Actor James MacArthur, while in town for the 22nd annual Helen Hayes Awards — the local theater awards founded in honor of his mother — went with producer Bonnie Nelson Schwartz, creator of the awards, to visit Art Buchwald in the hospice Monday afternoon before the gala event. MacArthur recalled meeting Buchwald in 1953 at Fouquet’s on the Champs-Elysees in Paris. At the time, MacArthur’s mother, actress Helen Hayes, was doing a State Department tour of “Skin of Our Teeth” with Mary Martin and George Abbott. Buchwald, then a young writer with the International Herald Tribune in Paris, showed 16-year-old MacArthur around Paris. “Do you know which girls are the hookers?” the teenage MacArthur remembers asking Buchwald. The two reminisced about that meeting more than 50 years ago.
AN AWARD IN DAD’S NAME, TOO
They also talked about Jim’s dad, Charles MacArthur, who wrote “Front Page.” James MacArthur, who serves on the board of the Helen Hayes Awards, presents an award each year to the writer of an outstanding new play or musical in his father’s memory.
D.C.: 2ND TO NYC IN THEATER
“Washington is a great theater town,” MacArthur told me during the buffet dinner at the JW Marriott before the awards. “Mama would be thrilled with all the activity.” D.C. has 56 professional theater companies which presented 348 productions last year, making it second only to New York in the breadth and depth of its productions. That’s a far cry from the days when his mother began her acting career at the National Theatre.
JAMES NOW A DIRECTOR
You may remember him from the TV series “Hawaii Five-0,” but he recently directed his first show, “The Twentieth Century,” written by his father. “I didn’t have Gloria Swanson,” he responded when I asked him how it went at the 300-seat theater in Honolulu.
AMBASSADOR WILSON IS A QUICK STUDY
The new Canadian ambassador, Michael Wilson, a former banker who has only been in D.C. for three weeks, said he was introduced to the theater community at Arena Stage’s opening of “Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar and Grill” and jumped right in following his predecessor as Honorary Patron of the Helen Hayes Awards. … Arts supporters Bill and Dorothy McSweeny were there with son Ethan, who is directing “The Persians” at the Shakespeare Theatre. “It was first time I was nervous about a review,” the proud dad said. “It was stunning.”
CAPE TOWN MEDIA TRAINING: BONNIE’S NEW VENTURE
The industrious Bonnie Nelson Schwartz, just back from South Africa, is about to launch a new venture called Making Media Matter to train professionals in Cape Town in socially responsible causes. She has converted a big red double-decker bus to a mini-studio and is taking some Americans over to do media training focusing on new technology. She got the idea after going to a Hugh Masekela concert in Cape Town and watching people interview the musician on cell phones.
VISIONS OF CHINA
Also on Monday evening, Motion Picture Association of America president Dan Glickman honored Chinese President Hu Jintao’s visit with a dinner and screening of “House of Flying Draggers.” “Memories of a Geisha” star, Ziyi Zhang, the special guest, looked exquisite in her miniskirt, over-the-knee black boots with a purple cuff and four inch heels, and a long matching purple scarf. Zhang, 27, had a beautiful smile that compensated for the fact that her self-taught English is still not fluent.
CRAFT SHOW TOUTS UNIQUE TALENTS
Five local artisans working in various media — Judy Rand (wood), Gary Schlappal (ceramics), Nebiur Arellano (silk paintings), Namu Cho (jewelry) and Robert Weiner (glass) — are exhibiting their unique works at the 24th annual Smithsonian Craft Show, which opened with a gala at the National Building Museum on Wednesday evening and continues through Sunday. This is one of the most prestigious juried shows in the country.