Playbill Vault's Today in Theatre History: September 7

Playbill Vault   Playbill Vault's Today in Theatre History: September 7
The original Broadway cast of Rent.
The original Broadway cast of Rent. Joan Marcus

1909 Director Elia Kazan is born. On Broadway, he directs the original productions of A Streetcar Named Desire, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, Death of a Salesman, All My Sons, and J.B., winning Tony Awards for the last three. Kazan also enjoys success directing films, winning Academy Awards for Gentleman's Agreement and On the Waterfront, as well as an honorary Oscar in 1999.

1921 The first stage adaptation of the Edgar Rice Burroughs' novel Tarzan of the Apes is a hit at the Broadhurst Theatre, adapted by namesake George Broadhurst himself and starring Ronald Adair as Tarzan, Alfred Arno as Kerchak, and Ethel Dwyer as Jane Porter.

1928 Sophie Treadwell's expressionist drama Machinal opens on Broadway at the Plymouth Theatre. The play is based on the case of Ruth Snyder, who was executed at Sing Sing in January 1928 for the murder of her husband. Zita Johann stars, and the cast also includes the Broadway debut of a young actor named Clark Gable.

1946 Director Jerry Zaks is born. Specializing in comedies and musicals, Zaks is a four-time Tony Award winner for his work on The House of Blue Leaves, Lend Me a Tenor, Six Degrees of Separation, and the 1992 revival of Guys and Dolls.

1947 Brooks Atkinson defends Arthur Miller in The New York Times, arguing that Miller’s All My Sons is not Communistic and calling the playwright "a young man of genuine talent for the stage."

1949 Mae West stars in a hit revival of her own play, Diamond Lil, for a 182-performance run at the Plymouth Theatre.

1999 Epic Proportions, a zany comedy by Larry Coen and David Crane, begins performances at Broadway's Helen Hayes Theatre. The show about the filming of an epic motion picture features Tony Award winner Kristin Chenoweth and a number of other actors known for their comedic work: Alan Tudyk, Ruth Williamson, Ross Lehman, and Richard B. Shull, who passes away during the show's brief run. Jerry Zaks directs.

2000 Though Off-Broadway's Forbidden Broadway revue changes its repertoire regularly to keep current with theatre trends, creator/director Gerard Alessandrini occasionally gives the show a complete overhaul to acknowledge how much new material has been added. That time is now as the previous installment, Forbidden Broadway Cleans Up Its Act!, becomes Forbidden Broadway 2001: A Spoof Odyssey. The revue now parodies such new Broadway entries as Aida, Swing!, The Music Man, and Seussical.

2001 Performances begin for the Off-Broadway musical The Spitfire Grill at The Duke on 42nd. Starring Liz Callaway, Garrett Long, and Phyllis Somerville, the show by James Valcq and Fred Alley previously won the 2001 Richard Rodgers Production Award.

2006 Robert Earl Jones, 96, the Broadway, Off-Broadway, and film actor whose son is actor James Earl Jones, dies at the Lillian Booth Actors' Home in New Jersey.

2008 Rent ends its 12-year run at the Nederlander Theatre. The Pulitzer Prize-winning and Tony Award-winning rock musical by the late lyricist-librettist-composer Jonathan Larson played 5,123 performances and 16 previews.

More of Today's Birthdays Ted Chapin 1950. Michael Emerson 1954. Michael Feinstein 1956.

Watch members of the original cast of Rent talk about the musical at a 2016 BroadwayCon panel:

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