Kennedy Center should honor Tom Stoppard, Barbara Cook, Zelda Fichandler


Arena Stage Founding Artistic Director Zelda Fichandler outside of company’s second venue The Old Vat, before construction on the campus in Southwest, D.C. began. (Courtesy of Arena Stage/Courtesy of Arena Stage)

The recipients of this year’s Kennedy Center Honors won’t be announced until later this summer or early fall — indeed, the deliberations for who will be named are still ongoing. With that in mind, our critics weigh in with their own recommendations for who they think are most deserving of this prestigious acknowledgment of artistic achievement in the performing arts.

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Knowing that the honors organizers are under pressure to come up with a roster with at least a modicum of ratings potential, I realize the names that follow won’t set hearts at TMZ aflutter. But if these awards are truly supposed to be about achievement, not star power, then these are some of the theater people who should be sitting up in that hallowed box with the leader of the free world. And soon.

TOM STOPPARD

The author of “Travesties,” “The Real Thing,” “The Coast of Utopia,” “Arcadia,” “Rock and Roll,” “Jumpers” and “Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead,” Stoppard has established himself as the guiding global voice of cerebral poeticism in theater. A generation of younger writers have tried — with far less success — to build works that mimic the thrilling subtlety of his imagination and the soulful individuality of his characters.

Barbara Cook

As Broadway’s most durable songbird — and the original Marian the Librarian — Cook represents the very best of America’s native theatrical art form, the musical. And as a nonpareil cabaret performer, she’s elevated the genre, at the Kennedy Center and elsewhere, with her crystalline amplification of the melodies of Duke Ellington, Irving Berlin, Richard Rodgers and Stephen Sondheim.

Zelda Fichandle r

One of the founders of Arena Stage, and a regional theater movement that took hold in this country more than half a century ago, Fichlander was instrumental in affirming for Americans their right to compelling theater in their own back yards. The extraordinary house of plays she built in Southwest Washington not only still stands, but is also finding a new life for itself as a national birthing, presenting and study center for American drama.

Peter Marks joined the Washington Post as its chief theater critic in 2002. Prior to that he worked for nine years at the New York Times, on the culture, metropolitan and national desks, and spent about four years as its off-Broadway drama critic.
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