Playbill Vault's Today in Theatre History: July 5

Playbill Vault   Playbill Vault's Today in Theatre History: July 5
Alan Cumming in Macbeth.
Alan Cumming in Macbeth. Jeremy Daniel

1935 President Franklin D. Roosevelt signs the American National Theatre and Academy bill today, calling for a self-supporting national theatre. ANTA will get off to a slow start but will eventually be responsible for raising money for both the American Repertory Theatre and the Experimental Theatre. It will also host an annual "ANTA Album" review, highlighting the best of Broadway theatre and beyond. In August 1981 the theatre, located on Broadway, will be renamed the Virginia Theatre after the daughter of Jujamcyn founder William McKnight.

1962 Aspiring playwright Lanford Wilson arrives in New York today, determined to start a career. Wilson has nowhere to stay tonight and finds himself sleeping in Central Park. Fortunately, he will not remain homeless forever, as Wilson will soon become a highly successful, Pulitzer-winning playwright. He will immortalize the date of his New York arrival as the title of his well-known 1978 play, Fifth of July.

1976 It's no Mousetrap, but Agatha Christie's new mystery thriller, Murder in the Vicarage, will run an impressive 1,776 performances. Having already premiered at the West End's Savoy Theatre, the production opens today at the Fortune Theatre.

1998 Eli Wallach, who originated the title role in Visiting Mr. Green, steps out of the play running Off-Broadway at the Union Square Theatre. The story about an unlikely friendship that develops when a young executive nearly runs over a Jewish octogenarian. Replacing the Drama Desk-nominated Wallach two days later will be Hal Linden.

2012 Alan Cumming is a psychiatric patient reliving the story of Macbeth in a one-man adaptation of the William Shakespeare tragedy, presented at the Rose Theater as part of the 2012 Lincoln Center Festival. John Tiffany and Andrew Goldberg direct the National Theatre of Scotland production, which will return to New York the following year for a limited Broadway run.

2014 Rosemary Murphy, a veteran stage actress who was thrice nominated for a Tony Award, and won an Emmy for playing Sara Delano Roosevelt in the 1976 TV mini-series "Eleanor and Franklin," dies at age 89. Ms. Murphy appeared in more than a dozen Broadway shows over nearly five decades. She collected her Tony Award nominations for her performance as Dorothea Bates in Tennessee Williams' Period of Adjustment in 1960; the comedy Any Wednesday in 1964; and for the original 1967 staging of Edward Albee's A Delicate Balance, in which she played the salty sister Claire to co-stars Hume Cronyn and Jessica Tandy.

More of Today's Birthdays: Jean Cocteau 1889. Katherine Helmond 1928. Shirley Knight 1936. Douglas Sills 1960. Edie Falco 1963.

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