It was 125 years ago this year that a printer named Frank Vance Strauss began printing a handbill for New York playgoers— the first primitive products of what would become the Playbill company.
To share in our anniversary celebration, we salute a sampling of the great theatre institutions who are also marking major milestones this year.
We're proud to share an anniversary year with the oldest continuously operating professional theatre in America, the Walnut Street Theatre in Philadelphia, which is celebrating its 200th birthday in 2009.
Playbill, Broadway's distinctive program company, publishes its first issue, for David Belasco's drama May Blossom at the long-vanished Madison Square Theatre. The familiar black-on-yellow logo won't be introduced until the 1950s. Sharing our anniversary is the distinguished Metropolitan Opera. 50 YEARS
The Stage Directors and Choreographers Society, the professional association of the folks who put our plays and musicals on the stage. Also celebrating its golden anniversary is the Second City troupe in Chicago, which has developed talent including Barbara Harris, Robert Klein, John Belushi, Dan Aykroyd and Stephen Colbert. Also founded in 1959: Dallas Theater Center and the San Francisco Mime Troupe.
The founding of Amas Musical Theatre Off-Broadway, devoted to multicultural new works.
Off-Broadway's Second Stage company, the first New York home to the long-running The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee. Also founded in 1979: Denver Center Theatre Company, American Repertory Theatre, New York Theatre Workshop and Theatre for a New Audience.
Feb. 9, 1994, Off-Broadway Encores! series (full name Encores! Great American Musicals in Concert) launched with Fiorello! Encores! will go on to host semi-staged concert readings including Chicago, Wonderful Town and this spring's Applause. In 1994, the percussive dance revue Stomp opened Off-Broadway. Also founded in 1994: Geffen Playhouse and the Lark Play Development Center. On Nov. 24 of that year, Playbill.com flipped the switch and began offering news, listings and discounted tickets on the internet.
This feature appears in the Playbill of the 2009 Tony Awards, June 7 at Radio City Music Hall.