PLAYBILL VAULT'S Today In Theatre History: JANUARY 6

By David Gewirtzman
and Robert Viagas, Christopher Reichheld and Anne Bradley
06 Jan 2014

1768 Birthday of John Durang (1768-1816), identified by scholars as one of the first American-born professional dancers and actors. Known for his "Dwarf Dance," "Sailor's Hornpipe" and circus appearances, as well as acting roles in Philadelphia (then the American theatre capital), New York and on tour throughout the early United States. Also a puppeteer, clown, singer and rope-dancer. A distant ancestor of author and performer Christopher Durang.



1902 The Toreador is actually a discharged servant who tries bullfighting, mixing with a mad anarchist's bomb plot, and singing too! This musical will be in the arena of Knickerbocker Theatre for 146 performances. Music is provided by Ivan Caryll and Lionel Monckton; Francis Wilson is the man behind the cape.

1930 An American soldier on leave and a chorus girl meet on Waterloo Bridge. Robert E. Sherwood's drama stars Glenn Hunter and June Walker. Winchell Smith directs the 64 performances.

1937 Walter Huston stars in Othello at the New Amsterdam Theatre in New York. Director Robert Edmond Jones had designed this production for the Opera House in Central City, Colorado before overseeing its odyssey East.

1950 Burgess Meredith stars in the opening night of the musical fantasy Happy as Larry, which had been a major hit in London but suffers a three-performance flop on Broadway.

1954 Twelfth Night directed by Denis Carey is at London's Old Vic. The cast includes John Neville, Claire Bloom, and Richard Burton.

1974 Liza Minnelli opens her 23-performance concert engagement at the Winter Garden Theatre. The evening is directed and choreographed by Bob Fosse, features original musical material written by Fred Ebb and John Kander, and includes Marvin Hamlisch as musical coordinator.

1975 Bill Gunn's Black Picture Show runs at the Vivian Beaumont Theatre for 41 performances.

1980 Kate Nelligan stars as a former member of the French resistance who searches for meaning in her postwar life in David Hare's drama, Plenty, which opens tonight on Broadway, and runs 92 performances at the Plymouth Theatre.

1990 Michael Shawn, choreographer for Legs Diamond, is awarded a $175,000 settlement from the Nederlanders today. Shawn claimed he was fired because he tested positive for the AIDS virus.

2005 Richard Foreman, the respected downtown Manhattan theatre auteur, unveil his latest cerebral vaudeville, The Gods Are Pounding My Head (Lumberjack Messiahs) at the Off-Off-Broadway Ontological Theatre. The theatre says it's to be the last in a series that goes back to the 1960s.

More of Today's Birthdays: Bonnie Franklin 1944. Rowan Atkinson 1955.