80 YEARS AGO (1939)
The U.S. government ceases funding for the Federal Theatre Project, essentially ending an initiative that generated employment for countless theatre workers. After testimony before the House of Representatives, dominated by opponents of the program, the year’s appropriations bill for the Works Progress Administration stipulates that no funds can be used “for the operation of any Theatre Project.”
70 YEARS AGO (1949)
People’s Drama Inc., one of five theatres to create the Off- Broadway Theatre League in 1950, stages They Shall Not Die, featuring Earl Jones (father of James Earl Jones). It’s the first show since the company, founded in 1947 as the New Theater, changed its name. The short-lived activist troupe is notable for its interracial casts, work by Black and white writers, and its part in introducing arena theatre to New York City audiences.
45 YEARS AGO (1974)
The Yesler-Atlantic Community Center in Seattle, built in 1915, is rechristened the Langston Hughes Cultural Arts Center (later the Langston Hughes Performing Arts Institute). Over the coming decades the center will serve a variety of artistic and community functions, and in 2016, the historic venue will become home to LANGSTON, an organization aiming “to serve as the hub for African American arts and culture in Seattle.”
30 YEARS AGO (1989)
The Utah Shakespearean Festival (later called the Utah Shakespeare Festival), the resident professional theatre of Southern Utah University in Cedar City, opens the Randall L. Jones Theatre. The 770-seat performance space, the troupe’s first indoor theatre, will be used by both the theatre company and the university. The organization refers to the venue’s namesake as the “father of tourism in southern Utah,” whose family is also a major funder of the new theatre.
15 YEARS AGO (2004)
Phylicia Rashad becomes the first African American woman to receive a Tony Award for a leading role when she receives the best actress in a play prize for A Raisin in the Sun. This staging marks only the second Broadway run of the classic play, and the production also earns a featured actress award for Audra McDonald, whereas the 1959 premiere mounting did not pick up any Tonys despite its four nominations.
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