PLAYBILL VAULT'S Today in Theatre History: MAY 14

By David Gewirtzman
and Anne Bradley, Ernio Hernandez
14 May 2014

1931 Playwright, producer David Belasco dies today in New York City. He began his theatrical life as a child actor in California and started writing plays in his twenties. He adapted the John Luther Long story into the play Madame Butterfly in 1900. In 1905 he wrote, directed, and produced The Girl of the Golden West. In 1906 he built the Stuyvesant Theatre which is now Broadway's Belasco Theater. Belasco liked to shave six years off his age, but it's generally assumed he was 78 at the time of his death. According to Broadway legend, his ghost haunts the apartment where he lived above the theatre that bears his name.



1951 Barbara Cook makes her Broadway debut in E.Y. Harburg, Sammy Fain and Fred Saidy's Flahooley. The musical's cast also includes Irwin Corey, Peruvian singer Yma Sumac, and Bil Baird's Marionettes. It will last only 40 performances at the Broadhurst Theatre.

1965 The East-West Players, formed to "truthfully express Asian Pacific American thought and depict on stage Asian Pacific American life...", open in Los Angeles. The first performance is Rashomon.

1970 Actress Billie Burke dies today in Los Angeles. She made her stage debut in London in The School Girl in 1903. Her Broadway debut occurred in 1907 in My Wife; producer Florenz Ziegfeld called her that in 1914. Burke was immortalized on screen as the good witch in the film "The Wizard of Oz." She was 84 years old.

1986 Craig + Craig = 3. Playwright Craig Lucas along with composer-lyricist Craig Carnelia create the musical Three Postcards which opens Off-Broadway at Playwrights Horizons. The show, about three friends who have a reunion of their own, is directed by Norman René.

1999 Stephen Sondheim's long-unproduced 1954 musical, Saturday Night, sees the stage as it starts previews in Chicago, sporting two new songs and an edited script. The musical, about pals in 1929 Brooklyn, was to have been Sondheim's professional debut in the mid-1950s, but a production was thwarted by the death of the producer. The musical will make its New York premiere Off-Broadway at Second Stage Theatre on Feb. 14 the following year.

Today's Birthdays: Julian Eltinge 1881. Alvin Epstein 1925. Bobo Lewis 1926. Eric Morecambe 1926. Sian Phillips 1933. Herb Foster 1936. Mark Blum 1950.