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This Month in Theatre History (July/August 2013)

Past Julys and Augusts witnessed birth, death, and the collapse of a theatre.

135 YEARS AGO (1878)
Song-and-dance man and composer/lyricist George M. Cohan is born on July 3 in Providence, R.I. Among his 50-plus plays will be Little Nellie Kelly and Pigeons and People. After his death in 1942, his presence will remain: A statue of Cohan will be erected in New York City’s Times Square in 1959.

100 YEARS AGO (1913)
“The Actors’ Equity Association is not per se a labor union, and it never will become one,” states the organization’s first president, musical comedy performer Francis Wilson. Equity, which was founded in May, does go on to join the American Federation of Labor in 1919.

100 YEARS AGO (1913)
The New Wells Theatre in Norfolk, Va., welcomes its first audience with the musical comedy The Merry Countess. The theatre will host such performers as Fred and Adele Astaire before becoming a movie house showing adult films. Virginia Stage Company will acquire the building in 1979 and restore the space.

40 YEARS AGO (1973)
The University Hotel (better known as the Broadway Central Hotel) in NYC collapses, killing at least four. The long-running One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest—along with three other productions then performing at the Mercer Arts Center, located at the rear of the hotel—moves to other theatres.

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