Thornton Wilder Prize Presented to Rocco Landesman

Yesterday’s 75th Anniversary event for Our Town at Ford’s Theatre included the presentation of the Thornton Wilder Prize to former National Endowment of the Arts chairman Rocco Landesman.

“The Ford’s Theatre Society is honored to commemorate Our Town‘s 75th anniversary with a series of events, including the presentation of the Thornton Wilder Prize on February 4, 2013,” said Ford’s Theatre Director Paul R. Tetreault. “This special evening will be a wonderful capstone event that, in connection with performances of Our Town through February 24, will celebrate Wilder’s influence on American theatre.”

“Rocco Landesman’s efforts as a producer, educator, and tireless advocate for the relationships between America’s commercial and non-profit theaters have had a major impact on communities across the U.S., and we are delighted to present him with the Thornton Wilder Prize,” said Tappan Wilder, Thornton Wilder’s nephew and literary executor.

“We are particularly pleased to spotlight Rocco Landesman’s efforts to establish the Our Town arts grants under his chairmanship at the NEA, which created a platform for rejuvenating communities with a collective focus on arts and cultural activities,” said Jackson Bryer, President of the Thornton Wilder Society.

Thornton Wilder Prize presentation to Rocco Landesman

Tappan Wilder, Senator Tom Udall, Society President Jackson R. Bryer, and Society Executive Director Lincoln Konkle present the Thornton Wilder Prize to Rocco Landesman during the Our Town 75th Anniversary event at Ford’s Theatre.

Rocco Landesman
Rocco Landesman was chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts from 2009 through 2012. He earned a doctorate in Dramatic Literature at the Yale School of Drama, where he taught for four years. He left Yale to start a private investment fund and then became president of Jujamcyn, a company that owns and operates five Broadway theaters, as well as the producer behind such hits as Big River, Angels in America and The Producers. Landesman is married to Debby Landesman, a philanthropic consultant. He has three sons: North, Nash and Dodge.

Thornton Wilder Prize
The Thornton Wilder Prize is given by the Thornton Wilder Society every two years to an individual in the arts who practices their calling with the distinction, devotion and zest that characterized the artist for whom the Prize is named. The award came about through the generous gift to the Thornton Wilder Society from a devoted friend of Thornton Wilder, June Trolley, in memory of her late husband, Edward. Inaugurated in 2008, the Prize was given in that year to the distinguished American writer Russell Banks; and in 2010 the recipient was award-winning journalist Robert MacNeil.

The Wilder Family LLC, Tappan Wilder Managing Member
As managing Member of the Wilder Family LLC, Tappan Wilder speaks widely about his uncle’s life and work. He has contributed afterwords to the nine-volume HarperCollins re-issue of Thornton Wilder’s novels and major plays, and served as advisor on such projects as editions of Wilder’s selected letters, short plays, the definitive acting edition of Our Town (Samuel French, 2013), and the operatic version of Our Town. He is especially proud of assistance given to Penelope Niven, author of Thornton Wilder: A Life, a biography published by HarperCollins in 2012. He is a member of Pen-American Center, a Trustee of the Yale Library Associates, and an honorary trustee of Long Wharf Theatre (New Haven). Visit the Thornton Wilder Family website.

Ford’s Theatre Society
Since reopening in 1968, more than a hundred years after President Abraham Lincoln’s assassination, Ford’s Theatre has celebrated Lincoln’s legacy and explored the American experience through theatre and education. Under the leadership of Director Paul R. Tetreault, Ford’s Theatre has been recognized for the superior quality of its artistic programming. With works from the nationally acclaimed Big River to the world premieres of Meet John Doe, The Heavens Are Hung In Black, Liberty Smith and Necessary Sacrifices, Ford’s Theatre is making its mark on the American theatre landscape. For its accomplishment, the organization was honored in 2008 with the National Medal of Arts. For more information, visit the Ford’s Theatre Society website.