Oscars 2014: Cate Blanchett and the art of the theater shout-out

Actress Cate Blanchett accepts her Oscar for lead actress in Woody Allen's "Blue Jasmine."
(Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)

It’s a safe bet that most viewers of the Oscars on Sunday had probably never heard of the Sydney Theatre Company before best-actress winner Cate Blanchett paid tribute to the Australian institution during her acceptance speech.

Blanchett is a longtime veteran of the critically acclaimed company -- she has not only acted in numerous productions there but also served as co-artistic director with her husband, Andrew Upton, for several years. (The “Blue Jasmine” actress stepped down from the post last year, but Upton remains the head of the company.)

In August, Blanchett will bring the Sydney Theatre Company’s recent production of Jean Genet’s “The Maids” to the Lincoln Center Festival in New York. The actress appeared in the play last year in Australia, alongside French film star Isabelle Huppert and “The Great Gatsby” actress Elizbeth Debicki.

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Blanchett’s shout-out to her theater compatriots was more than a perfunctory salute. “And finally, I would like to thank every single member of the Sydney Theatre Company, one of the great theater companies in the world,” she said. “And not only working with you for the last six years has been the most enormous privilege of my career but it’s made me a better actress.”

In past Oscar ceremonies, theater careers have served as important points of reference for winners and nominees alike:

Geraldine Page: Upon accepting the best actress Oscar in 1986 from presenter F. Murray Abraham, Page paid tribute to New York’s Mirror Repertory Company, which the actress helped to found in 1983. Both Page and Abraham had appeared in the company’s productions of classic plays that were produced in rotation. (Page won the Oscar -- her first after seven nominations -- for “The Trip to Bountiful.”)

Ralph Fiennes: The British actor didn’t win for his role in “The English Patient,” but from his seat, he flashed a barely legible, handwritten sign to the TV camera that read “Hello, Ivanov Babes” -- a reference to his role in a production of “Ivanov” by Britain’s Almeida Theatre.


Tom Stoppard: Upon winning an Oscar for the screenplay for “Shakespeare in Love,” the acclaimed playwright thanked his theatrical agent Ken Ewing. “I sent him my first play 38 years ago and we’re still here,” said Stoppard.

Ellen Burstyn: The actress wasn’t present to accept her Oscar for “Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore” in 1975 because she was starring in the Broadway production of “Same Time Next Year.” (Director Martin Scorsese accepted on her behalf.) Burstyn would win the Tony Award for her performance and would later be nominated for an Oscar for the film adaptation of the play.

Anne Bancroft: The star of “The Miracle Worker” couldn’t accept her Oscar because she was appearing on Broadway in “Mother Courage and her Children.” Joan Crawford not only accepted the award on her behalf, but later hand-delivered the statuette to Bancroft on stage at the Martin Beck Theatre in New York.



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