Playbill Vault's Today In Theatre History: January 9

By .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)
and Christopher Reichheld and Anne Bradley
09 Jan 2016

1890 Playwright Karel Capek (1890-1938) is born today in Bohemia. His 1920's play R. U. R. will introduce the word "robot" (from the Czech word for worker) and show robots for the first time in popular culture.

1905 U.S. premiere of George Bernard Shaw's You Never Can Tell, which goes on to a 129-performance run at the Garrick Theatre.

1922 The Theatre Guild produces Leonid Andreyev's He Who Gets Slapped at the Garrick Theatre. This story of a nobleman who becomes a clown is translated by Gregory Zilboorg. Directed by Robert Milton, it stars Richard Bennett and Margalo Gillmore.

1924 Andre Charlot's Revue of 1924 at the Times Square Theatre is selections of several London revues. Starring are Jack Buchanan, Gertrude Lawrence, and Beatrice Lillie who are immediate hits with the public. The show runs beyond the season and sets a pattern for intimate, witty revues.

1940 James Thurber makes his Broadway debut as a playright with The Male Animal, co-written with Elliott Nugent. Starring Gene Tierney, it runs 243 performances at the Cort Theatre.

1937 Maxwell Anderson's verse play High Tor opens at the Martin Beck Theatre, starring Burgess Meredith. The production wins the New York Drama Critics Award for Best Show, and runs 171 performances.

1947 Kurt Weill and Langston Hughes collaborate on an operatic adaptation of Elmer Rice's drama, Street Scene, also using that same title. It's a slice of life in a tenement tenement filled with striving immigrants. It runs 148 performances at the Adelphi Theatre, and wins Weill the very first Tony Award ever given for Best Composer.

1952 Celeste Holm searches for peace as Anna Christie. This Eugene O'Neill drama has a two-week run at the New York City Center. It will move to the Lyceum Theatre for a brief run.

1961 Zero Mostel gradually transforms from a man into a beast in Eugene Ionesco's absurdist classic, Rhinoceros, also featuring Eli Wallach and Morris Carnovsky. It will run 256 performances at the Longacre Theatre, and Mostel will win the Tony Award as Best Actor in a Play.

1977 Elizabeth Swados directs and plays in her own creation, Nightclub Cantata. This musical revue will run 145 performances at the Top of the Gate Theatre.

1978 The great Mary Martin has her final Broadway opening night, in Aleksei Arbuzov's drama Do You Turn Somersaults? opposite Anthony Quayle. It will run just 16 performances at the 46th Street Theatre.

1986 Jan Miner (Gertrude Stein) and Marian Seldes (Alice B. Toklas) star in Win Wells' Gertrude Stein and a Companion at the Lucille Lortel Theater. Much of the play is written in the style of Stein's writing. The piece was awarded the best play award when it was presented in 1984 at the Edinburgh Festival. It will go on to run 54 performances.

2004 Obie-winning monologuist Spalding Gray, author of Swimming to Cambodia, Sex and Death to Age 14, Monster in a Box and Gray's Anatomy, disappears after leaving his home in the TriBeCa section of Manhattan. He is later ruled a suicide.

2005 Tony Award winner Idina Menzel, who was to play her final performance in Wicked today, misses the show after suffering an injury the day before. However, she rewards disappointed fans by coming onstage — dressed in a red track suit — to complete the final scene of the musical in which she plays Elphaba, the Wicked Witch of the West. At the curtain call she is quoted telling the fans, "I love you all. It's been the best year of my life. Thank you."

2006 The Phantom of the Opera plays its 7,486th performance, surpassing Cats to become the longest-running show in Broadway history.

More of Today's Birthdays: Gracie Fields 1898. Eric Berry 1913. Fernando Lamas 1915. Brian Friel 1929. Ulu Grosbard 1929. Bob Denver 1935. Joely Richardson 1965.