190 YEARS AGO (1828)
U.S. actor Edwin Forrest publishes a note in the press offering $500 to the writer of a play whose lead “shall be an aboriginal of this country.” The winner will be John Augustus Stone’s Metamora; or, The Last of the Wampanoags. Though it will feature an all-white cast and arguably exacerbate antipathy toward American Indians, the work is the first of several during the period depicting a Native figure as heroic.
100 YEARS AGO (1918)
The Illinois Theatre in Chicago installs the first remote-controlled light board, designed by local engineer Roscoe E. Major. The Electrical Review will write that Major “is well known in Chicago theatrical circles, having been actively engaged in theatre wiring and production for the past 15 years. He was formerly stage manager for the LaSalle Theater, Chicago, and in this capacity introduced many innovations in theatre wiring.”
70 YEARS AGO (1948)
Tallulah Bankhead is featured on the cover of Time. The cover story discusses her current Broadway stint in Noël Coward’s Private Lives and the yearlong U.S. tour preceding it, and comments on the power afforded her by her contract, including a stipulation requiring “footlights, which have been going out of fashion on the New York stage. Tallulah insists on them because they offset overhead lights that throw unflattering shadows.”
60 YEARS AGO (1958)
The Charles Playhouse in Boston offers its inaugural show, The Iceman Cometh—the first time the 1839 building, originally the Fifth Universalist Church, functions as a permanent theatre. The theatre, run by a group of Boston University alums, the Actors Company, will be considered New England’s first resident theatre and will feature performers such as Olympia Dukakis and Al Pacino, as well as early stagings of leading writers.
50 YEARS AGO (1968)
The Alley Theatre opens the first show in its new building in downtown Houston, Brecht’s Galileo. Among those in attendance are 37 astronauts, plus U.K. performers Maggie Smith and Robert Stephens, coming to see the new structure as a possible inspiration for the Royal National Theatre in London. The space will prove resilient in the coming half decade, sustaining damage during storms in 2001 and 2017.
15 YEARS AGO (2003)
Anna in the Tropics, which was commissioned by and received its world premiere at New Drama in Miami, wins the Pulitzer Prize for drama, making Nilo Cruz the first playwright of Cuban heritage to receive the award. Cruz wrote the play, which was also staged at South Coast Rep in the fall, during a residency at New Drama, supported by a grant from Theatre Communications Group, Vivendi Universal, and the National Endowment for the Arts.