September 1752 (270 Years Ago)
Lewis Hallam’s theatrical company, transplanted from England in 1752, staged a performance of Shakespeare’s Merchant of Venice in Williamsburg, Va., on Sept. 15, 1752. The arrival of Hallam’s company heralded the beginning of professional theatrical performance in the early United States. Lewis Hallam, born into a family of theatrical performers, struggled to gain a foothold on England’s stages and crossed the pond to seek his fortune in the fertile colonies. Despite early colonial social and political resistance to theatre—the Continental Congress would ban theatrical performance in 1774—the Hallam Company, later called the American and Old American Company, would go on to monopolize theatrical performance in the young nation. Lewis Hallam Jr. and the American Company staged the first play in New York by a homegrown playwright, 1767’s The Prince of Parthia, written by Thomas Godfrey of Philadelphia.
September 1917 (105 Years Ago)
Following the opening of the Booth and Shubert theatres in 1913, theatrical producer/entrepreneurs Lee and Jacob Shubert opened the Broadhurst at 235 West 44th Street in Manhattan on Sept. 27, 1917, with George Bernard Shaw’s Misalliance. The theatre was first leased from the Shuberts by theatrical producer and playwright George Broadhurst as a space to stage his own works; the theatre was named after its first leasee. The Broadhurst became an early jewel in the theatrical crown of the Shubert family, who would quickly monopolize theatrical space in New York and beyond, owning 86 theatres, and operating or managing over 1,000 theatres across the country by the 1920s. In 1929, the Shuberts took control of the theatre from Broadhurst and have managed it since.
September 1967 (55 Years Ago)
Under founding artistic director Gordon Davidson, Center Theatre Group opened the Ahmanson Theatre in Los Angeles with Eugene O’Neill’s unfinished play More Stately Mansions. This U.S. premiere of the play was directed by José Quintero and starred Ingrid Bergman, Arthur Hill, and Colleen Dewhurst. O’Neill had begun writing the work as a follow-up to his 1942 play A Touch of the Poet, and both were part of a larger nine-play cycle called A Tale of Possessors Self-Dispossessed. Despite his demands that More Stately Mansions never be published or performed, his widow, Carlotta Monterey, gave permission for the work to be produced a mere nine years after his passing. The Center Theatre Group production later opened on Broadway at the Broadhurst Theatre in November 1967 and ran for 142 performances.
September 1992 (30 Years Ago)
A special concert event called Friends of Gilda was staged at Toronto’s Elgin Theatre on Sept. 26 and filmed by the Canadian Broadcast Company for later airing. The event served as a tribute to the late Gilda Radner of Saturday Night Live and was a fundraiser for research and prevention of ovarian cancer, which had cut Gilda’s life short in 1989. Friends of Gilda brought together a now-legendary cast of Godspell, who had first taken the stage together in 30 years earlier in April 1972 at the Royal Alexandra Theatre in Toronto. The young cast had included Victor Garber as Jesus, Eugene Levy as Herb, Andrea Martin as Robin, Gilda Radner as Gilmer, Martin Short as Jeffrey, with music direction by Paul Schaffer and stage direction by John-Michael Tebelak. Friends of Gilda included the surviving reunited cast singing songs from the show and remembering the short but bright light of actor and comedian Radner.
September 2017 (5 Years Ago)
The Chicago Latino Theatre Alliance inaugurated Destinos, the first Chicago International Latino Theater Festival on Sept. 29. The CLTA, under co-founder and executive director Myrna Salazar, brought together 11 productions, staged at various locations across Chicago, from Steppenwolf’s 1700 Theatre to Victory Gardens and the National Museum of Mexican Art. The Alliance aimed to highlight the work of Latino artists, who, as Salazar noted, are often, “relegated to a second position” in the theatrical fabric of Chicago. Destinos has continued and will present 13 productions at this year’s festival. Salazar passed in August of this year.
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