220 YEARS AGO (1796)
The Haymarket Theatre opens in Boston, the result of a political rivalry between pro-English Federalists, who make up the majority of the Federal Street Theatre stockholders, and pro-French Jacobins. In 1803, the Haymarket will be demolished and its lumber sold for firewood, fulfilling the neighboring homeowners’ prediction that the theatre, the city’s largest wooden building when it was constructed, would eventually be set ablaze.
205 YEARS AGO (1811)
Following the first act of a packed performance at the Richmond Theatre in Virginia, a lamp comes into contact with a chandelier and flames spread rapidly through the curtains. Seventy-two die in the incident, including the state’s governor. Anti-theatre moralists claim the night’s devastating events as evidence that the Almighty disapproves of the theatre.
105 YEARS AGO (1911)
Tampa, Fla.-based Centro Asturiano’s first theatre activity is covered in a local labor paper, El Internacional. The program includes zarzuelas, a traditional form of Spanish musical comedy, as well as sainetes, comedic one-act operas. Founded as a mutual aid society by and for Cuban and Spanish laborers, the venue will still be in operation more than a century later.
95 YEARS AGO (1921)
Los Angeles’s Teatro Hidalgo debuts its stock company, the Cuadro Hidalgo. Until now, the theatre mainly leased its space to touring groups who brought in stage plays, vaudeville, and revistas (revues). Built in 1911, Teatro Hidalgo was likely the only permanent theatre serving L.A.’s Spanish-speaking community till the Teatro Zendejas opened in 1919.
90 YEARS AGO (1926)
Paul Green’s In Abraham’s Bosom, which will receive a Pulitzer for its stark depiction of Southern racism, opens at the Provincetown Playhouse in NYC. Green, a native North Carolinian and early Civil Rights activist who will be represented over a dozen more times on Broadway, will continue writing about racial injustice and oppression in the U.S. throughout his career.
85 YEARS AGO (1931)
Performer Rita Moreno is born Rosa Dolores Alverio in Humacao, Puerto Rico. At age 5 she will move with her mother to New York City and begin taking dance lessons. Moreno will make her Broadway debut at 13 and will go on to be the first person of color to win all four major entertainment awards, aka an “EGOT”: the Emmy, the Grammy, the Oscar, and the Tony.
50 YEARS AGO (1966)
René Marqués’s The Ox Cart (La Carreta), about a family migrating from Puerto Rico to NYC, opens at the Greenwich Mews Theatre in Manhattan with Miriam Colón and Raul Julia. The play, which debuted in 1953, will be recognized as one possible birth of Puerto Rican theatre in Gotham, and the production will lead to the creation of the Puerto Rican Traveling Theatre.
15 YEARS AGO (2001)
The Hungry Woman: A Mexican Medea and Heart of the Earth: A Popul Vuh Story, by the Chicano feminist lesbian playwright Cherrie Moraga, are published by West End Press. The Hungry Woman, the main play in the volume, combines Greek and Mexican myth to tell the story of a woman gone mad because of the tension between her nation and her love for a woman.
5 YEARS AGO (2011)
Lydia R. Diamond’s play Stick Fly opens at the Cort Theatre in New York City. Diamond also adapted Toni Morrison’s novel, The Bluest Eye, for the stage. The press writes that Stick Fly “signifies a departure for Broadway in its depiction of generational conflict and sexual sparks among a well-to-do contemporary African-American family and friends” as “pointed discussions of race and class erupt.”