220 YEARS AGO (1797)
The theatre season closes in Richmond, Va., with a production of The Widow of Mallabar and an accompanying pantomime, The Foreign War. A week before, a performance of The Robbers by Friedrich Schiller was followed by a pantomime called The Devil upon Two Sticks, featuring a Harlequin character doing “a variety of Tricks and Changes,” including “the favorite Dying and Skeleton Scenes,” and being shot from a cannon.
90 YEARS AGO (1927)
The Krigwa Players in Harlem open their second season with the Eulalie Spence plays Her and Foreign Mail, in their performance space in the basement of the 135th Street Library. Spence will go on to win prizes and critical acclaim for her plays, which focus on the everyday life of black characters and often highlight dynamic and nuanced female characters.
80 YEARS AGO (1937)
The Negro Youth Theatre (NYT), part of the Negro Theatre Project (NTP), produces Sweet Land by Conrad Seiler. The play, set in the South, tells the story of black World War I veterans returning home to a life of sharecropping and attempting to improve their economic condition by unionizing with other black farm workers. Although the NTP will come to an end in 1939, the project will create many employment opportunities for black professionals in the theatre.
70 YEARS AGO (1947)
The E.Y. Harburg, Fred Saidy, and Burton Lane musical Finian’s Rainbow makes its Broadway debut at the 46th Street Theatre (later renamed the Richard Rodgers). One reviewer calls the show a “real threat” to Southern racism, since, for the first time, the “intolerance in the Deep South has been subjected to light, but peppery, spoofing in a musical show.”
50 YEARS AGO (1967)
The American Conservatory Theater sets up shop at the Geary Theater, their permanent San Francisco home. The inaugural production is Tartuffe, the play that was also the troupe’s very first in Pittsburgh in 1965. The organization will go on to become one of the premier theatre companies in the U.S., featuring a resident ensemble of actors and a comprehensive actor training conservatory.
35 YEARS AGO (1982)
The cabaret revue Forbidden Broadway opens at Palsson’s Supper Club (later rechristened the Triad) in New York City and runs for 2,332 performances. The show will go on to be performed more than 9,000 times in various editions in 200 cities in the States and around the world. Forbidden Broadway will receive nine Drama Desk Awards, a Special Tony, an Obie, and a Lucille Lortel.
30 YEARS AGO (1987)
Gary Iwamoto’s musical comedy Miss Minidoka 1943, directed by Bea Kiyohara and Stan Asis, premieres at the Northwest Asian American Theatre in Seattle. Based on real events, the piece tells the story of Japanese-Americans preparing for a beauty contest in the Minidoka internment camp. The show will help establish NWAAT as a leading company for Asian-American theatre artists.
25 YEARS AGO (1992)
Brooklyn Arts Exchange, founded in 1991 by Marya Warshaw, presents its first production, Chief Half-Breed in the Land of In-Between. The play, written and performed by George Emilio Sanchez, is the inaugural piece developed and showcased as part of BAX’s Artist-in-Residence program, which will nurture the careers of hundreds of artists by giving them low-cost or free studio space and an annual stipend.