75 YEARS AGO (1944)
Performer Phyllis Frelich is born in Devils Lake, N.D. Like her parents and her eight siblings, Frelich is deaf, and she will grow up to be one of the founding members of the National Theatre of the Deaf. She will become the first Deaf actor to win a Tony when in 1980 she receives the Best Actress in a Play prize for Children of a Lesser God, about a Deaf student and her speech pathologist.
65 YEARS AGO (1954)
On his 23rd birthday, James Dean opens in his second and final Broadway show, The Immoralist, written by Ruth and Augustus Goetz and based on the novel by Andre Gide. Dean plays a young Arab man who plots to blackmail a married couple, portrayed by Louis Jourdan and Geraldine Page, by seducing the husband. Though Dean’s casting marks an example of brownface, the staging represents one of Broadway’s first Arab characters.
60 YEARS AGO (1959)
Caffe Cino in the Greenwich Village in New York City hosts its first play reading. The coffeehouse will be considered the birthplace of the Off-Off-Broadway movement and will feature plays with gay themes and characters during a period in which portraying homosexuality onstage is illegal. The Cino will present early works by Lanford Wilson, Sam Shepard, and others, and it will witness an early Bernadette Peters performance.
55 YEARS AGO (1964)
The Arts Club Theatre Company stages its inaugural production, Moss Hart’s Light Up the Sky, opening the theatre’s first space, a converted church. The troupe grew out of the Arts Club of Vancouver, a private club for entertainers established in 1958, and will become western Canada’s largest theatre company. The organization will help launch the career of Michael J. Fox and others.
50 YEARS AGO (1969)
The New Lafayette Theatre, which will become an integral part of the Black Arts Movement, mounts the second production in its new venue, Who’s Got His Own by Roger Milner. The Harlem-based company was originally located at the site of the Lafayette Theatre, known for hosting Orson Welles’s 1936 all-Black Voodoo Macbeth for the Works Progress Administration, which burned down in early 1968, the result of suspected arson.
25 YEARS AGO (1994)
Edward Albee’s Three Tall Women opens Off-Broadway at the Vineyard Theatre, the playwright’s first New York premiere in more than a decade, after the short-lived 1983 Broadway run of The Man Who Had Three Arms, which Albee also directed. The Vineyard production of Three Tall Women will win several awards for performer Myra Carter, and the play will receive the year’s Pulitzer Prize in Drama.
10 YEARS AGO (2009)
Lynn Nottage’s Ruined, commissioned by Chicago’s Goodman Theatre, opens at Manhattan Theatre Club in New York. The play will go on to earn the Pulitzer for drama, making Nottage the second Black female playwright to receive the award (after Suzan-Lori Parks, for Topdog/Underdog in 2002). In 2017, with her play Sweat, Nottage will become the first woman to win the drama Pulitzer more than once.