165 YEARS AGO (1855)
The Walnut Street Theatre in Philadelphia entices patrons with “Mr. Barry’s Patent Cool Air Machine,” making it the world’s first theatre with an air conditioning system. A century later, in September 1955, director Garson Kanin will complain about the lack of air conditioning there while working on the pre-Broadway tryout run of The Diary of Anne Frank. Perhaps someone forgot to change the AC filter?
85 YEARS AGO (1935)
Rose McClendon and Chick McKinney co-direct an all-Black production of Clifford Odets’s Waiting for Lefty for the Negro People’s Theatre, a company McClendon co-founded with Dick Campbell. She had given a brief but powerful performance in Archibald MacLeish’s play Panic on Broadway in March and, before dying the following year from pneumonia at 51, McClendon will make one more appearance on Broadway, her 12th, in Langston Hughes’s landmark play Mulatto.
90 YEARS AGO (1940)
The Peterborough Players in New Hampshire prepare to stage Our Town. Thornton Wilder wrote much of the play at the MacDowell Colony in Peterborough, considered an inspiration for Grover’s Corners. He instructs director Bertrand Mitchell to have dead characters in the cemetery scene engage in everyday activities, and will reportedly rave, “You may be the first director to have the honor of getting that third act right.”
35 YEARS AGO (1985)
Born out of an impulse to take a “sledgehammer” to conventional theatre, the company that will come to be known as Sledgehammer Theatre is founded by UC San Diego graduates Scott Feldsher, Robert Brill, and Ethan Feerst. The troupe will become known for site-specific shows staged around the San Diego area, including their inaugural production, Heiner Müller’s Despoiled Shore/MedeaMaterial/Landscape With Argonauts, performed in a canyon at the college.
30 YEARS AGO (1990)
Spiderwoman Theater, a performance group composed of Native American women that was founded in 1976, opens Reverb-Ber-Ber-Rations at the American Indian Community House, a center that serves Native people living in NYC. Lisa Mayo, Muriel Miguel, and Gloria Miguel, the three Kuna/Rappahannock sisters who create and perform the show, examine Indigenous spiritual beliefs and practices through performance.