Meryl Streep to Receive Monte Cristo Award

Meryl Streep

The honor is presented by the Eugene O'Neill Theater Center, where Streep spent a summer as a young actor fresh out of Yale School of Drama.

NEW YORK – In recognition of her many achievements and her enduring commitment to stage and screen acting, Meryl Streep will receive the 14th annual Monte Cristo Award, bestowed by the Eugene O'Neill Theater Center.

The award will be presented at a gala dinner in New York on April 21, 2014, by veteran actor Joe Grifasi, a longtime friend of Streep's who was her classmate at the Yale School of Drama and a fellow artist during the summer she spent working at the O'Neill Center in Waterford, Conn.

“The O’Neill is a place unlike any other,” said Streep in a statement. “I’m honored to receive this award from an organization so vital to the discovery and support of new artists and work for the American theater.”

Streep segued directly from her Yale and O'Neill experience into her first professional acting jobs in Shakespeare in the Park productions and on Broadway. She broke into film in the late 1970s and has worked steadily ever since, earning 17 Academy Award nominations and winning three, for Kramer vs. Kramer, Sophie's Choice and The Iron Lady.

Recalling her time at the O’Neill, Streep continued, “That summer we were all engaged with full-hearted passion in sometimes the silliest of exercises, and all in service of finding that wiggly, elusive creature: a new play. The process was so condensed that I learned a sort of invaluable swiftness of decision-making, out of necessity. The 'choices' could not be labored over, and that, for certain types of thinking actors, is a gift of exigency. You had to, like your fifth grade teacher said, in multiple-choice questions, just go with your first instinct; don’t worry it to death. That’s what actors did at the O’Neill, and with full-blown commitment. Like jumping off the platform onto the swinging trapeze … don’t hesitate. It’s a good lesson. One I’ve carried with me my whole life."

Streep joins a prominent list of theater artists who have received the Monte Cristo Award, including Christopher Plummer, Michael Douglas, James Earl Jones, Kevin Spacey, Edward Albee and the late playwright Wendy Wasserstein, who was also a classmate of Streep's at Yale.

Currently filming the movie musical Into the Woods for director Rob Marshall and Disney in London, Streep will next be seen onscreen in August: Osage County, which the Weinstein Co. will release on Dec. 25. (Watch the trailer below.)

Her most recent New York stage role was the lead in the Public Theater's 2006 Shakespeare in the Park production of Bertolt Brecht's Mother Courage and Her Children.