October 1936 (85 years ago)
On Oct. 27, It Can’t Happen Here, a stage adaptation of Sinclair Lewis’s anti-fascist novel of the same name, opened in 23 different theatres in 17 states and 3 languages (English, Yiddish, and Spanish) simultaneously. Produced by the Federal Theatre Project, the play depicts the rise of a demagogue who becomes the president of the United States and the resistance that forms in the wake of his election. Hallie Flanagan, the director of the Federal Theatre Project, recounted people’s reactions to the provocative theatrical event in her memoir, writing, “There were news stories for and against, from one end of the country to the other. Some people thought the play was designed to reelect Mr. Roosevelt; others thought it was planned in order to defeat him. Some thought it proved Federal Theatre was communistic; others that it was New Deal; others that it was subconsciously fascist.” Berkeley Rep remounted the play 80 years later in the run-up to the 2016 election and released an audio version of the play in 2020.
October 1951 (70 years ago)
Oct. 1 marks the birthday of Christine Andreas. She made her Broadway debut in 1975 and shortly afterward was cast as Eliza Doolittle in the 20th anniversary production of My Fair Lady. Andreas went on to star in many revivals, including Oklahoma! (1979), On Your Toes (1983), and La Cage Aux Folles (2010). Last month she returned to the stage post-lockdown at Feinstein’s/54 Below with her show And So It Goes, which mixed songs from Broadway and the American songbook arranged and played by her husband, composer Martin Silvestri.
October 2001 (20 years ago)
The Mark Taper Forum in Los Angeles premiered David Henry Hwang’s adaptation of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Flower Drum Song. Hwang’s aim was to redeem the script by eliminating the sexist and racist stereotypes and to “write the book that Oscar Hammerstein would have written if he were Asian American.” Hwang received approval from Chin Yang Lee, the author of the novel (published in 1957) that was source material for the original musical, and he received permission from Rodgers’s and Hammerstein’s estates to completely rewrite the book of the musical, though he was not allowed to alter any lyrics. The reviews of the premiere in L.A. were overwhelmingly positive and the production received an extended run. The move to Broadway was less well-received than the L.A. premiere. The show closed after 169 performances, but Hwang’s work was recognized with a Tony nomination.
October 2006 (15 years ago)
Susana Cook, an Argentine-born artist based in New York City, opened her play The Idiot King at the WOW Café Theatre. Cook identifies as a butch lesbian performance artist and leads workshops on the theatricality of gender. She has written, directed, and performed in over 17 plays in New York which have toured internationally. The Idiot King parodied political and religious discourse around the sanctity of marriage, abortion, global warming and evil. The Wow Café performance and many other works by Cook are archived in the Digital Video Library of The Hemispheric Institute of Performance and Politics/Instituto Hemisférico de Performance y Política, based at New York University.
October 2011 (10 years ago)
Playwright and director Virginia Grise won the Pregones Asunción Award for Queer Playwrighting in 2011 for her play Rasgos Asiáticos. Grise is currently playwright-in-residence at Cara Mía Theatre in Dallas, and last month premiered Your Healing Is Killing Me, directed by Kendra Ware and performed by Florinda Bryant. In it, Grise explores the effects of a capitalist healthcare system on a Queer Chicana body, “cuz capitalism is toxic, but the revolution is not in your body butter.”
October 2016 (5 years ago)
Jackalope Theatre in Chicago opened its season with the U.S. premiere of Octagon, a play written by playwright, actor, poet, and activist Kristiana Rae Colón. The play explores the world of slam poetry as characters “audition” to compete on a team while also revealing their doubts and insecurities. A review in the Chicago Tribune said Octagon “proves exhilarating, exhausting, and plain exciting. Just like a great poetry slam should be.” Colon, also known for her activism, is a co-director of the #LetUsBreathe Collective and a co-creator of #BlackSexMatters.
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