Playbill Vault's Today in Theatre History: August 7

Playbill Vault   Playbill Vault's Today in Theatre History: August 7
The cast of Hurlyburly.
The cast of Hurlyburly. Martha Swope / The New York Public Library

1886 Future stage actress and second wife of Florenz Ziegfeld, Jr., Billie Burke is born today in Washington, D.C. Born Mary William Ethelbert Appleton, Burke spent her childhood in England, where her father was a popular clown performer. For this reason, most of Burke's early stage successes were in London, not New York. In fact, Burke only appeared in one American musical, 1924's Annie Dear, produced by her husband. Other New York stage appearances included The Truth Game, This Rock, and Rose Briar. In the 1930s Burke would lend her name as a producer to many editions of her husband's Follies and make some film appearances. Burke is best-preserved on film as Glinda, the Good Witch in "The Wizard of Oz."

1919 Actors' Equity calls the longest strike in American theatre history. Francis Bacon's Lightin' and 12 other Broadway shows go dark as the fledgling union's struggle for recognition moves to the picket lines. Four days later, the chorus in Florenz Ziegfeld, Jr.'s Follies form Chorus Equity and elect Marie Dressler as their first President. After 30 days, 37 closed productions and 16 prevented openings, and a loss of $3 million, the strike is settled and managers sign a five year contract. Responding to Equity's call for recognition, producer/director/actor George M. Cohan said "I will drive an elevator for a living before I will do business with any actors’ union." A sign later appeared in Times Square saying "Elevator Operator Wanted: George M. Cohan need not apply."

1950 Two-time Academy Award-winning actress Luise Rainer stars in a revival of Henrik Ibsen's The Lady from the Sea as part of the Festival Theatre's season at the Fulton Theatre. Directed by Sam Wanamaker, the cast also includes husband and wife actors Eli Wallach and Anne Jackson.

1965 Tony Award-winning actress Carol Channing says "Goodbye" to the Broadway production of Hello, Dolly! after today's performance. Although Channing will be immortalized as Ms. Dolly Levi (and return to the role in two revivals) the show will also thrive with many new "star" Dollys. Among them are Ginger Rogers (who succeeds Channing the next week), Pearl Bailey, Betty Grable and Ethel Merman, for whom the show was originally written.

1984 David Rabe's Hurlyburly opens at the Ethel Barrymore Theatre on Broadway. Mike Nichols directs a star-studded cast that includes Harvey Keitel, William Hurt, Ron Silver, Jerry Stiller, Cynthia Nixon, Sigourney Weaver and Judith Ivey. The play about show business men trying to find themselves transferred from Off Broadway where Christopher Walken played the role Silver took over. Little known understudy Kevin Spacey will fill in for various of the male roles throughout the run.

2003 A Stoop On Orchard Street, a musical set in New York City's Lower East Side and exploring Ellis Island-era immigrant life, opens quietly at Off-Broadway's Mazer Theater, but will build into a sold-out hit almost exclusively on the strength of word of mouth. Jay Kholos, a 63-year-old former TV writer and producer, wrote music, lyrics and book.

Today's Birthdays: Kermit Love 1916. Robert Moore 1927. John Glover 1944. Wayne Knight 1955. Rachel York 1971. Michael Shannon 1974.

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