The second annual Kennedy Center Honors for achievements in the performing arts will be awarded to composer Aaron Copland, actor Henry Fonda, dancer-choreographer Martha Graham, playwright Tennessee Williams and singer Ella Fitzgerald, the Center announced yesterday.
The awards, established last year by the Trustees of the Kennedy Center, are given in recognition of "significant contributions to American culture through the performing arts."
The award recipients will be honored at a White House reception followed by a Kennedy Center Gala Performance at the Center's Opera House on Sunday evening, Dec. 2. The gala will feature performances and tributes from other noted performers.
George Stevens Jr., producer of the gala program, said that among the artists expected to attend the gala are Jane Alexander, Elizabeth Ashley, Benny Goodman, Ella Kazan, Mike Nichols, Jerome Robbins, Julius Rudel (former director of the New York City Opera), Oliver Smith, Edward Villella and Andre Watts.
All are on the 46-member Artists Committee, which sponsors the Kennedy Center Honors Program and makes recommendations to the Center's board of trustees, who select the honorees.
Brief films tracing the life and career of each honoree will be shown. Last year's gala included similar films as well as a performance by Itzhak Perlman and Isaac Stern in tribute to honoree Arthur Rubinstein. The cast of "A Chorus Line" performed in tribute to honoree Fred Astaire. This year's tributes and performances will cover "the full spectrum of the performing arts," said Stevens.
Stevens called the awards a "continuing tradition of celebrating performing artists. Until these Kennedy Center Honors, it's been a notable omission in our country. We'd never had honors for our performers, like in other countries, where they have knighthood or other honors."