175 YEARS AGO (1843)
Showman and future circus impresario P.T. Barnum stages a free Grand Buffalo Hunt in Hoboken, N.J., with ads touting a thick double-rail fence that will protect spectators from a herd of wild bison imported from New Mexico. In reality spectators are greeted with a group of scrawny, malnourished buffalo purchased by a local merchant; spooked by the crowd’s jeering, the animals break through the flimsy barrier and escape.
155 YEARS AGO (1863)
John T. Ford opens a rebuilt and renovated “New Theatre” in Washington, D.C., after the original building is destroyed by a fire. Two years later, Ford’s Theatre will mount a production of Our American Cousin, during which actor and Confederate conspirator John Wilkes Booth—who had previously appeared onstage at Ford’s— will fatally shoot President Lincoln during an evening performance.
135 YEARS AGO (1883)
Thomas Edison’s exciting new invention, the electric light bulb, is featured in the NYC production of Excelsior, a musical ballet previously presented in Milan and Paris. For its New York bow, this visual extravaganza finds ways to showcase electric lights, including each chorus girl receiving an electric wand with a small light bulb at the tip. The production will tour, lights and all.
135 YEARS AGO (1883)
The Grand Opera House in Oshkosh, Wisc., opens The Bohemian Girl. The theatre will host a number of traveling productions during its 19th-century transition to a vaudeville hall. In 1950, it will become a movie theatre, also known as the Grand. Finally, after a 20-year campaign by the citizens of Oshkosh, it will reopen in October 1986 with a revival of The Bohemian Girl.
15 YEARS AGO (2003)
Heather Raffo’s 9 Parts of Desire premieres at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe in Scotland before moving to the Bush Theatre in London’s Off-West End, then to the Public Theater in New York. For this project Raffo researched the Iraqi artist Layla Al-Attar, who had been killed by a U.S. air raid in 1993, and interviewed several women to create a collage of nine Iraqi women’s lives.