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This Month in Theatre History (September 2013)

Theatrical milestones of Septembers past range from the start of van Itallie’s relationship with the Open Theater to the launch of the Arden.

150 YEARS AGO (1863)
During the Civil War, Charlotte Cushman and Edwin Booth give benefit performances for the Union cause in Philadelphia and Boston (followed by Baltimore and New York in October). Booth suggests they present melodramas to maximize proceeds, but Cushman insists on playing Lady Macbeth.

100 YEARS AGO (1913)
NYC police shut down The Lure and The Fight, two Broadway plays depicting “white slavery” (aka prostitution). They reopen after their producers, Lee Shubert and Henry Harris, agree to revise the offending scenes.

50 YEARS AGO (1963)
Dramatist Jean-Claude van Itallie begins his longstanding relationship with the Open Theater when he attends one of the ensemble’s meetings. Van Itallie queries Joseph Chaikin, who founded the group earlier in the year, “Your work is wonderful, but how do you make these acting exercises into plays?” Chaikin responds, “I’ve been waiting for someone to come along and ask me that question.”

25 YEARS AGO (1988)
Arden Theatre Company of Philadelphia offers its first production—Who Am I This Time?, co-founder Aaron Posner’s adaptation of Kurt Vonnegut short stories. Under the leadership of Posner, Amy Murphy and Terrence J. Nolen, the company spends two seasons above the Walnut Street Theatre and several years on St. Stephen’s Alley, finally constructing its own space in Philly’s Old City district in 1995.

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