1951 Today is Walter Kerr's first day as "guest critic" at the Herald-Tribune. He will end up staying for 15 years, leaving only because of the demise of the paper. In his first review, he classifies the show A Sleep of Prisoners by Christopher Fry as "vigorous, dignified and overly intellectualized." Kerr is best known for his work at the New York Times, whose staff he joined in 1966. The Ritz Theatre was renamed in his honor in 1990.
1966 La MaMa Experimental Theatre Company is the subject of headlines today as artistic director Ellen Stewart threatens to close the theatre because of Actor's Equity Association's refusal to allow her actors to work below scale. Her 74-seat theatre prevents her company from making enough money to pay her actors the minimum wage required by Equity. After a month, Equity concedes and allows her actors to work below scale.
1973 A family's wedding preparations are the subject of David Storey's play The Contractor, which opens tonight at the Chelsea Manhattan Theatre. Joseph Maher is in the cast, along with Reid Shelton and Lynn Ann Leveridge. The show will run only 72 performances.
1982 A revival of Sam Shepard's True West is at the Cherry Lane Theatre tonight. Gary Sinise (Steppenwolf's A Streetcar Named Desire and the film "Forrest Gump") directs and stars in this show, which runs 762 performances. Co-stars are John Malkovich, Sam Schacht and Margaret Thomson. Although the original production at the Public Theater in 1980 was repudiated by its author, he appreciated this new version, as did critics and theatregoers, who have since regarded the mounting as a landmark. True West finally reached Broadway in 2000, with Philip Seymour Hoffman and John C. Reilly alternating roles at Circle in the Square
1999 "Hello, my little possums!" was the rallying cry on Broadway as Dame Edna Everage (a.k.a. Barry Humphries) opened "The Royal Tour" today. Dame Edna charmed U.S. audiences in her talk-show-esque performance in which she used her wit and presence to rant and lecture on just about anything. The show ran for 260 performances. -- by Sam Maher and Steve Luber