actor and visual artist Clive Francis. We now look forward to Sunday, October 18, when the Guild will return to the same venerable setting for its 2015 Gielgud presentation to Dame Eileen Atkins.