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This Month in Theatre History

A Gilbert & Sullivan premiere, direction by theatre pioneeer Nina Vance, and new leadership at Philly’s Walnut Street Theatre.

130 YEARS AGO (1882)

Gilbert & Sullivan’s Iolanthe makes its American debut at the Standard Theatre in New York (a venue that will later be demolished), concurrent with its London opening at the Savoy Theatre. The opera deals with a half-fairy who falls in love with a human, and the ensuing conflict between the fairies and the English Parliament.

65 YEARS AGO (1947)

Nina Vance, founder of Houston’s Alley Theatre, directs the as-yet-unnamed theatre’s first play, A Sound of Hunting by Harry Brown. The performance takes place in an 87-seat room located at 3617 Main Street. Because the address is located at the end of a long alley, founding board member Rita Cobler suggests the name “Alley.” The name sticks and the company will grow to encompass two stages and an 11-production season.

40 YEARS AGO (1972)

Broadway’s Uris Theatre opens at 222 West 51st Street. Its inaugural production is Galt MacDermot’s Via Galactica, starring Raul Julia and Virginia Vestoff as space beings in the year 2972. The show closes after seven performances. The space will be renamed the Gershwin Theatre in 1983.

30 YEARS AGO (1982)

Bernard Havard joins Philadelphia’s Walnut Street Theatre as president and producing artistic director. Havard transforms the presenting house into a producing nonprofit theatre with more than 56,000 subscribers annually, the most in the world.

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