THE BACKGROUND

Sixty-three years ago a group of dedicated Chicago theatregoers saw the film All About Eve and decided to create a version of the movie’s fictional Sarah Siddons Society in Chicago. This film, which earned fourteen Oscar nominations, was the only one in Oscar history to receive four acting nominations—two for its leading ladies Bette Davis and Anne Baxter, and two for its supporting players Celeste Holm and Thelma Ritter. In the film, Anne Baxter was awarded a statuette of the famous eighteenth-century Shakespearean actress Sarah Siddons. Seeing this tribute, those theatregoers not only created a real Sarah Siddons Society, but in 1952 they presented their first Acting Award—a replica of that same statuette used in All About Eve to Helen Hayes, one of America’s premiere leading ladies.

The list of Sarah Siddons Acting Award recipients reads like a Who’s Who of Great American Actresses. Included in the list of honorees are Beatrice Lillie, Deborah Kerr, Shirley Booth, Geraldine Page, Myrna Loy, Carol Channing, Celeste Holm, Lauren Bacall, Bette Davis, Colleen Dewhurst, Angela Lansbury, Julie Harris, Liza Minnelli, Bernadette Peters, Julie Andrews, Elaine Stritch, Chita Rivera, Patti LuPone, Barbara Cook, Audra McDonald, Bebe Neuwirth and Jessie Mueller.

The Sarah Siddons Society regularly recognizes Chicago’s finest actresses with its Leading Lady Awards including Laurie Metcalf, Lia Mortensen, Paula Scrofano, Kate Fry, Heidi Kettenring, Hollis Resnick, Barbara Robertson, Rondi Reed, Mary Beth Fisher, and E. Faye Butler, to name a few.

THE MISSION

Since its inception, the mission of the Society has been to fund scholarships to promising theatre students at top drama departments in Chicagoland, including Columbia College, DePaul University, Chicago College of Performing Arts at Roosevelt University and Northwestern University.

Recent new endeavors include a partnership with the Black Ensemble Theatre’s Plays with a Purpose, a series of musical productions reaching hundreds of school children, written to teach children positive life lessons for the purpose of fostering development, self-esteem, confidence and self-respect. In past seasons, the Society supported Chicago Humanities Spring Festival—Stages, Sights and Sounds—exposing disadvantaged students to theatregoing experiences.

Leading Players, launched in 2015 as the Society’s creative arm, includes a younger generation of theatre artists attracting new members and creating more varied programming for the organization. 

MEMBERSHIP + FUNDING

Sarah Siddons Society’s Board of Governors and Membership include individuals who support the mission, pay dues, plan and attend events throughout the year providing the needed funds for the scholarship program. These events include annual programs honoring Actor of the Year and Chicago’s Leading Actors, performances featuring Chicago’s top musical theatre talent as well as theatre and dinner gatherings.