Meryl Streep is set to add a Monte Cristo Award to her collection of accolades and prizes after officials at the Eugene O'Neill Theater Center named her the 14th recipient of the prestigious honour.

The movie star's longtime friend and fellow Yale University classmate Joe Grifasi will present her with the award in recognition of her "monumental achievements and contributions to the American theatre" at a gala to be held in New York in April (14).

The actress says, "The O'Neill is a place unlike any other. I'm honoured to receive this award from an organisation so vital to the discovery and support of new artists and work for the American theatre."

A former O'Neill player, Streep admits she still has fond memories of working there right at the beginning of her acting career: "That summer we were all engaged with full hearted passion in sometimes the silliest of exercises, and all in service of finding that wiggly, elusive creature: a new play. The process was so condensed that I learned a sort of invaluable swiftness of decision making, out of necessity.

"The choices could not be laboured over, and that, for certain types of thinking actors, is a gift of exigency. You had to, like your fifth grade teacher said, in multiple choice questions, just go with your first instinct, don't worry it to death. That's what actors did at the O'Neill, and with full blown commitment.

"Like jumping off the platform onto the swinging trapeze... don't hesitate. It's a good lesson. One I've carried with me my whole life."

The Monte Cristo Award is presented to a prominent theatre artist each year in recognition of "a distinguished career exemplifying Eugene O'Neill's pioneering spirit, unceasing artistic commitment, and excellence".

Past recipients include Christopher Plummer, Michael Douglas, James Earl Jones, Kevin Spacey and playwright Neil Simon.