140 YEARS AGO (1877)
Black manager Charles Barney Hicks and 19 African-American minstrel performers set sail for Australia to tour as “The Far-famed Original Georgias.” Whereas the mainly white U.S. minstrel market is hostile to black artists, other English-speaking countries are both less racially biased and not oversaturated with minstrel acts. The company will tour Australia and New Zealand for three years before returning home.
105 YEARS AGO (1912)
Christophe: A Tragedy in Prose of Imperial Haiti by William Edgar Easton, the descendant of Haitian revolutionaries, opens at the Lenox Casino in New York City. Star Henrietta Vinton Davis, an acclaimed Shakespearean despite being barred from many white theatres for being black, will form her own company and tour the U.S. before becoming an active member of Marcus Garvey’s Universal Negro Improvement Association.
85 YEARS AGO (1932)
Alla Nazimova, a Russian expat who has performed in the U.S. since 1905, completes her run in the Broadway debut staging of Eugene O’Neill’s Mourning Becomes Electra. Nazimova, believed to have coined the expression “sewing circle” for a group of bisexual and lesbian performers who hide their sexual orientation, will use her growing fame and fortune to direct, produce, and star in work that showcases her sexuality.
50 YEARS AGO (1967)
Performers from the San Francisco Mime Troupe’s touring A Minstrel Show: Or Civil Rights in a Cracker Barrel are arrested on marijuana charges while in Calgary, Canada, one of many run-ins with the law. The show, which criticizes racism using the racist form and with a mixed-race cast, contributes to the group’s radical reputation—a reputation secured the next summer with a version of Goldoni’s L’Amant Militaire, satirizing the Vietnam War.
45 YEARS AGO (1972)
Actor/activists Tim Cordova, Nemesio Domingo Jr., and Douglas Chin decide to create a permanent Asian-American acting group in Seattle; the Asian Multi Media Center will open the following year. After a merger and a couple of name changes, in 1981 the organization will become the Northwest Asian American Theater, the region’s flagship Asian-American theatre until its final show in 2004.
40 YEARS AGO (1977)
The Theatre Building Chicago (later called Stage 773) opens with the musical Cap Streeter, a production by Dinglefest Theatre Company. The venue will host a variety of top Windy City companies, including Steppenwolf, which will make its Chicago debut there in 1979 with Say Goodnight, Gracie. Other theatre organizations using the space will include Lookingglass Theatre Company and American Blues Theater.
35 YEARS AGO (1982)
The Women’s One World Festival, which was launched in 1980, finds its first permanent space, at 330 East 11th Street in NYC. About two years after setting up shop there, the organization will move its operations to East 4th Street and establish the WOW Café Theatre. This latter venue will go on to call itself “the oldest collectively run performance space for women and/or trans artists in the known universe.”
25 YEARS AGO (1992)
In a national tour, Josefina López’s Simply María, or The American Dream, which reflects some of the author’s experiences growing up with parents who’d emigrated from Mexico, performs at Los Angeles’s Japan America Theatre (later called the Aratani Theatre). López will go on to write Real Women Have Curves and found CASA 0101, a theatre and education center with a mission of representation and empowerment for the community in L.A.