265 YEARS AGO (1752)
The Hallam Company, the first substantially documented troupe of professional players to appear in North America, makes its colonial debut in Williamsburg, Va., with a performance of The Merchant of Venice and The Anatomist. While touring in Jamaica, they will join forces with the American Company, which will later perform The Prince of Parthia, the first script by an American to receive a professional staging.
175 YEARS AGO (1842)
Charlotte Cushman, only 26, becomes one of the first “lady-managers” of a professional U.S. theatre upon assuming leadership of the Walnut Street Theatre in Philadelphia. Cushman promises pieces with “healthy morality,” and tells audiences that Saturday shows won’t run late enough to violate the Sabbath. While her tenure will end the following year, she’ll later become one of the most prolific actors of her time.
90 YEARS AGO (1927)
Teatro Hidalgo in Los Angeles hires Salvadoran author, journalist, and revolutionary Gustavo Solano (whose pen name is El Conde Gris, “The Gray Count”)—persona non grata in Mexico and much of Central America for being a gunrunner and insulting the Guatemalan government—to write plays with local color, “de ambiente local.” In his first month on the job, Solano pens revues that become part of the theatre’s repertoire.
65 YEARS AGO (1952)
Influential Chicana writer, playwright, and activist Cherríe Moraga, whose work will explore feminism, race, class, gender, and sexuality, is born in Whittier, Calif. Moraga will write numerous plays including The Hungry Woman: A Mexican Medea and Watsonville: Some Place Not Here, and she will become a founding member of La RED Xicana Indígena, an organization promoting self-sustaining economies and artist cooperatives.
45 YEARS AGO (1972)
Hearings begin for the Oriental Actors of America’s complaint against New York City’s Repertory Theatre of Lincoln Center for, among other issues, failing to cast Asian performers in two works set in East Asia, The Good Woman of Setzuan and Narrow Road to the Deep North, except one child actor in the former. The OAA will have a significant influence, as productions move away from casting Caucasians in Asian roles.
40 YEARS AGO (1977)
Performer Zero Mostel collapses backstage before a matinee of Arnold Wesker’s play The Merchant (later renamed Shylock) at the Forrest Theatre in Philadelphia, a pre-Broadway staging also featuring Marian Seldes. Both that performance—what would have been the run’s second—and the evening show are canceled. In the hospital six days later, the three-time Tony-winning actor will die of a heart attack at age 62.
30 YEARS AGO (1987)
Following runs in NYC at the Circle Repertory Company and in L.A. at the Mark Taper Forum, Lanford Wilson’s Burn This opens at the Steppenwolf Theatre Company in Chicago, featuring ensemble members John Malkovich and Joan Allen. The following month, the production will begin a successful Broadway run, playing for 437 performances and earning Allen the Tony for Best Actress in a Play.
25 YEARS AGO (1992)
Anne Bogart and Tadashi Suzuki premiere SITI Company’s first two shows, Dionysus and Charles Mee’s Orestes, in Saratoga Springs, N.Y. The theatre, founded to “redefine and revitalize contemporary theatre in the United States through an emphasis on international cultural exchange and collaboration,” will become a major training center, focusing on the Suzuki Method and Viewpoints techniques.