October 1760 (260 years ago)
The London Company of Comedians, managed by David Douglas, the “Johnny Appleseed of American theatre,” reaches Williamsburg, Va., while touring their production of Theodosius; or, The Force of Love. The company will stay in Williamsburg longer than any of their other stops, finding a theatre that fits their needs built shortly before their arrival for Lewis Hallam’s company. The London Company of Comedians will be considered the second example of professional theatre in colonial New England; Lewis Hallam’s company is the first.
October 1805 (215 years ago)
After some initial success in London, the actor Thomas Apthorpe Cooper is brought in as a permanent company member of the Boston Theatre Company and hailed in papers as “the American Roscius.” Thomas Cooper goes on to be the leading Shakespearean actor of the time. After training in London, he will help professionalize acting in the early United States, and, by contemporary accounts, become a bit of a heartthrob. Later in his life, his daughter will marry the son of President John Tyler, and Cooper will himself hold various public offices.
October 1850 (170 years ago)
The Deseret Musical and Dramatic Association is formed in Salt Lake City, just three years after the arrival of the Mormons to the valley. The group will perform in the newly erected Bowery Hall, a semi-permanent structure approximately 100 feet by 60 feet, with boards and planks for seats. Their first bill will include a melodrama by Charles Selby, Robert Macaire, or the Two Murderers, dancing, and John Baldwin Buckstone’s popular one-act farce The Dead Shot.
October 1915 (105 years ago)
W.E.B. Du Bois’s pageant The Star of Ethiopia opens in Washington, D.C., for a three-day run. The Star of Ethiopia shows scenes beginning with the invention of iron in Africa through the trauma of American slavery, and ending with a vision of Black hope and resilience. Over the three days, approximately 35,000 people view the spectacle, which includes music, dancing, large crowd scenes, and special effects. W.E.B. Du Bois will go on to envision theatre as a way to educate both Black and white Americans on the contributions of Africans and the African diaspora.
October 1960 (60 years ago)
Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park opens a brand new, 166-seat theatre with a production of Meyer Levin’s Compulsion. The company, founded just the year before by an Oberlin College student, Gerald Covell, will be honored with the Regional Theatre Tony Award in 2004.
October 2000 (20 years ago)
Luis Valdez’s play Mummified Deer opens at San Diego Repertory Theatre, marking Valdez’s return to theatre after his success in film directing La Bamba. Mummified Deer tells the story of Mama Chu, who suddenly drops into a coma after having carried a mummified fetus for decades. This begins to unravel a family’s secrets, as well as reveal the political and social history of Mama Chu’s life as an immigrant from Mexico. The mummified fetus was represented as a deer played by Valdez’s son, Lakin Valdez.
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