PLAYBILL VAULT'S Today In Theatre History: MARCH 24

By David Gewirtzman
and Robert Viagas, Ernio Hernandez and Anne Bradley
24 Mar 2014

1909 Irish poet and playwright John Millington Synge dies today. He penned numerous plays including Riders to the Sea and The Playboy of the Western World. For the latter he traveled to the Aran Islands to capture the speech and customs of the local people. He was 38 years old.



1936 Alfred Lunt and Lynn Fontanne star in Robert E. Sherwood's Idiot's Delight, opening at the Shubert Theatre for a run of 300 performances. The play will receive the 1936 Pulitzer Prize for Drama, and will later be turned into a film starring Clark Gable and Norma Shearer.

1941 Native Son, adapted by Paul Green and Richard Wright from Wright's novel plays at the St. James Theatre in New York. This drama, concerning the accidental killing of a white woman by a black man, stars Canada Lee and Anne Burr. It will run 114 performances.

1955 Secrets and sorrows run deep in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof. Tennessee Williams' drama stars Barbara Bel Geddes, Burl Ives and Ben Gazzara. It will run for 694 performances. Later Maggies will include Elizabeth Ashley, Kathleen Turner and Scarlett Johansson.

1977 Lily Tomlin is Appearing Nitely at the Biltmore Theatre. The actress presents her one-woman show for 84 evenings.

1992 The Neil Simon Theatre presents its namesake's 26th play, Jake's Women, opening tonight. Alan Alda stars as the unhappy writer, and his women include Brenda Vaccaro, Tracy Pollan, Joyce Van Patten and Kate Burton.

1994 Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II's Carousel takes another spin as it opens at Lincoln Center's Vivian Beaumont Theatre. The production stars Sally Murphy as Julie Jordan, Michael Hayden as Billy Bigelow, and a young actress named Audra Ann McDonald as Carrie Pipperidge. The supporting cast includes future stars Taye Diggs (in his Broadway debut) and Brian d'Arcy James. Audra McDonald will win her first Tony Award for her performance, and the production will also win for Best Revival.

2002 Senator and former First Lady Hilary Clinton appears Off-Broadway in a post-show panel discussion of Eve Ensler's Necessary Targets, about the treatment of women in the 1990s war in Bosnia.

2003 William Finn's musical Elegies opens at the Newhouse Theatre at Lincoln Center.

2005 The King meets the Bard at the Palace. Elvis Presley makes his posthumous debut on Broadway with the musical All Shook Up, using his familiar pop hits to tell a story freely adapted from William Shakespeare's Twelfth Night. It will run nine months at the Palace Theatre.

2009 Michael Jacobs' Impressionism, a new play about an art gallery owner and a photojournalist — Tony Award winners Joan Allen and Jeremy Irons, respectively — who swap stories at their workplace, opens at Broadway's Gerald Schoenfeld Theatre.

2011 Broadway answers the door to The Book of Mormon — from "South Park" creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone and Avenue Q co-creator Robert Lopez — when the irreverent musical officially opens at the Eugene O'Neill Theatre. Josh Gad and Andrew Rannells star as an unlikely pair of Mormon missionaries who venture from Salt Lake City to AIDS-ravaged Uganda in the hopes of converting villagers with the story of Joseph Smith and the founding of the Mormon Church. The production will win nine Tony Awards, including Best Musical.

2011 Lanford Wilson, a playwright who emerged out of the scrappy Off-Off-Broadway scene to compose humane, lyrical dramas of American life that played on Broadway and in theatres around the world, dies at age 73. His plays included Lemon Sky, The Hot l Baltimore, Fifth of July, Talley's Folly and Burn This.

Today's Birthdays: Harry Houdini 1874. Gene Nelson 1920. Onna White 1922. Kenneth Nelson 1930. Bob Mackie 1940. Jim Parsons 1973.