After sharing a prepared speech calling for the protection of the National Endowment for the Arts, renowned director Harold Prince spoke to Playbill to discuss his connection to the program, his observations on former presidents’ commitments to the arts, and the time he received the National Medal of Arts alongside Barbra Streisand.
Though the majority of Prince's oeuvre began as commercial runs on Broadway, the National Endowment of the Arts has remained an integral agency throughout his career. The director and producer served on the National Council on the Arts from 1976–1982. During that time, he advised the Chairman of the NEA on several key initiatives—including the development and fostering of regional theatre.
“During those six years, at one meeting in Washington, we learned that Ronald Reagan wanted to get rid of the National Endowment for the Arts,” Prince recalls. “In a closed meeting, which will now be opened, we said, ‘What are we going to do about this?’ Someone suggested we get Charlton Heston, who had been head of the Screen Actors Guild and a good friend of Reagan’s, to tell Reagan to stop this right now. And Reagan did.”
Watch the video above as Prince shares several anecdotes about the role the U.S. government has on the arts—including the time Streisand’s hat almost derailed a ceremony held by President Clinton.
Prince’s extensive career includes helming the original productions of The Phantom of the Opera, Sweeney Todd, A Little Night Music, Evita, Cabaret, On the Twentieth Century, Company, and Parade. The 21-time Tony Award recipient also co-directs Prince of Broadway, a musical celebration of his career, alongside Susan Stroman. Performances will begin August 3 at the Samuel J. Friedman Theatre.
Watch as Prince delivers a prepared statement standing with the National Endowment for the Arts, the National Endowment for the Humanities, and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting below.