The Gielgud Award was established at a delightful April 1994 reception in the FOLGER SHAKESPEARE LIBRARY on Capitol Hill, a gathering which featured remarks by Robert MacNeil, Tony Randall, David Evans, John Safer, and Susan Stamberg, who read a letter that Sir John had written for the occasion.
The GUILD returned to the Folger in 1996 to bestow its inaugural GIELGUD AWARD FOR EXCELLENCE IN THE DRAMATIC ARTS on Sir Ian McKellen. In addition to the festivities at the Library, the Guild arranged a gathering at the Kennedy Center's AFI Theater, where Guild president John Andrews chatted with Sir Ian about highlights of his career in film and television. Among other things, they focused on Sir Ian's brilliant film version of "Richard III," and a few weeks later that cinematic adaptation was featured in Entertainment Weekly.
The Guild remained at the Folger for a 1997 salute to Sir Derek Jacobi. This occasion commemorated the Library's 65th anniversary, and it included such additional attractions as a special White House reception and a National Press Club luncheon that was broadcast over NPR. Editor John Mahon devoted a cover story to the celebration in The Shakespeaare Newsletter.
In 1998 the Guild honored Zoe Caldwell in another Folger gala. Sir Derek presented Miss Caldwell's trophy to her, and both artists took part in a delightful Elizabethan Theatre evening during which NPR's Susan Stamberg interviewed "Mr. and Mrs. Broadway" (Miss Caldwell and her husband, producer Robert Whitehead). In addition, Miss Caldwell addressed an enthusiasatic luncheon gathering at the National Press Club while she and Mr. Whitehead were in Washington.
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. A few months after that event, Sir John died at the age of 96, and Mr. Andrews accepted a kind invitation from John Mahon, editor of The Shakespeare Newsletter, to commemorate Gielgud and his legacy. Four years later, following a 2002 ceremony in honor of Kevin Kline at LINCOLN CENTER in Manhattan, 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 festivities have placed the spotlight on 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 repaired once more to Sir John's native city to present a posthumous award to Sir Donald Sinden as part of a UK Theatre Awards Guildhall ceremony at which Sir Donald's son, producer Marc Sinden, accepted the trophy from its designer, actor and visual artist Clive Francis.
Our 2015 trophy went to Dame Eileen Atkins, and presenting it was the Guild's 2008 honoree, Sir Patrick Stewart. He shared congratulatory messages to Dame Eileen from three previous Gielgud laureates, as well as from RSC artistic director Gregory Doran. Among the many things that made the occasion special was the fact that it occurred only three days after the 94th birthday of a visionary leader who established Actors From The London Stage, an influential educational program with which Sir Patrick has been associated from the outset. AFTLS is now celebrating its 40th anniversary, and the Guild saluted this milestone with a special tribute, not only to a highly influential initiative and its founder, Professor Homer "Murph" Swander (center, at a 1998 London reception with John Andrews and Sir Derek Jacobi), but to everyone who has been involved with the outreach it represents, among them such dedicated administrators as Alan and Cynthia Dessen, Peter Holland, Scott Jackson, and actress Eunice Roberts (pictured here in a Matt Humphrey photograph with Sir Patrick Stewart and the Guild's John Andrews).
Fittingly, our 2015 festivities occurred one day after the opening preview of a critically acclaimed Garrick Theatre production of "The Winter's Tale" that was graced by our 1999 Gielgud recipient, Dame Judi Dench. What's more, it starred and was produced and directed by Sir Kenneth Branagh, another Gielgud laureate whom Dame Judi helped the Guild honor in January 2000. For a recent reminder of that occasion, see "Afternoon Tea," an MPT feature hosted by Heather Sanderson.
For details about our 2016 award presentation to Vanessa Redgrave, click here.