450 Years Ago (1564)
The man, the myth, the Bard—William Shakespeare—is born in Stratford-upon-Avon. With works as varied and lauded as Hamlet, King Lear, Richard III, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, As You Like It and The Tempest, Shakespeare’s full influence on Western culture is incalculable.
75 Years Ago (1939)
Congress votes to stop funding the Federal Theatre Project. One of the five top initiatives under the Work Projects Administration included in Franklin D. Roosevelt’s Second New Deal, the FTP employed thousands of artists, including Arthur Miller, Elia Kazan, Orson Welles and John Houseman. Congressional funding ceased after four years due to the mostly left-wing political themes of productions, such as Welles and Houseman’s staging of the pro-union musical The Cradle Will Rock.
50 Years Ago (1964)
Though Anyone Can Whistle, it turns out that not everyone wants to try. Stephen Sondheim and Arthur Laurents’s musical about a bankrupt American town closes after just nine performances. The show marks Angela Lansbury’s first stage musical role.
20 Years Ago (1994)
Edward Albee wins his third Pulitzer Prize for Drama for his play Three Tall Women. Having received two Pulitzers prior—for A Delicate Balance and Seascape—Albee is one shy of matching four-time winner and record-holder Eugene O’Neill.