PLAYBILL VAULT'S Today in Theatre History: AUGUST 31

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and Ernio Hernandez and Robert Viagas
31 Aug 2014

1897 John Drew and Billie Burke (in her Broadway debut) are the stars of the new play, My Wife, opening tonight at the Empire Theatre. There will be 129 performances.



1897 Also today, actor Fredric March (1897-1975) is born. He will create many memorable stage roles in landmark plays, notably Mr. Antrobus in The Skin of Our Teeth and James Tyrone in Long Day's Journey Into Night.

1899 Playwright Lynn Riggs (1899-1954) is born today in — where else? — Oklahoma. His plays like Roadside, Big Lake, Russet Mantle and Green Grow the Lilacs, capture the simple life on what used to be frontier America. The latter play was adapted by Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II as one of the greatest hits of the American musical theatre, Oklahoma!

1916 One of the biggest hits in the history of Broadway's huge Hippodrome Theatre bows today. The extravaganza The Big Show opens a 425-performance run featuring Dixie Gerard, Dippy Diers and The Metzetti Brothers.

1918 Alan Jay Lerner, son of the founder of Lerner stores, is born today. Lerner will go on to become a Broadway lyricist and collaborate with Frederick Loewe on such Broadway classics as Brigadoon, My Fair Lady, and Camelot. Together they also wrote the score for the Academy Award-winning film, "Gigi."

1998 Boys' Life, the play that gave playwright Howard Korder a name in the field when it was produced in 1988 at Lincoln Center, now receives a tenth anniversary revival production at Off-Broadway's Judith Anderson Theatre. The drama, which was nominated for the 1988 Pulitzer Prize, examines three friends on the verge of adulthood as they maneuver their way through the sexual mores of 1980s America.

1999 After they "brought in" 'da Noise and 'da Funk, the bucket drummers of the Broadway's 1996 musical return to the New York stage to Keep Bangin'. The new stageshow, which begins tonight at Off-Broadway's Players Theatre, features the urban percussionists from Bring in 'da Noise, Bring in 'da Funk once again in collaboration with the show's star Savion Glover. However, this time Glover takes the helm as director.

2011 A controversial revised staging of George Gershwin, Ira Gershwin and DuBose Heyward's American folk opera Porgy and Bess — starring Audra McDonald and Norm Lewis — opens at the American Repertory Theater in Cambridge, MA. The production will later transfer to Broadway and win Tony Awards for Best Actress in a Musical (McDonald) and Best Revival of a Musical.

More of Today's Birthdays: DuBose Heyward 1885. Dore Schary 1905. Sanford Meisner 1905. William Saroyan 1908. Richard Basehart 1914. Buddy Hackett 1924. Richard Gere 1949. Deborah Gibson 1970. Sara Ramirez 1975.