U.S. salutes Brown, Halprin, Hirschfeld, Jones

WASHINGTON — Stage actor and teacher Uta Hagen and Motown great Smokey Robinson are among the nine recipients of the 2002 National Medal of Arts to be handed out today at the White House.

President Bush and first lady Laura Bush are scheduled to present the medals at an Oval Office ceremony. Award is the country’s highest honor for artistic excellence.

The other recipients are architect Florence Knoll Bassett, choreographer Trisha Brown, Gotham museum director Philippe de Montebello, landscape architect Lawrence Halprin, the late artist Al Hirschfeld, singer-songwriter George Jones and painter-stage director Ming Cho Lee.

Medals are administered by the National Endowment for the Arts.

“We honor these individuals for the singular distinction of their artistic careers,” said newly installed NEA chair Dana Gioia. “Whether they were creating stunning choreography, reconceiving contemporary state design or adding Motown to our nation’s music vocabulary, these remarkable people have made significant contributions to our nation’s cultural life.”

German-born Hagen replaced Jessica Tandy in the original production of “A Streetcar Named Desire.” She is best known for creating the role of Martha in “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?” In 2001, she appeared at the Geffen Playhouse opposite David Hyde Pierce in “Six Dance Lessons in Six Weeks.”

Hagen is equally recognized for her teaching. She and her husband, Herbert Berghof, ran the Herbert Berghof Studio. After Berghof’s death, Hagen reorganized the studio and the Herbert Berghof Playwrights Foundation to ensure the institution’s survival.

Robinson was one of the architects of the Motown sound, writing songs for and producing the label’s acts and recording with the Miracles, the group he founded in high school.

It eventually became Smokey Robinson and the Miracles for songs such as “I Second That Emotion.” Eventually he went out on his own, pioneering a style of pop-soul balladry known as Quiet Storm, a classic example of which is “Being With You.” The genre name was taken from one of his album titles.

(Phil Gallo and Robert Hofler contributed to this report.)

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