190 YEARS AGO (1826)
A new theatre opens in Nashville, one of the city’s first, with Soldier’s Daughter and the farce Turn Out. The proprietor is James H. Caldwell, who previously established theatres in Virginia and New Orleans. Over the next few years, Caldwell will also set up shop in St. Louis and Alabama.
145 YEARS AGO (1871)
Ford’s Grand Opera House opens in Baltimore. The theatre’s namesake, founder and owner John T. Ford, is also the proprietor of Ford’s Theatre in Washington, D.C., where President Abraham Lincoln was assassinated in 1865. This new theatre in the Monumental City will hold a less notorious place in presidential history: It will be the site of Horace Greeley’s nomination as the Liberal Republican Party’s candidate for the 1872 election.
90 YEARS AGO (1926)
Historian and playwright W.E.B. Du Bois publishes “Criteria of Negro Art” in The Crisis magazine. Du Bois embraces an idea that “all art is propaganda” and criticizes the lack of stage opportunities for African Americans. The ideas presented in the essay will make up part of a larger discussion about the role of art in the fight for civil rights.
40 YEARS AGO (1976)
The New American Writers Festival, forerunner of the Humana Festival of New American Plays, is launched at Kentucky’s Actors Theatre of Louisville with David Mamet’s Sexual Perversity in Chicago and Reunion, Tom Cole’s Medal of Honor Rag, and Jack Heifner’s Vanities.
35 YEARS AGO (1981)
Marilyn Tokuda, Denice Kumagai, Judy Momii, and Irma Escamilla found the Asian-American sketch and improv comedy group Cold Tofu in Los Angeles. The company, which is considered the first Asian-American improv troupe, will boast multicultural membership and will perform in L.A. and throughout the West Coast. Their mission is to promote, in their words, “diverse images of Asian Pacific Americans through comedy.”
20 YEARS AGO (1996)
Playwright Migdalia Cruz wins the Kennedy Center’s Fund for New American Plays award for Another Part of the House. Cruz’s plays will be seen across the United States and abroad at various venues including Chicago’s Steppenwolf Theatre Company, Dallas’s Kitchen Dog Theater, Portland, Ore.’s Miracle Theatre Group/Milagro Theatre, and the Lark in New York City.
5 YEARS AGO (2011)
David Henry Hwang’s comedy Chinglish, which received its world premiere in June at Chicago’s Goodman Theatre, opens on Broadway at the Longacre Theatre. The play, which explores the gaps in intercultural communication through the story of an American businessman who tries to promote his sign-making business in China, marks the sixth time Hwang is represented on the Great White Way; Hwang wrote M. Butterfly and Golden Child, plus the books for the musicals Aida, Flower Drum Song, and Tarzan.
A version of this story appears in the October 2016 issue of American Theatre.