This year's inductees are playwright Tony Kushner, songwriting partners Lynn Ahrens and Stephen Flaherty, director Julie Taymor, director Robert Falls, actor Stacy Keach, lighting designer Ken Billington, Broadway publicist Merle Debuskey and, posthumously, actor Roger Rees.
Terry Hodge Taylor produces the annual event. Founded in 1971 by James M. Nederlander, Earl Blackwell, Gerard Oestreicher and L. Arnold Weissberger, the Theater Hall of Fame honors Lifetime Achievement in the American Theater.
This year's ballot was mailed in July to 275 members of the Theater Hall of Fame and American Theater Critics Association. Fifty nominees are listed each year on the ballot. To be nominated, a theatre professional must have 25 years in the Broadway/American theatre and five major credits.
The Theater Hall of Fame is the only nationally trademarked non-profit organization that honors the professionals of the American theatre. This annual celebration supports these on-going programs: the Video Collection at the New York Public Library for the Performing Arts/Lincoln Center, the THF Dorothy Strelsin Memorablilia Collection at the Gershwin Theatre and the THF Fellowship Grants for Emerging Theater Artists.
Last year's inductees included director/choreographer Susan Stroman, actor F. Murray Abraham, actor Alvin Epstein, actor Blythe Danner, former theatre critic Frank Rich, Chairman of the Shubert Organization Philip J. Smith, playwright Alfred Uhry and director Marshall Mason.
Playwright Tony Kushner won Tony Awards for both parts of Angels in America. He was also awarded the Pulitzer Prize in Drama for the first part of Angels, Millennium Approaches.
Songwriting partners Lynn Ahrens (lyrics) and Stephen Flaherty (music) won the Tony Award for Best Original Score for Ragtime. Their numerous other musicals include Once On This Island, Rocky and My Favorite Year.
Director Julie Taymor won Tony Awards for Best Direction of a Musical and Best Costume Design for the long-running Disney hit The Lion King.
Stage and screen star Stacy Keach was Tony-nominated for his performance in Indians.
Lighting designer Ken Billington won the 1997 Tony Award for Lighting Design for the revival of Chicago.
For nearly a half century, from the Golden Age of the stage to the mid-1990s, Merle Debuskey was a top theatrical press agent, representing over 550 plays and musicals. He worked with Arthur Miller on the original production of The Crucible, with Lorraine Hansberry on A Raisin in the Sun, and with Michael Bennett and Joseph Papp on A Chorus Line. The tale of Debuskey's life is told in the biography "The Gentleman Press Agent: 50 Years in the Theatrical Trenches" by Robert Simonson.