From the silver screen to the Broadway stage, legendary actor James Earl Jones has tapped into the power of his craft to bring forth memorable and compelling stories. The Mississippi native is receiving a special honor for his contributions to the arts. According to Deadline, New York’s Cort Theatre was recently renamed after Jones.
The 110-year-old theater—which has served as the backdrop for noteworthy productions that include “As You Like It, Sunday in New York” and Ossie Davis and Ruby Dee’s “Purlie Victorious”—is one of the performance spaces where Jones started his Broadway career. In 1958, he starred in the Cort Theatre’s “Sunrise at Campobello”; a play that captured former U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s battle with polio disease.
Throughout his career—which spans over 70 years—he was cast in several Broadway productions, including “The Cool World,” “Danton’s Death,” “A Hand is on the Gate,” and “Les Blancs.” He was also featured in “Of Mice and Men,” “Paul Robeson,” “Othello,” “Fences,” “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof,” and most recently “The Gin Game” in which he starred alongside the late trailblazing actress Cicely Tyson. He’s acted in 21 Broadway shows, two of which were at the Cort Theatre. The institution is overseen by the Shubert Organization, the nation’s oldest professional theater company.
The revered actor—who has reached EGOT status—says he’s honored to be celebrated by the theater, and seeing his name up in lights at an institution that helped launch his career is a full-circle moment.
“For me standing in this very building sixty-four years ago at the start of my Broadway career, it would have been inconceivable that my name would be on the building today,” James said in a statement. “Let my journey from then to now be an inspiration for all aspiring actors.”
Robert E. Wankel, who serves as CEO and Board Chair of the Shubert Organization, added James is an “icon in the theater community, the Black community, and the American community—forever in Broadway’s lights.” The organization will host a renaming ceremony when the theater opens this summer.
News about Jones’ honor comes as 2022 has been a monumental year for Black actors on Broadway, a testament to how his presence on the stage decades ago opened up the door for generations of thespians. Earlier this year, Brittney Johnson became the first Black woman to take on the role of Glinda in the musical “Wicked.” Fellow actress Emilie Kouatchou became the first Black woman to portray Christine Daae in “Phantom of the Opera.”
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