Actor Ruth Nelson is the recipient of the 1992 Zeisler Award for distinguished service to the nonprofit professional theatre. The award, established in 1986 by Actors Theatre of Louisville producing director Jon Jory and named for TCG’s executive director Peter Zeisler, is given annually by Theatre Communications Group to a director, designer, actor or administrator selected from nominations by artistic directors of theatres nationwide. Nelson, 86, has spent a lifetime in the theatre. She was a founding member of the Group Theatre in 1931, appearing in such productions as Clifford Odet’s Waiting for Lefty. She was a member of the acting company of the Guthrie Theater in Minneapolis (where she appeared in Hamlet, The Three Sisters and The Glass Menagerie, among many other productions) during its first four seasons. Her other credits include the original production of Long Day’s Journey into Night (where she was standby for the role of Mary Tyrone, which she subsequently played in the national touring company), as well as roles at Houston’s Alley Theatre, the Long Wharf Theatre in New Haven, Conn., New York’s Roundabout Theatre Company and the Williamstown Theatre Festival in Massachusetts. She most recently appeared in Andre Gregory’s ongoing Uncle Vanya project, and the film Awakenings as Robert DeNiro’s mother.
Among Nelson’s nominators for the award was Josephine Abady, artistic director of the Cleveland Play House, where Nelson has been a company member since the 1960s and most recently appeared in Truman Capote’s A Christmas Memory in 1988. Recommending Nelson, Abady said, “In an acting career that spans over 60 years, she is someone who can say truthfully that she has has a hand in creating both the American theatre and the American acting style.”
Director Charles Newell has been named the recipient of the 1992 Alan Schneider Director Award, given in honor of the late director’s unique contribution to the American theatre and lifelong concern for the development of career opportunities for young artists. The award, which carries a stipend of $5,000 which may be used for travel and research, is given annually to a talented early-career director. Newell’s credits include Shakespeare’s History Plays for the Guthrie Theater in Minneapolis (co-directed with Garland Wright), where as resident director from 1987 to 1989 he created the Guthrie Laboratory and produced or directed works by Stephen Deitz, Maria Irene Fornes and Shakespeare; Two Gentlemen of Verona for Arena Stage in Washington, D.C. and The Acting Company in New York; and Picnic for Fordham University in New York. The awards to both Nelson and Newell were presented in June at the ninth biennial TCG National Conference in Northampton, Mass.