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This Month in Theatre History (January 2013)

From ‘The Wizard of Oz’ to the Negro Ensemble Company, another eventful month on the stage.

110 years ago (1903)

Frank Baum extends the life of his popular children’s book The Wonderful Wizard of Oz when he adapts it for the stage, with music by Paul Tietjens and A. Baldwin Sloane. After premiering in Chicago a year prior, The Wizard of Oz makes its Broadway debut, with Anna Laughlin, Fred Stone and David C. Montgomery. Oz runs for 293 performances and is then revived in 2004 for 171 performances.

80 years ago (1933)

Happy birthday Chita Rivera! Born in Washington, D.C., the celebrated singer-dancer-actress will star in Can-Can, West Side Story, Bye Bye Birdie, Kiss of the Spider Woman and her signature role, vixen Velma Kelly, in the original Chicago. In 2005, she will go on to tell the story of her career onstage in the Broadway biography Chita Rivera: The Dancer’s Life.

50 years ago (1963)

CENTERSTAGE is founded in Baltimore, Md., with the opening of its first play, La Ronde, directed by founding artistic director Edward Golden. Fifty years later, CENTERSTAGE will perform annually, for more than 100,000 people, in two spaces, under the direction of Kwame Kwei-Armah.

45 years ago (1968)

The Negro Ensemble Company of New York City presents Peter Weiss’s Song of the Lusitanian Bogey, its inaugural production, at St. Mark’s Playhouse. The groundbreaking ensemble will go on to produce more than 200 new plays focusing on the black experience while collaborating with more than 4,000 artists through the years.

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