O'Neill Theater: where stars were born - FOX 35 News Orlando

O'Neill Theater: where stars were born

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It's a running joke that if you mention the Eugene O'Neill Theater Center to nearly anyone in Hollywood they're going to know exactly what you're talking about because odds are they might have gotten their first big break there.

Would you believe some Hollywood's biggest stars -- Meryl Streep, Michael Douglas, Angela Bassett -- got their start in a big red barn in the middle of nowhere. Actually, that big red barn is the Eugene O'Neill theater center in Watertown, Connecticut. It is an unassuming, quiet campus near the Long Island Sound where the who's who of Hollywood cut their teeth in film and theater.

Playwright Jeffrey Sweet wrote the book "The O'Neill: The Transformation of Modern American Theater." he visited he theater way back when he was a film student at NYU. He remembers watching a very funny, pretty blonde on stage.

That young woman was Meryl Streep. It was her very first summer at the O'Neill. Back then she had to wear a name tag.

Then there was Michael Douglas who came here in 1966. By all accounts, he was an aimless, hairy teenager. But instead of picking up a script, like you might imagine, he was handed a shovel. Douglas had to dig out what ended up being the base of one of the outdoor theaters, sweet said. Douglas also met Danny DeVito there.

But you don't have to go to Connecticut to see the place for yourself. The stories, the scripts, the photos are all on display at an exhibit at the New York Public Library for the Performing Arts at Lincoln Center. The exhibit, which runs through September 16, is a close look into a secret society among Hollywood A-listers.

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