195 YEARS AGO (1824)
James Hewlett gives one of the African Theatre’s final performances at the Mercer Street Theatre in New York City before the company closes up shop and the theatre is sold. The solo play, a benefit to support Greece in the Greco-Turkish War, sends up English comedian Thomas Mathews, who, after visiting with the African Theatre, had subsequently mocked and belittled the Black company as inept upon returning to his native England.
95 YEARS AGO (1924)
Theatre Arts Magazine, the quarterly launched in 1916, becomes Theatre Arts Monthly with its January issue. In July, co-editor Edith J.R. Isaacs will become lead editor and hold that post until 1945, and the decades under Isaacs’s leadership will be considered the publication’s most influential years. In 1948 Theatre Arts will change ownership, according to many becoming an entirely different magazine, and continue publication until 1964.
55 YEARS AGO (1964)
Carol Channing stars in the Broadway debut of Hello, Dolly!, Jerry Herman and Michael Stewart’s musical version of Thornton Wilder’s 1955 play The Matchmaker. The production will run 2,844 performances, breaking Oklahoma!’s record as the Great White Way’s longest-running musical. Dolly will hold that title for seven months after the staging closes in late 1970, when Fiddler on the Roof sets a new record.
50 YEARS AGO (1969)
The first two teachers are hired for the Student Resident Program, an initiative of the Guthrie Theater and the Minneapolis Board of Education. The instructors continue receiving full-time salaries from the school system while splitting their time between the classroom and the Guthrie. The first participating high school students will appear in the ensemble of the Guthrie’s Julius Caesar and receive training in various aspects of theatre.
45 YEARS AGO (1974)
In Highland Park, Ill., two high school seniors, Rick Argosh and Leslie Wilson, and a recent alum of their school, Gary Sinise, decide to produce Paul Zindel’s And Miss Reardon Drinks a Little. The run of the play at a nearby church marks the first staging of the Steppenwolf Theatre Company, named after the Herman Hesse novel, which Argosh is currently reading. The organization will become one of the pillars of Chicago theatre.
40 YEARS AGO (1979)
The Burt Reynolds Dinner Theatre in Jupiter, Fla., debuts with Sally Field, Tyne Daly, and Gail Strickland in Jack Heifner’s Vanities. Countless screen actors will perform at the theatre run by its namesake until 1989. The venue, later called the Burt Reynolds Jupiter Theatre, will shutter in 1996 and, following a number of different tenants, will receive a significant renovation and become the home of the Maltz Jupiter Theatre in 2004.