90 years ago (1928)
Sophie Treadwell’s Machinal makes its Broadway debut at the Plymouth Theatre, directed by Arthur Hopkins (and featuring a young actor named Clark Gable in the role of “A Man”). The play, an expressionist depiction of a young woman who murders her husband, loosely based on the real-life story of Queens homemaker Ruth Brown Snyder, would become Treadwell’s most famous work. The piece will also be considered one of the most significant expressionist dramas in mainstream U.S. theatre.
65 years ago (1953)
Take a Giant Step, inspired by playwright Louis S. Peterson’s own life, premieres at the Lyceum Theatre. This staging marks the third Main Stem play by Peterson, one of Broadway’s first African American playwrights. The cast features many actors from New York City’s black theatre scene, including a teenage performer named Louis Gossett Jr. in his Broadway debut. Gossett will go on to become a star of theatre and film.
60 years ago (1958)
President Dwight D. Eisenhower signs the National Cultural Center Act to establish a facility for the performing arts in Washington D.C. President John F. Kennedy, a major supporter of the arts, will later work to raise money for the new facility, which will open in 1971 as the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts. In recognition of Eisenhower’s contribution, one of the theatres will be named in his honor.
55 years ago (1963)
The New York Times announces that the Vivian Beaumont Theater, which will open in New York’s Lincoln Center in 1965, will become the first professional theatre in the city to feature a permanently installed electronic lighting control system. Created and engineered by Edward F. Kook and George C. Izenouer, the new system will significantly reduce the time required for recording lighting cues.
40 Years Ago (1978)
Lynn Lohr and Lance Belville found History Theatre in St. Paul, Minn. In its first season, the organization will premiere five productions, including Deadly Decades and We Win or Bust. Over the coming decades the theatre will produce more than 100 world premieres, part of its mission to produce “new and existing works that explore Minnesota’s past and the diverse American experience.”
35 years ago (1983)
The first staging of Glengarry Glen Ross opens at the Royal National Theatre in London. David Mamet’s play, about the unethical dealings of Chicago real estate agents, will go on to win the Pulitzer Prize for Drama in 1984. For the 1992 film adaptation, Mamet will write a scene for actor Alec Baldwin (“Coffee’s for closers only“) that will become one of its most famous, even though it is not part of the stage play.
25 Years ago (1993)
The Bishop Arts Theatre Center is founded by Teresa Coleman Wash in Atlanta. The company commits to creating opportunities for “individuals who have been marginalized and children who live in at-risk communities” and to producing work focusing on social change. After seven years, the theatre will relocate to Dallas, where it will continue featuring such writers as Langston Hughes and Lynn Nottage.